Advice on Renovation Infrastructure

I’m currently planning a major home renovation, and I’m trying to make sure I have all my future home automation needs covered in the plan. I’m hoping some of you can help to validate my ideas.

My goal for now will be to have whole-home audio, smart lights, smart heating and cooling, and a door cam and/or smart doorbell. Beyond that, I want minimal effort to add something I haven’t thought of yet.

Here’s what I have on my list for the reno:

  • Conduit running to endpoints and strategic nexus points, originating from a basement wiring closet. (Nexus points might be in the attic. I haven’t figured that out yet.)
  • Audio and network cable running to each room through respective conduits
  • Network cable running to a spot for a wall-panel per floor
  • Conduit going to a few “strategic” corners of some rooms (in case I need to support an IR blaster for legacy devices)
  • Neutral wires run to each electrical switch box for smart switches
  • Two switch circuits per ceiling fan (one for fan, one for light)
  • C-wire to each thermostat
  • Standard security system wiring (door and window sensors)

I’m thinking of powering the audio with Logitech Media Center and Hifi Berry, Ubiquity IW units for Ethernet and wifi per room, Zwave or Insteon light and fan switches, some sort of smart thermostat, and I’ll dust off my ancient GE Concord 4 for security (which should be able to feed me door and window state, and allow me to guess at presence.) I’m thinking I can mount PoE IR blasters in-ceiling when I have a need for legacy devices, and the conduit will make things somewhat future proof. I expect most devices (sensors, cameras) I might need can be powered via PoE. I’ll stitch it all together with OpenHab.

Am I missing anything obvious? I keep wondering things like, “what if I want to track locations or identify individuals? What if I need to control an old stereo? What if I want temperature data for each room? How can I plan for passive climate control (shades and ventilation)?” I think this covers any future plan I can think of in terms of house infrastructure, so that the rest is figuring out what devices to buy. But I’d like to get any opinions or suggestions.

Thanks!

For every 1 data cable you think you need add 4 per box …HDMI cables are not allowed in wall so you need HDMI over Cat6 baluns 2 per HDMI …Make sure all of your light switches have neutrals in them …(Very necessary)…Don’t buy AV store Speaker wire (Waste of money) buy boxes of speaker wire from electrical wholesale store #14 minimum one run per speaker … Cameras are now IP so power isn’t needed at the Camera Cat6 will do …4 wire 22 gauge wire is necessary for PIRs … Run one feed in every room and a bunch outside …Do not run control wire into AC power boxes its illegal …Unless rated the same as the AC wire but not best practice …Have at lease 2 Cat6 in every room beside the switch box and another couple in boxes a plug level…I think I covered everything …Look at HAI from leviton for security and lighting control …I think it can be integrated with Openhab…It has its own app also look at Ubiquiti Cameras and communication products lower cost but good quality

Really? Since when?

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It’s rather you’re overdoing things a little. Once you really start it might turn out to be more hassle and cost than you imagined.
I wouldn’t run audio to every room. The modern way of doing things is to have an IP device with or connected to a speaker wherever you need it and you won’t need to attach old stereos.
Same goes for TV cable and HDMI. With mesh networking available, one WiFi per room is also too much.
People tend to plan their renovation for having the exact same setup after, but it’s more clever to change it along the way. Put lamps in different places or think ambient lighting.

You will want. And motion and lux detection, plus humidity at least in some rooms.
Consider using multisensor devices (I use Fibaro Z-Wave FGMS).
And note that values from sensors are sensitive to the exact placement. You may need to experiment with them before you know where they work best, and it’s unlikely to be where your wire is.

Things you didn’t consider are roller shutters/blinds and color lighting (to require 12/24VDC and RGB wires).

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When talking about things that are illegal or not, on an international forum like this, it is important to indicate where in the world you are talking about. Things that are illegal in one country or region may be perfectly fine (legally speaking) in some other part of the world.

