Help with home automation

Ferguson9

Active Member
Hi,

I'm currently in the process of renovating the downstairs of my house so I'm thinking this might be a good time to build in some smart / home automation. Part of the renovation will create a cupboard in the centre of the house where I'm thinking might make sense to create a central media hub for my kit.

What I currently have in a TV media unit under my TV in the main living room;
  • Virgin Media broadband router
  • NETGEAR PoE Switch 5 port Gigabit Ethernet Plus Network Switch
  • Eufy 2k video doorbell Homebase
  • Virgin Media TV V6 box
  • Samsung Frame One Connect boxes (i.e invisible cable from only from TV to media unit)
  • Philips Hue Bridge (currently got a number of Philips Hue light bulbs and dimmer switches around the house)
  • Samsung Soundbar (HDMI into One Connect box)
  • Google Wifi mesh
As part of the renovation I'm installing underfloor heating, including a Heatmiser Neohub which will be connected to 4 Neostat thermostats across the downstairs rooms. This, as well as the manifold I think will be housed in this cupboard. I'll also be installing some spotlights in the kitchen and would rather not buy the Philips Hue G10's due to the price so I think I might go down the Zigbee route (although still researching this and open to other suggestions). I'll also have an additional Samsung Frame TV (with One Connect box) in the kitchen / dining room, which is on the same wall as the new cupboard). In future I will likely be installing some CCTV cameras, smart alarm, external lights.

What I'm asking for is help to understand whether I should continue to keep all the above housed in the TV media unit within the living room or create a central media hub in the middle of the house. As far as I understand, all of the above, other than the Samsung Soundbar can be housed in the cupboard but am I missing anything?

Thanks
 
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jonnystuartUK

Active Member
There are a lot of factors to consider really; size of house, construction of walls etc.

For me personally, I started with everything housed in the cellar (Sky Q, CCTV, Hue, Heatmiser, Harmony hub, router) however I found that those that rely on the WIFI (heatmiser and hue for example) struggled in parts of the house so I installed CAT to nearly every room so I had the flexibility to use a hard wired connection and find the best spot for these.

A central location is a good idea but you may have thicker walls etc etc that may have an impact on signal strength.

If you can use a hard wired connection for your Google WIFI mesh i'd recommend that
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
There are a lot of factors to consider really; size of house, construction of walls etc.

For me personally, I started with everything housed in the cellar (Sky Q, CCTV, Hue, Heatmiser, Harmony hub, router) however I found that those that rely on the WIFI (heatmiser and hue for example) struggled in parts of the house so I installed CAT to nearly every room so I had the flexibility to use a hard wired connection and find the best spot for these.

A central location is a good idea but you may have thicker walls etc etc that may have an impact on signal strength.

If you can use a hard wired connection for your Google WIFI mesh i'd recommend that

Thanks for your reply Jonny. The cupboard I've got is a cupboard in the middle of the house so I'm assuming this would be better for wifi signal for the rest of the house over the current location which is in the living room at the front.

I think you're right in terms of having a hard wired connection to other rooms. I might look at getting CAT6 from this cupboard to as many rooms as possible.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
also have a think about using some wireless access points, if you run enough cat5/6 round the house, you can place Access points where necessary to sort out any drop in WiFi signal.

Great, thanks. Are there any in particular you recommend?
 

rorton

Active Member
along with a few others, I like the Ubiquiti Unifi range of access points. Apparently, TP Link have also released some.

You could then have an access point in the media cupboard if you so wished to give the central stuff the best signal. In my house (standard 3 bed semi) I have an AP in the loft covering the top floor of the house, another in the kitchen as that's where I had Cat5 outlet, and a 3rd outside to use for the garden, works great for me, I have 40/50 wifi devices connected, no problem at all.

If your going the IoT route, am a real fan of trying to split off the IoT stuff from your main network traffic using vlans. These devices don't get many updates, and any issues in the code could mean they get compromised, and if they are on the same network as your production kit (home PC, iphone, NAS etc) you could put your data at risk. If isolated on a separate vlan, any compromise is just restricted to that network.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
along with a few others, I like the Ubiquiti Unifi range of access points. Apparently, TP Link have also released some.

You could then have an access point in the media cupboard if you so wished to give the central stuff the best signal. In my house (standard 3 bed semi) I have an AP in the loft covering the top floor of the house, another in the kitchen as that's where I had Cat5 outlet, and a 3rd outside to use for the garden, works great for me, I have 40/50 wifi devices connected, no problem at all.

If your going the IoT route, am a real fan of trying to split off the IoT stuff from your main network traffic using vlans. These devices don't get many updates, and any issues in the code could mean they get compromised, and if they are on the same network as your production kit (home PC, iphone, NAS etc) you could put your data at risk. If isolated on a separate vlan, any compromise is just restricted to that network.

Ha, I knew you were going to say Ubiquiti. I've heard good things about them but also heard that they're not the most flexible and you can end up tied into their technology?

