Advice on Renovation Infrastructure

I’m just catching up on this conversation. I’m in Victoria, British Columbia, so I appreciate what you’re saying about limited options in the Canadian market. I think that’s mostly a case of population density…or lack thereof. There just isn’t a big enough market for wired automation solutions. Even on the wireless side, it’s easy to find inexpensive WiFi switches/outlets/bulbs, but hard to get ZWave or Zigbee devices for a decent price.

You mentioned a desire to have one vendor (which you might have backtracked on in a later post). If you’re going to rely on openHAB, then I think there’s value in choosing products/technologies that are popular within our community, because you can almost guarantee ongoing updates and support from other users if and when you have issues. As a non-developer, that’s important to me since I’m reliant upon others to ensure my devices continue working in OH.

@MDAR, I just want to add that I appreciate the thoughtful assistance you provide to others while being up front about your understandable bias toward Velbus. That’s a hard balance to strike, and I think you manage it well.

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I couldn’t agree more with you :smile:

Thanks Russell

That’s very nice of you to say.

No doubt you understand that there are many more things I’d like to say, but just can’t.

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I’d appreciate that! I don’t have drawings yet though. I’m currently working with an architect on the new layout. Once I get a wiring diagram, I’ll ping you for assistance.

Thanks again.

You’re most welcome.

I would avoid an architect’s idea of a wiring diagram :wink:

Their opinion of where to place lights and control points is always interesting, but try to get a copy of a drawing without their spider’s web of a wiring plan. (It takes ages to erase the lines)

Good luck.

You might like to invite a few people to contribute their ideas, I’d love to see how other people’s minds approach the electrical planning.

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Even you don’t put in any automation initially , I would have your switchboxes (where your light switches are) configured/built “deeper” than standard. Then, once your home was finished and you wanted to put a Z-Wave controller behind a switch(es) (for example), there’s plenty of room for it to fit.
My 2 bits

I second this comment, particularly if you have multiple switches in one location. With a standard 2-gang electrical box, it’s almost impossible to fit in two connected light switches.

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I know thats the way ordinary infrastructure are build. But my suggestion is, not to think ordinary. Insted think different and get a ordinary result, with an very easy upgrade possibility, at minimum.

I would do it by the use of relays and more wires (its alot easier to remove wires than to add if you´r are using pipes). And then let all wires/cables go to a “central point of structure” in the house.

In that way, it can still be build like the ordinary infrastructure. But it will make it so much easier to restructure the installation to suit whatever “smarthome” system chosen sometime in the future.
If choosing the deeper box size, and the usual wiring plan, the infrastructiure will be highly limited from start.
Its still possible to add the deeper boxes, even using central placed switchboards with relays.

I have four large switchboards in my attic (each one can hold 12 4P DIN rail mounted modules). All cables from switches, sockets ect from every room in the house go to these boards.
From there I can do whatever I want. Right now I have IHC (Intelligent House Control). But if I wanted to exchange it to Velbus, or something simular it would be very easy, without any concern of the wirerings. Exchange to Velbus will still cost a fortune… But it would be quite alot more (aprox the double price) , if I had to rewire everything as well.

To me, this is the only right way to structure the electrical installation in a house today, as it opens so many possibilites, even for the future where noone know how it will look like, except it will be somekind of “smarthome”.

Sidenote:
While wiring the electrical infrastructure, you might as well add minimum two ethernet cables (Minimum Cat 6) for each rooms, for Local Area Network. Then you dont have to break the walls afterwards.

Doing it right first time will limit costs as well as time :smiley:

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Thanks to everyone for your continued input.

I don’t seem to have the privilege to PM, so I’m attaching the drawings. (These are not my architect’s drawings, but are ones I made in Sweet Home 3D, which I’ve been using to pitch ideas to the architect.)

The electrical panel is currently in the basement entry. I’m thinking of terminating all the data and audio cables in the “Mech” room, with a small switch/server rack. I’m eager to hear any ideas.

On another note, I did find a shop (on the web) in a nearby town that sells Velbus equipment. Oddly, they only sell the relays, and don’t seem to sell the controllers or anything else. I may call them to find out what the deal is.

I really like the idea of central wiring with addressable relays, and I’m amazed at how little I can find being sold (or discussed in forums) in North America. I’m also concerned about what happens when something fails and all my lights stop working until I get my replacement part shipped from the UK. As excited as I am not about choosing a wireless standard, z-wave equipment seems to be widely available. Plus, if my z-wave hub fails, my lights still work.

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if I paid a professional to design my home, and I accepted that what looks like a ‘spider’s web’ to a lay person is perfectly comprehesible to a professional electrician…

Oh indeed.

Designing a home, is very different from designing the schematics.

In the same way as I wouldn’t ask a dentist to repair my car.

If it weren’t for confidentiality issues, I’d happily share some of the crazy drawings that have come across my desk from Architects who have ‘kindly’ micro managed the job and shown all the cable and pipe runs.

One memorable drawing used the same colour for every cable and water pipe.

I worked at an architecture and engineering firm for nine years. It was always interesting to see the architects design something crazy, followed by the structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers freaking out when they were told to make it happen.