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That is a good point which is also why I said its not best practice …Canada ,USA, Australia and Europe have excellent codes and mirror a lot of each other in their codes but there are differences which is why automation installer should have a copy of their respective building and electrical codes handy to check anyway …Running a control and monitoring wiring beside power wiring is asking for trouble …big trouble …If you run a hair dryer that has a low voltage temperature sensor in the same pipe it will induce noise and voltages across to the sensor wire …Which may (not saying it will ) cause damage to you devices … There are also harmonics and heat not to mention if there is any cross shorting it will let the smoke out of a lot of devices

Thanks to everyone for your opinions and hardware recommendations. This is all really helpful. I will look up all the devices all of you referenced (lighting controllers, cameras, sensors, roll-shutters.)

Yeah, I’m sure that’s true. I want to start with everything I think I’ll want though, and scale back only when reality sets in.

I currently use Logitech Media Center and a collection of Squeezeboxes for a reasonably OK whole-home audio. I was hoping for something like what I have now, but a little more hi-fi oriented, and a little more integrated with the house. (I’m looking to avoid having speakers plugged in all over the place, and looking not to rely on wifi for things that aren’t going to move. I thought about Sonos, but it is expensive, and I’m not sure it meets criteria.) So I settled on wiring rooms for old-fashioned audio, but then having a bank of squeezebox clones running in a cabinet in the basement. I see this as a future-proof solution that gets me the decluttering and integration with the house, that doesn’t rule out the addition of wireless speakers.

I have a post in the Ubiquiti forum to ask about this. My house is small, but it is in downtown Toronto, and I currently get a lot of interference from neighboring hot spots. I currently overpower my neighbors by running a 2-unit mesh network (in 1200 sq ft, just to get coverage to the back of the house), and it is imperfect. I’m hoping for an improved solution.

Okay, I assumed something like this should exist, but I couldn’t find it. I want to have smart switches (rather than smart bulbs), and if I want colors, that implies added wiring. But all I can find are references Phillips Hue and clones. Can you point me to a device that does colored lighting controlled by a wired smart switch?

Regarding the multi-room temperature stuff, how do you use the data? My ideal climate control would utilize passive systems as well as active ones. If it is hot at the back of the house, the system should close the back shutters (or maybe notify occupants to close the back shutters and open a front window). I assume any thermostat, smart or otherwise will just turn on the AC, and I’ll have OpenHab coordinate the other actions such as shutter-closing or human notifications. Does that sound right?

EDIT: I think I misunderstood you in the first place and you want a switch to NOT run communication wireless.
I don’t have a specific device to recommend, but check out DALI and DMX devices for that purpose.

Well HVAC optimization is the master class of automation. Orchestrating existing thermostats/ACs/ventilation/blinds usually doesn’t work as they’re not built to take care of and input from other systems to affect the same room’s climate.
So your HVAC control needs to be specifically tailored to the kind of heating and housing of yours.
I’ve ultimately built my own climate control. I have a ‘decomposed’ thermostat, i.e. temperature sensor and an actuator-connected underfloor heating loop or radiator per temperature zone. Plus blinds to control solar gains. Plus a wholehouse ventilation which sort of distributes air, somewhat equalizing temperature differences.
So to the extent possible, I can auto heat (but not cool) single rooms/temperature zones and can combine that with knowledge about who’s home when.

Hello

Where in the world are you located?

Regarding your wish list, my personal advice would be to run plenty of colour coded flexible conduit with gentle routes to nodes / cabinets around your home and NOT worry too greatly about what goes inside them (today).

Whatever you do, make sure your backbone infrastructure is good.

Personally, I’d recommend running each lighting circuit (via a conduit) back to a control point / node / cabinet and assume that you’ll be using some kind of digital ‘switch’ that can be configured for anything and adjusted as your property expands or develops.

As a general choice, I (personally and professionally) recommend running everything on a bit of wire / fibre and leave wireless for handheld devices.

Obviously I’d recommend taking a serious look at the Velbus kit, however to be even handed, I should also say that there are plenty of other wired solutions out there, some cheaper, some more expensive.

It’s totally up to you to find a balance between the pro’s and con’s of each.

Good luck :smile:

I’ll look into the Fibaro light controllers. I was hoping for something like “mood lighting” or night lights where I could vary the color. That sounds like what I’m looking for.