Sorry, can you explain why you would have an access point in the media cupboard if that's where the Virgin Media modem / router is? Why do you need both? Also, should I have a better router than the standard Virgin Media Hub or is the network switch I have sufficient?
 
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rorton

Active Member
well, your not tied in really, you can just use their access points, and use different switches and routers - i use their APs, and while I do have their router (USG) my switches are dlink.

With regards the access point, that was a suggestion if you don't use the equipment from virgin. What many people do, is put the virgin router into Modem Only mode, so turn off all the routing and wifi, and then connect to their own router. As wifi is then turned off, you will need an access point wherever you need it.

Usually, if running access points, which are managed by a central controller, you wouldn't use the ISP supplied wifi too as you could get conflicts.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
well, your not tied in really, you can just use their access points, and use different switches and routers - i use their APs, and while I do have their router (USG) my switches are dlink.

With regards the access point, that was a suggestion if you don't use the equipment from virgin. What many people do, is put the virgin router into Modem Only mode, so turn off all the routing and wifi, and then connect to their own router. As wifi is then turned off, you will need an access point wherever you need it.

Usually, if running access points, which are managed by a central controller, you wouldn't use the ISP supplied wifi too as you could get conflicts.
Ahh ok, understood. Thanks for the explanation. I've got a lot of thinking to do ha! I might need to draw it out to see if what I'm thinking makes sense.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
This is roughly the floorplan downstairs. Not exactly to scale but that square in the middle is the cupboard I'm referring to. As you can see it's pretty central.

Currently all the stuff I listed above is in a media unit under the TV in the lounge which is fine right now but we'll have another TV in the kitchen / dining / living area which as you can see is very close to the cupboard too.
 

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rorton

Active Member
What would you like to put in the media cupboard. For me, I would keep the Virgin tv box by the tv, and have a network connection to it, then get a second virgin box with a network connection to connect to the kitchen tv. I’m not a great fan of centralising video kit unless you have a lot of it, if it’s just virgin tvit seems more appropriate to have multiple players/boxes.

I’d use the media cupboard as a network cabinet, so internet comes in, router, switch maybe a nas etc etc. then lots of cable out to various parts of the house for kit all coming back to a patch panel.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
Missed the fact you had Google mesh. Not familiar with them but possible to use these instead of unifi? Others could advise better on that.

The Google mesh works quite well to be honest. I've got 3 wifi units but was looking for a 4th but struggled to get the 4th to connect for some reason so this is a slight concern.

Regarding the central cupboard then, put the Virgin modem/router in there, as well as things which don't need to be by the TV (or anywhere for that matter), such as Eufy hub for doorbell, Netgear switch, Google Wifi mesh router with Cat6 (would I need any other cables? Coax?) to the relevant rooms?
 

rorton

Active Member
Yep sounds like a plan, for the Cat6, run more than you think you may need - you can put another switch at the end, for example, I have a 24 port 'Core' switch, but going to my AV rack in the lounge, I just have 1 cat5 and then a switch at the other end that all the devices plug into. All depends on how much kit you will install, but I found with CCTV, access points, TV Streaming devices etc etc, you need more cat6 than you planned for. If you want to get fancy, you could put a 'cabinet' on the wall of your cupboard, and run all the cables into that, patch panel etc, mine is getting on a bit now, but mine looks like this:

IMG_2303.jpeg


In terms of coax, it depends on what your looking to do - I would bring the 'main' coax from your roof mounted Ariel into the cupboard, and connect to a distribution amp, then run out coax to each of the rooms you may want a TV in, run 2 coax at the same time as its cheep, and while your running one, you may as well run 2 just in case. Similar for virgin, you could get the main virgin feed into the cupboard, and then run cables off from a splitter to the TV to then connect to the virgin box, then because the virgin feed is in the cupboard, you could use one of the coax you installed to send virgin to another room if needed?

Again, this was all done, 13 years ago, but mine is like this:
IMG_0209.JPG


In your rooms, you could then use modules to present the COAX and the RJ45:

P1010435.JPG
 
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Ferguson9

Active Member
Wow thanks @rorton that's really helpful. When you say run more Cat6 than you need, do you mean run it to more rooms than you think or do you mean run more than one Cat6 to the rooms I'm planning to run it to? I assume the former because as you say, you can have a switch in the room if you need more.
 

rorton

Active Member
id do both! Run at least 2 to every location you want an outlet, you can guarantee that you may have a problem with one cable and you'd be really annoyed if you only ran 1 and it failed or was faulty from the start, and run to multiple locations too, for example in our kitchen I only put 2 cat 5 in a position behind the tv on the wall, and I wish I had put more in, on top of where the kitchen cupboard were, corners of a wall etc.

If your doing the whole of the downstairs, it maybe worth thinking about stuffing some cable into the floor space above ready to go into upstairs rooms? Not sure if you will have your ceiling down when doing the renovation, if so, could be a good time to do it.

