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Old 2012-04-29, 09:52 PM   #1
jdm127
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Default What Hardware is needed for Home Automation

I am currently building a home and would like to have distributed audio and video (HD) with the possibility of adding in home automation for the lighting and HVAC. I would like to be able to have a central control panel (iPad) that would control everything as well as some more simple wall controls to select/adjust the volume.
The electricians will becoming in the next few weeks to start the rough in, so if we are going to do some structured wiring we need to move fast.

What I am having trouble understanding is what hardware do I need to make this all work? From what I have read it looks like I need speakers for each zone wired back to a multi-source amp and multi-source a/v matrix.

What I need to know is there other hardware needed to make this happen?
Do I need a separate controller for both the audio and video or is there one that controls it all?
Can I use my existing amp and speakers (home theatre system) as an output for one of the audio sources from the multi source amp instead of in wall/ceiling speakers?
What type of wiring do I need? i.e speaker wire, cat5, etc

For video/audio inputs we are looking at 3 cable boxes and an apple TV. For just audio input sources we would just have a radio tuner and maybe a CD player. (5-6 total inputs)
We are looking at 6-8 audio zones and would like to be able to control them using iPads if possible. For the video output we have three TVs.

Any other help or advice would be appreciated.

Thanks
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Old 2012-04-30, 03:31 PM   #2
Wayne
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This all depends on what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend.

I have a HA system called Control4 which I use for HVAC, lighting, blinds and fireplace. You can also use it with media, security systems, etc. There are apps for iOS so that you can use iDevices to control the system or you can get dedicated touch screens and remote controls.

To distribute the video signals you need a matrix switch - these can get VERY expensive and (obviously) wiring from your central switch to all other spots - I think you can use CAT5 for this. But there are other ways to distribute the video and audio such as Sonos (for audio), AppleTVs, TV extenders (like an Xbox360)

Are you sure that you need centralized distribution of everything? It is usually much cheaper to just put all of your sources (like AppleTVs, cable boxes, BluRay players) at each TV since high-end matrix switches cost a few thou. But Monoprice has 4X4 matrix switches for a reasonable price of about $300 including remotes, etc. IMHO the main reason to do distributed video is to have whole home distribution of video content from one central place. But there is less need for that if you content is coming from the cloud in the first place.

There is generally one controller that can handle everything but you will need one main controller to drive the whole system and you may need smaller "slave" controllers at some of your audio or video endpoints as well depending on what you want to do.

For A/V (and I really do very little audio only) I have a SageTV PC server in my basement. This is connected to two HD cable boxes, one SD cable box and three OTA tuners. I have several TBs of hard drive space with ripped movies and previously recorded TV. At each of my 6 TVs I have a SageTV extender that connects to the server via ethernet and allows me to watch all of my video content, or play audio. With such a system I can start watching a recorded show (or movie) in my basement and continue watching in the kitchen or bedroom. This Sage system is not part of my HA and most HA enthusiasts want to distribute via video switches rather than ethernet for some reason.

These systems can be very expensive and many of the systems are only sold and installed through dealers and you can't always do as much as you want without calling a dealer. Crestron is another player in this space that is very high end and used in many high end office installations and with them almost everything is done through a dealer.

I used Control4 and they are somewhat DIY but you still need a dealer to do a lot of things that I would prefer to do myself. For example if you use C4 for media and you want to change the BluRay player that you have in the system then you have to call the dealer to have him install a new driver for your new BR player. IMHO these companies are still struggling with trying to figure out whether they are hardware or software companies and also with how much they allow the user to do without a dealer. The introduction of the iPad really caused issues as they sold dedicated "dumb" touch screen controllers for $1500 or more. The iPad comes along for 1/3 the price and what do they do? Do they develop an app for the iPad? If so then how do they monetize it?

To give you an idea of costs - I would think that there are very few Control4 installations that are less than $10k and you can easily go well beyond that. And Crestron is more expensive than Control4. I believe that Control4 light switches/dimmers cost about $100 each plus installation. The main control unit costs from $500-$1000 depending on which unit you get. And the sky is the limit.
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Old 2012-05-01, 03:20 PM   #3
jdm127
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Thanks.

Upon further research I think we are going to go with the new Shaw Gateway system as this accomplishes what we need on the video side and we will just use some IR emitters and receivers to 'hide' the portals out of site.

What is your thoughts on just on audio system. will a wireless system like Sonos allow for expansion and is the sound quality is good as a wired system? (what inputs can you use with sonos, we are mostly radio listeners). I have also looked at a system from HTD.com that looks like it will accomplish what we are looking to do on the audio side. I know it won't give us control over HVAC and lighting, but would it make sense to have this on a separate system like Insteon?
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Old 2012-05-13, 01:45 AM   #4
merve04
 
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Personally I'd go with RTI, its pretty much the best system out there, easy to integrate with any device. I install and program these products, so i know first hand the versatility and the ease of use of these systems.
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