Question Extension build help (lighting, security, automation!)

d0z3y

Novice Member
Hi all,

tldr: - I realise there are a lot of questions here and also, I am running out of time, so how do I find a good installer (in South West London)?!

Like many of the other threads here, I am just starting planning structured cabling, smart lighting etc (though in my case it's late as my extension build started last week.)

Given the amount of work we are having done (two storey extension and loft conversion) I am planning to:
- Replace my existing home alarm system it's 15 years old and was in the house when we bought it, ideally reusing the PIR sensor cabling to some of the rooms that wont be affected by the build.
- Replace my self installed canary cameras with Cat6 wired hikvision cameras in the soffits with an NVR in the loft
- Install smart lighting throughout
- Install speakers / cabling in the lounge and kitchen (maybe sonos as I already some sonos kit)
- 2 x Cat6 runs to each room and a patch panel
- Hard wired 3 x unifi wifi access points
- Ground floor Underfloor heating and upstairs rads controlled by smart system: nest?

I like messing around with this stuff and don't want a system where I need to call an installer everytime I want to make a change so in the leadup to the above I have been playing around with Home Assistant, LightwaveRf, Aoetech and Fibaro z-wave controls and Yale smart locks. I have also been looking at Philips Hue.

I am now totally confused to the point where I have been looking for an installer to help but without any recommendations, that seems like a minefield!

So given I have spent weeks going around in circles and not making any decisions, my current plan is:
- Install the Cat 6 runs and patch panel
- Ask the electrician to run a neutral to all light switches.
- Go with Nest as suggested by the plumber

Then try and work out the following:
- Do I try and get an alarm installed that has an api that I can use to integrate with the Home Automation system - It seems to make sense to use the PIRs in a room for both an alarm and to trigger smart events?
- Which brand of alarm!?
- Do I go with Z-wave and maybe Philips Hue or Rako for lighting?
- Do I go with Nest or Honeywell for heating (the area I know least about).

Thanks for any help!
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
Getting the infrastructure right is the most important thing. You need a good set of drawings to plan where everything is going 7Ps rule applies here. Positive Prior Planning Prevents Pi55 Poor Performance. Jobs like this need a lot of careful planning. I always start with a big drawing of the area and a set of coloured crayons. Plan to spend a few days on the planning alone.
Dont plan to put IT equipment in loft spaces, there are too many extremes of temperature which is detrimental to HDDs etc.
Forget fancy alarms. Buy something sold and reliable. Honeywell or Pyronix both have apps and remote key fob arming.
Think about a smart home hub, to control everything. Any questions so far?
 

xxGBHxx

Well-known Member
What he said, planning is key.

Budget is a big consideration in that planning. The way you go often depends on the money you have. For example Hue is fairly expensive but integrates with everything and "just works" pretty much. Lutron is more expensive again but is arguably more capable and complete. Home brew solutions and cheap WiFi bulbs etc. are a lot cheaper than Hue or Lutron but require a LOT of time and effort to plan, buy, install and configure. They also often require multiple solutions and manufaturers whereas Lutron (and these days Hue) have a wide choice of solutions for most situations.

Same with Z-Wave. I like Z-Wave but my opinion of it right now is that it's expensive for the benefit you get especially around sensors. To make use of smart stuff, it's all about two things, the sensors that tell you when to do stuff and the actual things that are doing stuff. (well ok sensors don't tell you when, your hub controls when to do stuff but the sensors feed into that logic and allow you to make a decision)

So temperature, humidity, luminosity, rain, movement etc. are all sensors that tell you when to do stuff and lights, relays, dimmers, heating etc are things that do stuff. I find ZWave sensors expensive as you need a lot of them everywhere. You can dig out cheaper ones but they all tend to be bulky and/or ugly.

Finally I'm also a great fan of really understanding exactly what you want to achieve, how much time you want to spend doing that and a realistic view of the benefits against that time/cost sink. I still can see the benefits of automation etc. but it's a lot more expensive and time consuming than most people understand. I've also found for the majority of the time the cost<>time<>convenience payoff just isn't there in many cases and in the case of voice control, isn't there at all. We're all different though so each person needs to make their own call.

G
 

d0z3y

Novice Member
Thanks both for your replies. With regards to lighting, I would like timer (dusk, sunrise etc) and event based (room occupancy) lighting whilst also maintaining manual light switches. I'm not interested in voice control (have given away my amazon echos). I want dimmable lights and I like the idea of variable colour temperature lights though that may just be a gimmick.