Don't forget cable in the ceiling if your going to put an access point there too.
 

Ferguson9

Active Member
id do both! Run at least 2 to every location you want an outlet, you can guarantee that you may have a problem with one cable and you'd be really annoyed if you only ran 1 and it failed or was faulty from the start, and run to multiple locations too, for example in our kitchen I only put 2 cat 5 in a position behind the tv on the wall, and I wish I had put more in, on top of where the kitchen cupboard were, corners of a wall etc.

If your doing the whole of the downstairs, it maybe worth thinking about stuffing some cable into the floor space above ready to go into upstairs rooms? Not sure if you will have your ceiling down when doing the renovation, if so, could be a good time to do it.

Don't forget cable in the ceiling if your going to put an access point there too.

Does this look correct (from a high level)? Also, is the patch panel the same as the Netgear switch I have (albeit mine only has 5 ports and I'll need about 24)?

Screenshot 2022-02-17 at 14.20.28.png
 

rorton

Active Member
yep looks good, the patch panel is an empty panel with a number of outlets on it, on the other side of the patch panel, the cables going to your various rooms will terminate.

then you will take a small patch cable from your switch port, plug into the relevant port on the patch panel, and then you will be presenting a live service to the outlet specified.

You may need more switch ports than 5 :)

Again, old pics, but here is all my cables from various rooms terminating in the patch panel, each cable is labelled so I know where it goes.

P1000813.JPG


P1000817.JPG


from my prev pics, you can see I have 2 patch panels, and then a small cable from the switch going to the patch panel

The idea is that you use solid core cable in the fabric of the building, and solid core cable likes to be terminated on IDC connections, so the back of a patch panel, the back of a cat5/6 module etc, and is 'punched down' with a tool.

You then run a small cable from the switch to the patch panel, this 'actives' the port in the room you want service, then you take a small cable from that outlet in the room directly into the device. These patch cables are flexible and not solid core, so can be twisted and routed like a normal cable.

this way, everything is flat and neat, and you only put cables in when you need to,

So your signal path could be:

Virgin router > port 1 on the switch. This gets the internet signal to the switch, then you can patch from the switch to your patch panel, activate a port, and then from that port in the room, connect to the device you want to activate.

Each of the devices will then be able to talk to each other if needed too, like if you had a NAS and a streaming device for example.
 
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Ferguson9

Active Member
My brain hurts now haha. Seriously, thanks for the help. I think I understand it. Hopefully an electrician will understand it better anyway (you'd hope!). I think I understand enough to know what I need. My only uncertainty, for now is the router. Do I need a new one if I'm going to use the Virgin router as a modem only? If so, is there one you recommend or type I should be looking for?
 

rorton

Active Member
its a lot to take in I know!

For now and to keep things simple and get everything up and running, I would stick with the virgin hub, connect from the hub to the switch so you can activate ports around the house.

Once you get comfortable with what you have, then you could look to replace the router, get a switch that is managed, setup vlans etc etc etc.

If your going with Unify access points, then their USG3P is a decent little device, its all managed from the same console, and you can have multiple vlans, firewall rules between vlans so stuff can talk across vlans etc etc,

Main thing is, while you will be in a mess, get all the cabling in to the right locations, and terminated properly. you can then put anything at either end of the cables and get it working, as long as the right cables are in
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Hopefully an electrician will understand it better anyway (you'd hope!).

No, don't let an electrician do networking cables for a start most of them don't understand them properly.

Issues you tend to get include (that we have seen on these threads and in the real world)

1) Wrong termination order, you should follow 568B as the default wiring scheme at both ends. This ensures that each twisted pair works in the intended way (the twist of the pairs basically allows interference to be rejected)
2) Punchdown not done far enough - not all 8 cables are properly connected
3) Use of cheap CCA cable - electricians work to a price - Copper Clad Aluminium is less than half the price of "proper" CAT6 cable. It might appear attractive price but its because it does not meet any standards despite some unscrupulous marketing - Avoid like the plague
4) Wiring like a telephone socket - i.e. daisy chaining ethernet sockets rather than single cables to each network point
5) Not testing the installation with any sort of test kit
6) Bend radius etc - too tight bends

Could go on

An electrician doesn't require any knowledge of networking to be a qualified electrician so while there are a few that would know, don't assume that your electrician knows any better than you. The amount of issues we have seen here over the years by well meaning electricians has been loads.
 

wormvortex

Member
I was just about to say do not get an electrician to do it!

I’ve lost count of the amount of times they miss wire networking cables or worse run poor quality CCA or even alarm cable for networking!
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Just another one of the forums


Problem cables and sockets all installed, with none of them actually working, determination solved the problem.

An electrician installs and tests a circuit for various things including resistance and continuity. That's the reason you have to do proper installation and testing of network cables.
 

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