Advice Needed on Wiring and Home Automation for House Extension and Renovation

Discussion in 'Smart Home, Climate Control & Security Forum' started by Dave02, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. Dave02

    Dave02
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    I'm extending my house and reconfiguring most rooms so have the perfect opportunity to get in cables and some home automation. I'll get into some other areas in a moment, but my most basic need is to install a multi-zone heating system and lighting.

    The heating includes radiators, heated towel warmers and under floor heating (mostly water based, but 1-2 rooms likely to be on electric as they are upstairs and water based is downstairs and am not sure where manifold would go upstairs).

    Separately, I installed Alexa in most rooms of my existing home last year and am enjoying some of the capabilities (e.g. calling kids in their rooms) and have started to use for my home cinema with Harmony Elite & hub (despite using more advanced Nevo systems for many years prior) and like the idea of voice integration, but am also open to changing this. I have many Apple devices, so also expecting phone and/ or iPad to be possible control device.

    For heating, I initially looked into over 1 year ago and the main options that stood out to me as a standalone system were Honeywell Evohome, Heat Genius or Tado. I understand there may also be some more, but these systems I mention only deal with the heating. My initial question is can I get a dedicated heating system and separate lighting system and then integrate them together with something else on top (possibly Alexa, but also open to anything else), or do I need to plan everything with a single system from the outset (i.e. same system for heating and lighting)? Are there any particular advantages and disadvantages of the 2 options (assuming both are valid)? Can anyone recommend some good heating and lighting systems? For lighting, Lutron has always been a familiar name to me and looks great, but don't really know how to compare and what are the other alternatives.

    Aside from heating and lighting, I also want to take the opportunity to improve my home cinema setup in my lounge (which will be a completely new room as existing lounge will become the kitchen). I want this setup to include:

    1. Ceiling mounted projector screen with remote control to open
    2. Ceiling mounted projector (not sure if I should try to get something that hides in the ceiling and drops down when in use)
    3. All power, video and audio cables hidden for TV/ projector/ speakers

    As the lounge will be covered in underfloor heating, I will not be able to get under the floor in future as I have done in past in existing areas of house when I have wanted to change cables. What advice do you have re how best to install cables? Should I be aiming to install ducting everywhere (up wall to TV, in ceiling for projector and underfloor for speaker cables) so that I can change cables in future?

    Just to add that I have an area under my stairs centrally located in my house that already acts as a hub for my cabling (TV, phone, networking, satellite TV, cable TV, amps, blur ray player, etc), but it is not on an external wall. I plan to continue using this area as hub and want to ensure I can get any future utility cables to it (e.g. if Virgin Media or Sky later need a different cable).

    I should also state that I am already 1 month into the build, so don't have lots of time to work out what to do, but everything is open at the moment and will be for several weeks yet as build still has months to go. As part of heating system, I am also currently deciding which boiler to buy but have decided on an unvented cylinder and system boiler.

    Anyway, I've now written a lot of questions. Hoping someone can help with some guidance. Thank you in advance.
     
  2. Dave02

    Dave02
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    Anyone?
     
  3. mushii

    mushii
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    Dave,

    much of this stuff needed designing before the build started. People do not realise how much work HA / Integrators put-in, speccing jobs, that often goes unpaid. Heating - stick with EvoHome its very very good.

    As for everything else, do you have a drawing of your house with extension that we can look at , it would help a lot.

    Regards
     
  4. Dave02

    Dave02
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    Thank you for posting #mushii. I have attached images from the plans. Any inout is appreciated. Re Evohome, can it be controlled by other systems as well?

    Ground Floor.png First Floor.png
     
  5. xxGBHxx

    xxGBHxx
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    Just a few notes having done this recently
    1. Everything is going WiFi. Make sure you have run 2*Cat6 to all the locations where you're going to put your WiFi AP's for data/POE.
    2. Security cameras are either WiFi or PoE. I'd STRONGLY recommend PoE so again run 2*CAT6 to each point.
    3. I didn't bother with CoAx anywhere (except to the aerial/sat dish) That said 75% of my viewing is streamed so again either WiFi or CAT6 for data.
    4. Lighting and power control is all ZWave/Zigbee/LightwaveRF etc. so all wireless
    5. Heating I have Tado, @mushii like Honeywell. They're both good doesn't matter which really, all wireless.
    6. Speaker cables don't need changing. Just put in thick, cheap, 99% CU cables (4mm2 or larger) and you'll never need anything else.
    7. Projectors can be wireless now. You need 2 or 3*CAT6 for Data/trigger and if you REALLY want to be future proof, put a fibre optic HDMI cable in. That will likely take all the signal you'll ever need (though more than likely everything will be 5G in a few years time)
    8. TV - CAT6*3 and again wireless is coming with a fibre HDMI if you're really worried
    Originally I'd wanted to coax everything and cables for home automation as I'd planned this 4 years ago but going to do it over the last 18 months I realised everything can be done with wireless and CAT6. In the end I have 3 Unifi POE AP's that comfortably cover the whole house, 6 POE Hikvision cams, 9 Tado TRV's and about 45 CAT6 runs. I didn't even cable into the bedroom at all (everything is WiFi) and it all works great. YMMV of course