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Hi

I’m happy to start a PM with you, to discuss your project in private, if you want to continue in public, that’s fine with me, as I’m sure you’ll get some valuable input from others.

That’s very interesting, I wasn’t aware that there were “active” resellers in the US or Canada.

Can you tell by the images on their website if they are offering “current” stock?

The telltale sign for din rail modules is if they have those old Hex address switches.

Also (for example), modules like the VMB4RY are out of date and have been replaced with VMB4RYLD, VMB4RYNO and VMB1RYNO

Please do call them and ask some deep questions, I’d be very interested to know what they say :wink:

If they are active, I’d be very happy to support them.

Other than a few notable exceptions where a device wasn’t wired in correctly, I haven’t had any modules fail since I got involved with Velbus.

The 5 year warranty should give you an indication as to how much confidence we have in the hardware.

Depending on how many units you were to order, I would be happy to set you up with a “spare” module or two, to keep in stock for the very unlikely event that something should fail.
Then at least should the worse happen, you can swap it out quickly and be up and running within 30 minutes.
Then return the defective module and I’ll arrange a replacement, however I really doubt you will ever need to do that.

Before I get too far down the rabbit hole with suggesting a cheaper solution to get your home up and running, that can be upgraded to a full digital system later, can you advise if this is still your plan, or do you want to go fully digital from the outset? (Regardless of if you choose Velbus, KNX, Mode, Crestron etc etc)

Best wishes,

Stuart

Yeah, the architect’s job is to meet code. Building in downtown Toronto is “interesting”, because there is so much of it going on. It seems like it can take a year to get permits, because adjustments are always required, and those have to go through committees. When you eventually get to the contractor, you may find that things are too expensive or impractical, requiring another round…

I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but if you are available and interested, I am interested to hear your opinions. I don’t seem to have PM privilege yet. Yes, please feel free to PM me, and thank you for the offer!

It appears to be an electronics shop. I’m guessing they cater to tinkerers. I see descriptions of pinouts for setting timers and things like that, which sounds more oriented to pure electrical and electromechanical applications. They do explicitly mention that some of the items are out of stock.

https://store.qkits.com/velbus.html

I’m thinking that the lowest barrier to entry will be a “classical” wiring scheme, where I will rely on z-wave switches controlled by a hub. (The commitment is low, because it is fully backward-compatible to a “dumb-home” configuration.) I think I can get some of the “soft-switch” functionality that you get with a centralized system by wiring an additional no-load dimmer to each room, which is only used to control the other switches via the hub. (It will operate a little like a scene controller.)

I also haven’t looked into which centralized systems are legal for Canada, though I’ve seen mentions of Loxone and Control4 systems as allowed. Those systems appear to require pro installers (I can’t just go buy the equipment and read the manual), and even not accounting for cost, that takes it off my list. (I like to know how this stuff works, and have the option to make changes myself.)

I want to have all the electrician-required work done for a “smart” setup at the outset (so the wiring and the required switches.) I expect to be in there myself during the build, evenings and weekends, running my own conduit for data cabling. Depending on how things go, I could defer the “soft switch” idea to a later time, and put those switches in myself (as long as the circuits are there.) If I take a centralized approach, I’ll need to understand it well enough myself to tell the electrician what to wire up. If I take a “classical” approach, I’ll just be looking for the setup that gets me the most flexibility to change my mind later (without adding too much extra cost right now.)

Thanks again.
Michael

Hi

I’ve started a PM with you now, so feel free to bounce between the two methods as you see fit.

Now that is interesting.

Out of the 8 items they show, only 1 is still current and even that I don’t sell to anyone who wants to do more than bench testing.

I’ll try to get in touch with the web-store owners and ask them to either update their range or remove the references to these (very) old modules, as it’s not doing any of us any favors.


UPDATE

I’ve just had a lovely conversation with the lady that owns that WebStore.

She has marked down all her remaining stock to cost price (circa 2010) and marked them as “While Stocks Last”

Now the good news is… the VelbusLink software still supports all those modules and the majority of new modules can still have Actions assigned to them.

You could…if you were so inclined, buy up her old stock for use in your control cabinets and use the funky Glass Panels as your user facing hardware.

She only has the relay modules left, which would be perfect for heating control :wink: as you only need the most basic 0104 Momentary / Follow action.


I would suggest a different approach that will give you similar functionality to start with, but be MUCH easier to “drop” in whatever hardwired digital solution you want to later.

In effect, It’s what was done in the 1980’s in Europe.

Run each lighting / fixture circuit back to a cabinet on a single radial (sized to suit the load)

Run something like an 8 circuit “multi-core” 0v control cable from each point of control to the cabinet/s.
(We used to use flexible alarm installation type cable)

All the magic then happens in the cabinet.

If all you want is simple switched lighting, then a really dumb 5v or 12v din rail relay (per fixture) is put in the cabinet and wired up to simple single pole or double pole (or intermediate) switches, with much the same wiring plan as would be done if you were to wire directly to the switches.
Meaning that you can easily achieve one way switching, two way or multiple switching, but patching the control lines in the cabinet and the resulting “circuit closure” pulling in the relay, which in turn puts the fixture on.