I’m in downtown Toronto.

Yes, that’s basically what I want to do. I’m trying to figure out all the places that conduit needs to run. As you suggested, I want the opportunity to wire everything.

This is something I wasn’t expecting. I was mainly thinking of running doing this for data and audio. I expected my lighting circuitry to be standard, because all smart switches I can find on the market rely on a powerline bus or a wireless protocol. I did go into this expecting to consider something less standard for better home automation support. Is that what you’re suggesting? If so, can you point me to some info that would clarify it a little more?

I browsed through the Velbus controllers. It looks really interesting (and non-standard). It seems like the purpose is to avoid having a dedicated server, but I’m not sure if I’m missing the point. I’d appreciate any additional reference material you can point out.

Thanks again!

Hello Michael

If you select a technology that can give you control over separate lighting channels or colours of a fixture, almost all of them should give you the ability to setup as many moods / scenes as you want.

openHAB2 is excellent at setting scenes, as long as the infrastructure of your property give you the flexibility.

Okay, that’s good to know, it will help everyone give you advice / ideas that are more relevant to your area.
For example, I understand that ZWave hardware use difference frequencies for different regions.
I’ll assume that the same restrictions apply to other wireless technologies.

Likewise, there are the electrical wiring regulations to consider too.

For example, the Velbus hardware that I distribute are all CE approved, but I don’t know if this is enough for use in Canada

Arrrr you’ve fallen into the “old” trap.

When you say “Lighting circuitry to be standard”, which standard are you referring to :wink:

“Classic” domestic lighting wiring is like a bus.
Connection starts at the consumer board and travels around the property, branching out for switches and lighting circuits.

Whereas a centrally controlled lighting system will have all circuits wired back to a common control location, where relays and dimmers are mounted. (It’s totally acceptable to have multiple Nodes of control, rather than 1 central one. Consider a hotel where each room / suite has it’s own isolated power / water / heating / cooling supply, with it’s own control node)

These control modules would then be controlled by buttons, panels or software elsewhere in the property.

While this drawing is specific to Velbus hardware, the logic is sound for all of the centralised systems.
KNX, Loxone, Crestron, AMX, Mode lighting, Control4, Rako, Niko and so the list goes on and on.

http://www.mdar.co.uk/dl/Basic_Wiring_plan_V1.5.pdf

You’ll see on the left hand side of that PDF the layouts for a heating system, as each of the Velbus glass panels contain powerful HVAC thermostats.

It doesn’t really matter what you heat or cooling source is for the Velbus thermostats, as they are more concerned with giving you the ability to easily zone your property and route heat or cooling where it’s needed.

For example, you could reference the PDF and imagine that air ducting dampers and a central chiller are being controlled, instead of water valves and a heat source.

The real magic is that the Velbus thermostats can’t demand both at the same time, but will easily flip between the two systems as needed, even with a comfortable temperature where neither are in use.

I think you have it in a one :smile:

It’s not that Velbus or KNX, Loxone, AMX, Mode Lighting, Niko, Rako, Crestron or the others are “Non-Standard”, but it might be that they are a commercial / high end approach.

This over simplified drawing hints at the difference, I drew it in a hurry and haven’t needed to improve it yet.

http://www.mdar.co.uk/dl/Hybrid_Classic_Lighting.pdf

You have a perfect understanding.

Velbus, like KNX (with some very important differences), doesn’t require a central control unit.
Every modules works with every other module to form a collective.
Each module listens to the bus for status’ from other modules and responds according to it’s own configuration. (Which is done using the FREE (Windows) VelbusLink software, that treats the network as a complete system, updating each module as needed via the single USB interface.)

openHAB2 then works as an umbrella or control surface, rather than the “Brain”.

As a wise man once said, “Let openHAB2 control the thermostat, not BE the thermostat”.

What I particularly like about openHAB2 is the way it brings different technologies together, the simplest use case might be where an event on one system triggers an event on another.

A great example of this is where people have used button events in Velbus to switch devices on different systems.