    G
     
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  6. Dave02

    Dave02
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    Thank you for the above. I have a few questions/ comments:

    1. Why 2 runs of Cat6? Should I also any particular type of Cat6 (e.g. Cat6 or Cat6a)?
    4. Do you recommend any particular solution for lighting? What do you use?
    5. Yes, Tado and Honeywell Evohome have been the main 2 I have been deciding between. Heat Genius seems perhaps even better but think the former 2 appear to perhaps have some more mainstream support.
    6. In my case I have Meridian speakers which use a different type of cable and even the speakers i have use 2 different types of cable between them (due to be newer models using ethernet), but will also put in regular speaker cable just in case I ever change, or for someone else to use if I ever move. If I've understood correctly in the pat there is also something slightly different about Meridian ethernet cable, but not sure what. Will look into this on Meridian forum.
    7/8. Please can you expand a little further in terms of where these runs would go/ what they are used for? I assume you're suggesting audio & video from projector are converted from HDMI out to Cat6 and then back to HDMI again? In my case I use a Meridian HD621 switcher, so would run audio & video from any input source to that, which then has outputs to my processor and the TV.
     
  7. xxGBHxx

    xxGBHxx
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    1. CAT6 is cheap as chips. If you're pulling one it's just as easy to pull 2. It's a cable type you can use for just about anything. Better to have a few spares lying about for the cost (pennies) than be annoyed you didn't run enough (as I did into my loft where I only ran one)

    4. I use Hue for bulbs and where I need it I use Zwave modules (Aeotec Nano Dimmers). Hue is REALLY expensive but compatible with absolutely everything. ZWave is also damn expensive but it works well with home automation hubs. There are (way) cheaper ways to do it these days but it can be a huge faff if you don't know what you're doing. If was doing it again now, I'd do it a cheaper way as I've learned enough about home automation but Hue is as close to plug and play as you'll get. Like Zwave it also doesn't need an internet connection (as almost all of the cheap WiFi models do)

    5. I very almost went Heat Genius and in retrospect wish I had. Tado drives me insane at times. The *HUGE* problem with Tado (for me) is a complete lack of control to the inner guts of the system. I would guess for most people that would never be a problem (it's very plug and play friendly) but I just like to tinker and have complete control over everything. Tado don't allow you access to the core functionality which means it does some odd stuff at times. Don't get me wrong, I have eventually managed to get it to do what I want but it required multiple calls to Tado support (and I find them generally surly and unhelpful) for them to do "magic" to get it doing it.

    6. I've never heard of Meridian or have any knowledge of them whatsoever but having had a quick look it screams bollux to me. Not to descend into a cable rant but cable is cable. If they just use RJ45 terminated cable then you can use the exact same Cat6 you use for all your data runs for the speakers. I'm assuming they've wired them to the same standard (T568-B) and if so you can make up as many of those cables as you like for almost no money. There is no magic cable sauce - pure copper cables of sufficient diameter is all that's needed. Do *NOT* believe the bull they spout on manufacturers forums about how "Meridian cables are the best quality" or "CAT7 is a higher number than 6 or 5 so MUST be better" etc. It's all bull. My only concern is the cross sectional area of copper in any CAT cable is not high. Over short runs it's not going to matter but it's almost definitely a con from the manufacturer to sell overpriced cables to the uninformed.

    7. All projectors and TV's will take an ethernet connection for data - usually for firmware updates but also for home automation purposes as many expose an API for your use. It's always worth running at LEAST 1 cable (as I always prefer cable to wifi if you have the chance). Also things like 12v triggers work great through ethernet cables so you can use the ethernet for providing things like that so it's a good idea to run 2 cables at least.

    Completely separately the audio/video (HDMI) you're not converting anything. If it's a shortish run then a standard good quality (NOT expensive) HDMI cable is more than good enough. If you have a longer run back to your cabinet then you can use a fibre cable for it. It's more expensive but it's much more reliable over distance. This is more than enough for 4k with all the trimmings. You COULD decide to go full WiFi of course as theres WiFi variants of most projectors, even for audio/video but personally I still prefer cable if you can do it - it's a lot less hassle.