So if not z-wave (and I broadly agree with your comments there especially wrt cheaper units), would you suggest lutron for lighting and sensors?

I do like the idea of using one PIR in a room both for triggering the house alarm, but also triggering a home automation event (rather than having two independent PIRs. Is that possible with Pyronix or Honeywell? I do however agree with the philosophy of keeping the alarm independent of the home automation <- I want to mess around with home automation programming without impacting the alarm system.
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
My experience and philosophy on HA and Alarms is that IMHO they should remain two separate systems, I have previously installed Cytech Comfort smart alarms. I do not believe in single point of failure in security critical systems


There are other posters on here who have HA systems with integrated security that have different stand-points.

Lighting - how big is your budget as it can go from £40 per circuit to several £100's all will do as you ask.
 

xxGBHxx

Well-known Member
Thanks both for your replies. With regards to lighting, I would like timer (dusk, sunrise etc) and event based (room occupancy) lighting whilst also maintaining manual light switches. I'm not interested in voice control (have given away my amazon echos). I want dimmable lights and I like the idea of variable colour temperature lights though that may just be a gimmick.

So if not z-wave (and I broadly agree with your comments there especially wrt cheaper units), would you suggest lutron for lighting and sensors?

I do like the idea of using one PIR in a room both for triggering the house alarm, but also triggering a home automation event (rather than having two independent PIRs. Is that possible with Pyronix or Honeywell? I do however agree with the philosophy of keeping the alarm independent of the home automation <- I want to mess around with home automation programming without impacting the alarm system.

@mushii is far more hardline on the security/HA separation than I am. I do agree with him that you should never rely on HA to provide your only security, but integrating it so it could potentially be controlled by the HA or feed data into the HA is ok in my book in most residential settings. It can be a bit of a grey area though where for example your door sensor might be arming/disarming the alarm. In my situation, I think it's fine to do that but you need to assess your risks and your own use before making that link. Whether a specific alarm integrates with a HA system depends on the alarm/HA hub. I use Hubitat for mine and I have a Texecom alarm. They are supposed to integrate together however I've not got around to fitting my Texecom yet so no idea if it will or not.

Room occupancy is an interesting one. My dining room lights come on based on movement, which works great. But they also turn themselves off if there's been no detectable movement for a few mins. It's a PITA frankly and I've never figured out an acceptable way of definitively KNOWING someone is in a specific room for lighting. PIR movement detectors just don't cut the mustard (imagine sitting reading a book or similar actions where the movement isn't enough to trigger the detector). Something like RFID might work but it's expensive and means someone needs to carry a tag. Heat monitor, radar or a more complex PIR solutions that map from room to room might be the answer but they don't deal well with multiple people and I could see myself resetting it all the time. Under floor pressure sensors might work but you need a suspended wooden floor or a carpet for that to work. Maybe a combination of some or all of those but then it gets £100's or even £1000's per room just for the sensors and just to turn the light on and off. As I said, PIR movment detection works but it's hardly a panacea. @mushii how do they do it on megabucks systems?

Lutron is no cheaper than z-wave and in fact will likely be a lot more expensive. I don't recommend any particular technology as it's a balance between cost, functionality and hassle only you can answer. Personally, I use Hue with some home baked HA solution. When I put my Hue in, they didn't have the PIR's and other capabilities so I had to mix and match. All that said you'll not go wrong with Hue it's just pricey. If you can wait until Black Friday and other such events they usually have some very good deals on Amazon for Hue kit (which is where I got all mine from) so I paid a lot less for it.

G
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
This is the beauty of these forums, you generally get balanced solid advice, that sometimes differs from people based on their experiences and often their home setups. There is no right answer (there is sometimes some very wrong answers).
I am dogmatic over some stuff, but that is my own prejudices, I admit that happily.