The simplest example might be this rule

rule "Another_Switch Toggle" // Where Another_Switch is an Item linked to a device that is dependant on a different binding.

when


 Channel 'velbus:vmb2gp:c5053467:0B:input#CH1' triggered PRESSED // Button 1 of a 2 button Velbus glass panel

then

if (Another_Switch.state == ON){
 
Another_Switch.sendCommand(OFF)
}
else {
      Another_Switch.sendCommand(ON)
       }

end

You “could” in theory, create all of the connection logic in openHAB2 rules and not configure anything in VelbusLink (which some companies do), by why make life hard for yourself?

Regarding reference material, what kind of thing are you looking for?

Do you want examples of installations or technical documents?

I’m happy to help with anything specifically related to Velbus configuration or Velbus within the openHAB2 environment.

Good luck,

Stuart


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and there are many more great stories on this forum :smile:

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I second whatever you´ve written.
I cant stress enough how important it is to get the backbone structure correct, first time. Rebuilding afterwards will become a true hell and filled with compromises which only leads to “half-good” results.

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(mind blown… just a little)

This has been very enlightening. I think part of the problem is that, being a newbie, I don’t have the right terminology. When I google “wiring for home automation”, I get all these hits for things Alexa and Ring… Frustrating. So the best I could come up with was the standard consumer-grade stuff like Insteon and Z-wave. It bothered me a little the idea of relying on systems designed for retrofit when I’m going to build all new infrastructure.

If I understand your diagrams, centrally-controlled lighting systems are a bit like having a single smart switch control all the lights rather than just one (and then having the wall switches be more software-defined rather than determined by physical wiring.)

So… not being a pro, I am planning to have an electrician do the high-voltage wiring. I was planning on “classic” wiring, and using whichever hub-based system got me the devices I liked best. I was then thinking more along the lines of running conduit for all the low-voltage stuff that I run. If I want to consider a centralized system, it sounds like I need to either 1. get an electrician who knows about this stuff (which sounds expensive), or 2. get the “classic” electrician to run conduit for each wire, so that I can completely reconfigure the electrical when get a better understanding of what I want. Or maybe 3. get whatever data cabling I need installed now, and ensure that I have an accessible junction box on each circuit (e.g. one per room or whatever building code says.) I think you’re suggesting I do some combination of #2 and #3.

I’ve come to the same conclusion. I didn’t realize it applied to lighting as well. Clearly I need to do some more reading to find out what systems meet code here, how they apply to hvac, etc. I have a lot more to go on now, so thanks again for all the info!

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I think you can reduce that down a bit further and make life easier.

Really the two options for infrastructure are :

  1. A classic electrical installation, where switch plates in rooms only control that room. Where the new hardware is (also) controllable from elsewhere. For example ZWave

  2. A centralised (or at least node based) installation, where Switching / Dimming is done at the node and the Control position is purely digital.

There is a massive advantage to going for option 2.

You are free to install whatever hardware you like in each node, as long as you have space and it has a corresponding “switch” / User interface that can be installed in the rooms that need them.

Including Zwave if you wish.

(Some people have been known to only install movement sensors in each room, and / or a simple touch screen / tablet)

I know of one chap who has a IHC system that was installed this way that he is in the process of upgrading.
It means he doesn’t have to re-wire anything at all, he “just” has the issue of expanding the boxes in the rooms to accomodate the upgraded UI hardware.

I hope this makes your decision process a little easier, but be assured , regardless of how much time you spend thinking about it now.
There will ALWAYS be another idea / opinion later.

Good luck,

Stuart

I know of a chap who suffers from the exact same situation wiht his IHC system. He´s struggling with the wall boxes as well, cause his house is build by the use of a “non-european” standard wall boxes, where EU standard material doesnt fit, (like Velbus panels). The rest of the wired installation will work without any issues no matter which system he might exhcange his IHC system to.
:wink:

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After doing a little more browsing and reading, I’ve gotten a little more info:

  • Most of the brands you suggested don’t seem to be widely available in Canada. Some of them are, but you can only get them through professional installers. (Probably for good reasons.) If I go down the road of standardizing on one vendor, I want a local shop that will support me.
  • Centralized home automation standards seem to be more common in Europe than in North America. The only standard wired protocol I can ever find referenced for NA is UPB, which seems to be a really old standard, and sounds more similar to X10 than to the modern stuff we’re discussing here.
  • I found a Control4 dealer in Toronto. I have a feeling that will amount to pro-only install, but I will go visit them and see what they have to offer.