    In the longer term when you talk about 8k and above it is probable, with the way things are going, to be delivered over 5G. 5G is kinda ideal for in house comms as its short range isn't a problem. It is also seen as the de-facto connection for everything over the next 10 years or at least that's how its being sold. If you're thinking 5 or even 10 years into the future I wouldn't worry about it as they are aiming to get 8k down the same wire as they can 4k. No one can truly future proof but I think between good CAT6, WiFi and 5G you're good to go for at least 10-15 years.

    G
     
  8. Dave02

    Dave02
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    Thank you for the additional clarifications and information. I will certainly use cable as a preference where possible, but based on your advice seems it should not be required for lighting. I was going to consider something like Lutron (which I believe would have to require cables), but will now look into alternatives using ZWave or something similar. I used ZWave for years with my Nevo remote and agree its a great technology, very stable and good distances. I obviously need to do some reading on this topic to better understand options/ costs/ possible controls. You mention you would use an alternative to Hue if doing again. Do you have anything particular in mind (or a few options to look into to get me started)?
     
  9. Dave02

    Dave02
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    Just seen Fibaro and Homeseer mentioned on another thread, so will start by looking into them. I'm a little unclear at the moment re mention of 2 or 3 lighting cables. I also see I should be looking to get my light switches fitted with deep back boxes, so will start planning for this as well.
     
  10. xxGBHxx

    xxGBHxx
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    Remember I'm just a user and that all I can give is my opinion and benefits of my experience but I'm not a pro installer or consider myself an expert. There are far more experienced people on this forum (e.g. @mushii) who you should listen to before me. That said, I will write a little bit about this.

    My first recommendation for you is to decide what you want to achieve. There are two camps when it comes to home automation (HA) - those that believe HA should be so seamless as to be invisible and your house does everything you need without you having to interact with it. Then there are those that just want modern ways to turn things on and off but broadly speaking they're just fancy switches. Each one has pluses and minuses and my house is currently in the middle of this (something are invisible, others are (wo)mandrolic). Next you need to decide on your budget.

    None of it is cheap, but some of it is really really eye wateringly expensive. At the "cheap" end you have a completely home grown, home built system on cheap Chinese no brand devices tied together with possibly free software such as Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi. This is by far the cheapest in monetary terms but by far the most time consuming. When I mean time consuming I mean it - you'll spend hundreds of (hugely frustrating) hours getting it working. At the very high end you have professionally installed systems from the likes of Crestron or AMX. With those systems most if not all of the sensors you use are proprietary (read expensive) and need to be professionally programmed into the system by an engineer. Expensive, certainly, but once you've decided what you want to do apart from paying the bill someone else does it all for you. Lutron make some great (if not very expensive) lighting stuff and most HA systems will allow some level of integration with them. Again it's how much you're willing to spend as if you think Hue is expensive, Lutron take it to the next level ;)

    In the middle ground you have a hybrid system which ties into a specific ecosystem but is more aimed at the home enthusiast. There are loads of systems in this category some focused more at the less technical home user (Smart Things, Wink and more recently Nest, Alexa and Hive) and the more enthusiast (Hubitat, Vera, Fibaro, Control 4 and Homeseer). Most people tend to find one they like and stick with it (I tried Vera and hated it and now I use Hubitat and love it) but truth is they all have their frustrations, things they don't work well with, annoyances etc. I like Hubitat because the community is great and the hub, unlike the vast majority of hubs, is designed with the expectation there is no internet. That's not to say that it can't use the internet extensively if you want to, but everything on the hub will work faultlessley if the internet drops. This is unlike any other hub I know and is something I really like.

    I have spent getting on for £500+ just on Hue even though I've bought every one when there was some sort of offer on or even a few second hand. That buys you a LOT of lighting if you want to DIY it. I now know enough to buy cheaper alternatives (there's 100's of vendors selling generic WiFi or Zigbee lightbulbs/light strips) and I know how to do the transformers and then integrate it all into the HA. BUT the pain in doing so is high and not as easy to integrate as Hue as EVERYTHING works with Hue. So I'd save a good few 100 on the bulbs etc. but I'd definitely have to spend time integrating them.

