newbie home automation starter pack?

AirWreck

Novice Member
I’m looking for advice on where to start with home automation and security for a new home we are building. Here is a little bit about my situation and wish lists:

1. I’d like to figure out what type of automation ecosystem we need. I’d like HVAC, lighting and home security (intrusion/cameras/locks/door intercom) to all play nice together, and I’d prefer to have a central web client interface to see everything and to program schedules and scenes. I have a little interest in controlling window blinds and it might be nice have appliances integrated, but that’s lower on the wish list. The biggest focus is on home security and then lighting.

2. I am in the commercial fire alarm and security systems industry – sales/engineering/project management, with 10 years experience as a tech. I’d say I’m comfortable with electronics, but am a little behind the curve on IT matters. I ought to know more about this stuff, but we don’t do hardly any residential work. This is a low-voltage industry I’m in, so I’d be comfortable with a soldering iron and building something like this: nikivanov/smarterblinds

3. I also would not be afraid of anything that required a little coding. My biggest hobby is MS Office VBA coding: mostly for work - customization/integration/automation of Excel and Outlook. Between Outlook and the four or five spreadsheets I’ve customized, there’s maybe 40,000 lines of code there!

4. Relatedly, while we are all Microsoft when it comes to PCs/laptops, we are 100% Apple here, with their phones, iPads and watches, if that matters. We also have embraced Alexa, so it would be nice to still be able to use that. Anything Google/Android-centric I'd have to rule out.

5. I am not wealthy, and have a limited budget for all this, but for that matter it’s important whatever I use for the foundation can be added-on-to later. The good news is that I have wholesale-level pricing access for a lot of this through my job. So, lighting, cabling, anything electrical, security systems, integrated locksets, cameras, you name it, I can get fairly cheap. Amazon, for the rest, I guess.

6. I work for a Bosch and Honeywell security dealer, and I am leaning towards a Bosch wireless intrusion system. Looking at their G450 home control gateway, but don't know much about it (Home Control Gateway | Interface Modules | Accessories for Control Panels and Keypads | Intrusion Alarm Systems | Product Segments | us Site) but I haven’t bought it, and I’d rule it out if it it’s not going to play nice with everything else.

7. We are picking out exterior lights right now. I’m leaning towards low-voltage LED, digital low-voltage sounds interesting. The house construction has not started yet, so we can wire it for LV. In particular, I’m interested in using dimmable lights for nighttime exterior ambience/security lighting, but in the case of the garage coach lights I’d like to tie them to a motion and have them act as floodlights at that time. I’d also be keen on flashing them when there is an intrusion/panic alarm. This all needs to be smart or at least have the ability to accept a contact closure or voltage input, so I can make it quasi-smart with a smart relay, for example.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! I'm not asking anyone to spend a lot of time on an answer, but at least to point me in the right direction with some links, etc.

Thanks!

Eric
 

xxGBHxx

Well-known Member
How long is a piece of string...

Low Cost
Low Effort
High Functionality

Choose two.

The biggest issue is how everything interacts. Lots of little pockets of specialist suppliers in the various areas but outside of eye wateringly expensive and bespoke/custom solutions at the very high end, nothing that works "nice" and "flawlwess" without a huge amount of effort (or money)

First you need to carefully plan and bound EXACTLY what functionality you want. Once you know the what, you need to work out what your budget is. Costs ramp up *VERY* quickly even in the most budget build. Once you know both of those they will drive what the solution you go for is.

There is no one "right" answer and if you're going down the DIY route you really need to have a serious think of how you're going to knit all the kit together. That's usually done with a Smart Hub. There's a number of options such as completely bespoke built on a Raspberry Pi Home Assistant to something prepackaged like Hubitat or Smart Things going through Fibaro, and Homeseer all the way to Crestron and the likes. Again cost, time and functionality are directly related and that is VERY true with smart hubs. Just remember the more DIY you get the more time, cost and functionality play against each other.

For lighting I'd strongly recommend Hue. They do a fairly good range of indoor and outdoor lights and they just work with everything. They are pretty expensive but they are about as plug and play as you'll ever get.

Personally I run cables, others prefer wireless. I suggest running Cat 6 everywhere as it's cheap, easy to run and can be used for (almost) everything. If was building a house these days I'd be running 2*Cat 6 to every socket and switch even if I never use it as it's just so useful to have it on hand when you DO need to run anything. This is especially true for CCTV and POE.

Make sure your electrician wires everything with a neutral. In the UK there is rarely a neutral run to the light switches (though I'm told it's not the case any more) and without it your choices for smart dimmers/switches drop significantly.

By the way @mushii is against automation/smart control of alarms unless it's an integral and tested part of the alarm that's certified. I'm a little more open to automation platforms being able to turn them on/off provided you're not actually relying on the smart hub to detect/alert on that breach. YMMV as they say.

Thanks

G
 

AirWreck

Novice Member
Thanks, xxGBHxx! I appreciate the insight!

How long is a piece of string...

Low Cost
Low Effort
High Functionality

Choose two.

The biggest issue is how everything interacts. Lots of little pockets of specialist suppliers in the various areas but outside of eye wateringly expensive and bespoke/custom solutions at the very high end, nothing that works "nice" and "flawlwess" without a huge amount of effort (or money)

Personally I run cables, others prefer wireless. I suggest running Cat 6 everywhere as it's cheap, easy to run and can be used for (almost) everything. If was building a house these days I'd be running 2*Cat 6 to every socket and switch even if I never use it as it's just so useful to have it on hand when you DO need to run anything. This is especially true for CCTV and POE.

Make sure your electrician wires everything with a neutral. In the UK there is rarely a neutral run to the light switches (though I'm told it's not the case any more) and without it your choices for smart dimmers/switches drop significantly.

Thanks

G
 

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