And some conclusions:

  • If I am considering a centralized solution (now or later), I can probably get an electrician to route each circuit and switch to a junction panel in the basement via conduit. (I think that’s what you @MDAR originally suggested.) He/she can then wire me up “classically” if I decide not to go that route. I will look into the added cost of doing that.
  • I have a feeling the cost of a centralized approach will scare my wife away. Any prices I can find for the controllers and relays are not cheap. I will probably end up pricing out a DIY Z-wave installation versus a pro or semi-pro Control4 installation, and consulting with the boss. (I can just hear it now… why do I need my lights to turn on automatically when I’m not even there? Why can’t I just flip the switch to turn on the light?)

Thanks again to everyone for the help. I’ve learned a lot more with your input than I could have on my own.

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That depends very much on the building construction.

There are some very old buildings there. We have one building at work that is an old stone mansion used as an executive Bed & Breakfast. Due to building construction with metal lathe in the walls, we needed one AP per room to get reasonable coverage

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Well at least that’s consequent as it’s the 2 ends of the spectrum (although not fair :wink: )
All-ZWave won’t cost you anything for running conduits and wires other than mains power, saving time and money which is why many renovators/retrofitters in fact use it.

But I think you have a weak understanding of what’s “pro” and what’s “DIY”.
Firstly, the electrical part should always be done by a pro (a certified electrician).
Then while almost all of the mentioned technologies differ in some respects - wireless vs. wired and standards vs. proprietary - they’re all in the same league as opposed to DIY devices (that’s when you solder your own hardware or deploy Arduinos).
“Pro” installers (to install complete systems on customer sites) use these devices as well as DIY users do (to equip their own home).
Sure some technology vendors try to position their tech to be higher than others by artificially restricting availability (see sales channels, certifications, availability of documentation etc), but ultimately there’s no “consumer” and “pro” device or technology leagues here.

To me, the real difference from a “pro” system to a “DIY” one is the planning and automation part.
That’s what you’re paying for when you get a Control4 for instance.
But “DIY” is perfectly fine here as you already settled on openHAB to be the controller to rule them all.
And that’s the biggest saver on money.

The centrally-wired idea is what I was looking for. I’m still not clear why I can’t find much of this in North America. If I could find a dealer here that would sell me a kit and give support, I’d be pretty excited about that.

When I say “DIY”, I mean I design the topology, choose my hardware, and do my own software integration (with OpenHab.) . I will ensure that the high-voltage wiring I expect is in the plans, and I’ll had the contractor a box of whatever high-voltage things need to get installed. I see this as being cheaper, because my labor is “free”, and because I can start small. I also like that I will understand it, and be able to make changes myself, and that most of the hardware can be based on open standards (such as Zwave). It will definitely be less polished than a pro system, and I still don’t like that wireless seems to be the only real option here.

Besides checking with Control4, I’ll also see what the added cost of running conduit to each switch box. But it sounds to me like it isn’t simply a matter of running conduit where you would have run cable. In a “classical” setup, I think switches are often come after the light in the circuit, and not before. If I just ran conduit, and then I decided to put in a centralized system with low-voltage panels, I might end up having to run low and high-voltage wire in the same conduit. (I’m guessing that’s not allowed best-case, and that the AC could interfere with the data.) I think the only way to run conduit that would be compatible with a centralized system is to have the switches come all the way back to the “center”, meaning each room is wired almost in “centralized” style. Do I have that right?

Thanks again for all the help and suggestions.

There is a very cunning solution if you’d like to have a fairly low cost initial installation, with the option of upgrading to a fully wired digital system.

If you PM me your drawing, I’ll annotate them and explain what options you have.

Best wishes,

Stuart