    Finally lighting cables. There are a few ways to wire up lights. In the UK I understand they are most often wired with 2 cables. You have your earth, of course, you then have the switched live and the live - you don't have a neutral at all. Three wire systems not only have the live and switched live they also have a neutral in the box as well (so effectively have 4 cables once you include earth). I've never had that in either of the two houses I've owned. It's why I've used the Aeotec Nano Dimmer because it's one of the few smart dimmers/switches I found that will work fully on 2 wire systems. The best website for understanding lighting wiring I found was Light wiring diagram (just noticed they've gone to a new website and it's disgusting. Info is still the same though). Usual warning when playing with electrics - IF YOU'RE IN ANY DOUBT OR UNSURE ABOUT IT GET AN ELECTRICIAN IN OR YOU COULD DIE (or burn your house down)

    G
     
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  11. mushii

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    @xxGBHxx talks a lot of sense and quite honestly he has provided very similar information that I would have provided. I use a mixture of ZWave Fibaro modules and Hue Bulbs in my own home. which I find a reliable combination (I tend to use Hue bulbs in standard or table lamps, although I have some GU10s and LED ribbon in my cinema room). I have been involved in HA from the eye-watering down to the DIY and being honest,if you are happy to do a bit of maintenance and programming yourself, you can achieve some really nice results.

    With regard the HA camp, I fall into the 'it should all be seamless' category. Much of my HA runs on timers and events, so requires very little human interaction with the system, beyond what is normal - e.g. light switches. I also do not believe that we should have to train the house occupants or visitors to 're-learn' how to interact with daily simple operations (such as turning lights on or off) if the interface is clunky or too different, then the interface is wrong. For example, I use echo dots a lot around the house, they do not change a basic interaction with say my kitchen AV, you can turn the amp on with either the remote or the button on the front, or you can ask Alexa to play Spotify or Tune-in on Kitchen and it happens. Yes my family had to learn an 'additional way' to control the interface, which IMHO is easier, but it doesn't prohibit them using a more traditional route either. Similar with light switches - Homeseer will run events and scenes with my lighting, based on timers or other external triggers, but my family can still use a light switch, as a light switch, or they can ask Alexa to 'turn on kitchen counter lights', which if they are not on (which they normally are if we are at home and it is after dusk) she turns on the under cupboard lighting. When I go to bed, I say 'Alexa good night' and she turns off all of my downstairs lights, except for the hall (Hue) lamp, which dims to 30%. At 12.30 she will do that anyway as a timed event unless I over-ride it with the command 'Alexa Stay Up Late' which kills the 'Good Night' script.

    Homeseer has probably the worst GUI of any HA software / appliance on the market, but it is hugely powerful and has a long pedigree. I would not recommend it to a novice Home Automater, but instead would recommend Homey, Fibaro home hub which are easier to program and have prettier front ends.

    Finally on the point of wiring. Many electricians today will actually wire lighting switches with a neutral at the socket, which makes the wiring and choice of modules far easier. I would always recommend (if you can) 47mm deep back boxes as it makes wiring and containing the modules far easier.
     
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  12. Dave02

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    Thank you @xxGBHxx and @mushii for some very valuable advice. Sorry, been a very long work week and not made it on here for a few days but did manage to take the plunge and purchase some Honeywell Evohome kit from eBay. Re budget/ where I am in the levels of HA I believe I'm somewhere in the middle. For years my only automation has been with my home cinema in the form of custom remotes, which I have always programmed myself (Nevo, as previously mentioned being the main one, but as it was discontinued found I need something new - still not found the ideal replacement). Lighting and heating have been on my agenda for a while but ultimately held off from doing anything until now undergoing a major extension and renovation of my home. I may consider adding security to the list but it's not an immediate objective but will give some consideration. Adding a modern doorbell with video/ intercom over internet is also of interest.

    One of my challenges is that I was missing some of the basic information, particularly which are some of the main companies to look into as options for mid range system. Control 4 I have heard of, but not the others mentioned, so will certainly look into them now and most definitely get my electrician to put in 47mm back boxes (they've only done the utility room, understairs cupboard and downstairs bathroom so far, so have plenty of opportunity to get the deeper boxes done elsewhere.

    A common approach of mine is to buy used, which allows me to buy higher budget kit than I may otherwise get. Whether or not that puts me anywhere near something like Crestron I don't yet know as there's so much kit that it's difficult to know where to start. I haven't ruled it out yet, but expect some of the midrange names mentioned are far more likely and also more sensible options for me. Going the used option can sometimes also mean that I will keep my options open, as in the case of Tado vs Heat Genius vs Evohome, it was finding the right setup at the right price that made the final decision (although was prepared to buy new), as I'm sure I would have been fine with either.
     

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