How do high end systems do presence detection? There are lots of methods, RFID tracking, hidden microwave detectors, much more discrete ceiling mounted PIRs, piezo sensitive detectors on floor joists, under floors or carpets, ultrasonic detection, volumetric density change detection, localised voice commands, micro-sensors on doors (detects opening and closing), AI systems also know if a device in a room is activated manually it may indicate presence, cross referenced with other sensors, learned patterns of occupancy, etc. When you get to JoshAI types of concierge / butler systems you are into very high end learning AI that can take cues from activities learned, various environmental inputs and sensors and third party data.
These systems will actually anticipate behaviour and if unsure actually ask you questions that feed their learning engine, much like a butler may ask ‘Would sir like a brolly? It is raining outside’ or ‘Would sir like a brolly? His Outlook calendar says that he has a 3pm in London and the weather forecast from Amazon Weather is overcast with a 70% chance of rain’ that is how the very high end stuff works.
 

xxGBHxx

Well-known Member
This is the beauty of these forums, you generally get balanced solid advice, that sometimes differs from people based on their experiences and often their home setups. There is no right answer (there is sometimes some very wrong answers).
I am dogmatic over some stuff, but that is my own prejudices, I admit that happily.

How do high end systems do presence detection? There are lots of methods, RFID tracking, hidden microwave detectors, much more discrete ceiling mounted PIRs, piezo sensitive detectors on floor joists, under floors or carpets, ultrasonic detection, volumetric density change detection, localised voice commands, micro-sensors on doors (detects opening and closing), AI systems also know if a device in a room is activated manually it may indicate presence, cross referenced with other sensors, learned patterns of occupancy, etc. When you get to JoshAI types of concierge / butler systems you are into very high end learning AI that can take cues from activities learned, various environmental inputs and sensors and third party data.
These systems will actually anticipate behaviour and if unsure actually ask you questions that feed their learning engine, much like a butler may ask ‘Would sir like a brolly? It is raining outside’ or ‘Would sir like a brolly? His Outlook calendar says that he has a 3pm in London and the weather forecast from Amazon Weather is overcast with a 70% chance of rain’ that is how the very high end stuff works.

Thanks for that.

Pretty much what I'd imagined then and not an easy (or cheap) nut to crack by any measure. Would be great to have that kind of system which is why I've become far more of a realist with cheap home HA. It works great for some things, average for others and doesn't work at all for some things. It's all a compromise (isn't everything though) unless you have huge amounts of money even if you're doing it yourself.

It would be nice to have enough money to not care that you're throwing down £10k a room to turn your light on and off reliably.

G
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
Honestly when you get to that level you may as well just hire ‘staff’ to do it all for you. You probably own a Maybach and employ a driver, cook, nanny, daily and Butler. You don’t care about the technology you just expect it to work, doesn’t matter if it’s AI or pixie powered. It’s just a matter of throwing money at it.
 

d0z3y

Novice Member
Instead of hiring staff, I had children but I think even a PIR based presence detection is more reliable!

On a more specific note... Assuming I am using dimmable bulbs and use Fibaro or Aeotec dimmers behind the wall switch, is there a reason for running a neutral to the switch?

Also I have an Aeotec nano dimmer and can hear a high pitched noise when the switch is off. Is that normal for Aeotec dimmers; possibly related to bulbs; or just because I am using 2 wires at the switch? Would Fibaro dimmers be a better bet? (I don't have the same with my lightwaverf switches though they are controlling different bulbs / light fittings).
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
The whine is because without a neutral the module is continually having to dim, rather than turn the power off to the bulb. The whine can sometimes be due to the bulb putting excessive load on module. Sometimes swapping the bulb for another brand can help.
 

d0z3y

Novice Member
Great, that's pretty much what I thought. So that alone is a good reason for running the neutral.

Do you have any thoughts on Aeotec vs Fibaro (or an alternative) - both switches and dimmers?
 
D

Deleted member 24354

Guest
I use Fibaro, for no better reason than I like their product, they get slightly better reviews than Aeotec and I know how to configure them. I do not believe that either product is any better than the other, but as an installer and CI I tend to try and limit the number of products that I work with and only work with those that I know work and are reliable.

Running a neutral to switch just provides more installation options and many times I dont always want a dimmer, I just want on or off. For example my garden lights are not dimmable, and a dimmer would if activated by mistake play havoc with the transformer and lights that I use. Likewise all of my external security and aesthetic house lighting is non-dimmable so I only want on or off. Sometimes I use a combination of Zwave switching and Hue GU10's (for ambience) and again I do not want the GU10s dimming. Lots of reasons why installing a Neutral to have on/off switching maybe more appropriate than dimming (without a neutral).
 

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