If you want dimming, then that’s not impossible, in fact possibly easier for multi-point control.

You can get really simple Din Rail “push button” controlled dimmers.
All that you need to do is fit momentary / Push&Release switches at the control points and hook those up to the dimmers.

For Velbus (I can’t speak for other technologies) this was the wiring style that was common when it was designed, so it’s perfectly possible to use the thin alarm type cable radials with Velbus glass panels.

All you need is 4 of the cores, all joined at the cabinet/s, to 0V, 15Vdc, Data Low and Data High.

In a perfect world, you might install a redundant EIB grade Lighting control cable in a bus around all you control points and back to the cabinets, so you can use it when you swap to a fully digital system, but not essential if you plan to use Velbus. (Although it is the prefered method, if only to make the connections in the cabinet much easier / less messy)

If you wanted to semi automate this dumb relay arrangement, there is no reason why you couldn’t include some IP relay arrays in the cabinet, either as an extra layer to the control of the dumb relays (as in the output of the IP Relay is treated as another control switch) or if the IP relay board has input circuits, they could be used to detect the state of the switches. (Not an easy route to take, but one that can work)
I guess you could use the GPIO pins of your prefered SBC too, but that’s way beyond my scope.

I would be interested to know how one goes about putting forward an alternative brand, if you come across any useful links or submission routes, please do send them over to me.
I’d be happy to look into submitting Velbus for review / approval. (dependant on cost)

If only for complete flexibility, I would recommend the centralised approach every time.

If your prefered contractor has any issues at all, you have 2 choices.

  1. Pass them over to me and I’ll provide some Skype based training or some schematics

  2. Find yourself a contractor that isn’t stuck in the 1970’s :wink: (there are lots of them out there)
    What I’m finding is that commercial contractors tend to be aware of (and mostly willing to install) centralised solutions, whereas strictly domestic contractors prefer the same as they did last year so that they can get in and get out quick.

I hope that helps you.

Regards,

Stuart

I´ll second this. Centralised approach is the most effective and flexible option.
My house has centralized wiring system today, running a intelligent smarthome system called IHC. Except for a rather irritating issue with the wall boxes, due to Denmark not using EU standard boxes,I could have swapped IHC for Velbus in just a few days.I could even swap for KNX if I wanted to. Thats the advantage of having the flexible wiring done right first time.
I know, people dont swap system once a year or even once every 5 years. But knowing I could do this if I wanted to, is enough for me to never even think about a traditional wiring approach, if I were ever to build a new house or renovating.

If you have the money and the oppotunity - Go for the most flexible solution. You can still install z-wave, Zigbee or whatever you like. It´s all just a question of doing the wiring right first time, and then choose the available devices (modules) for cabinet builds (DIN Rail).

It do cost a bit more. But it will cost quite alot more, if you have to rebuild and rewire later.

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I did a little browsing. Without digging into the minutiae of electrical code, I got the gist that there is some provincial discretion, but that electrical equipment is allowed if it has an approved standards mark. Among those cited are CSA and cUL. Velbus seems to indicate a UL certification, but I think Canadian-specific testing may be required to get a “cUL” rating. This seems to be related to certification:

Here’s a guide for the average joe:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/home-safety/electrical-products.html

For practical purposes, Velbus equipment seems to support NA voltages. And since it isn’t wireless, I guess there aren’t spectrum conflict issues. I see that UK junction boxes are a different size and shape from those in NA (with a 1-gang UK box being closer to the size of a 2-gang NA box, but not exactly), which would require some sort of adaptation.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for digging that out, I’ll take a deeper look into it on Monday.

My only concern at this point is two fold

If you are prevented from installing the hardware because it lacks the correct approval

and

If Velbus is unwilling to pay for the modules to be type approved for sale in NA.

After some PMs with Stuart and some additional reading, I’m going to go with a centralized approach if I can make it work. Velbus has great documentation on their website, but I don’t feel comfortable using something that I have to import. So before I commit to central wiring, I need to find at least one local-market central lighting system.

All I can find for the Canadian market are pro-install only systems except for one: Leviton Omnibus. It’s a DIN-rail-mount modular system that uses off-the-shelf switches. The main problems with Omnibus are that it is 1990s technology (how long before they discontinue it?), and that the dimmer modules alone seem oddly expensive (around $300 CAD each.)

I did discover that some makers of ZWave equipment (Aeotec, Fibaro) sell modules they say can be DIN-rail mounted (with an adapter), and connected to off-the-shelf switches. I then found that Insteon sells modules that already have the DIN-rail housing.

I’m thinking I should plan for something mentioned by Stuart and others in this thread: run conduit from each light to a central area, as well as to each switch junction box. That way I can wire switches to Insteon modules, and keep them together next to the controller. It’s a lot of conduit, but I don’t see why I couldn’t do it. When Stuart gets Velbus into the Canadian market :wink: , I can swap out for those.

Thoughts? (On running conduit everywhere? On using wireless modules as if they were wired? On the virtues of Leviton Omnibus? On aspects of this that might violate a sensible building code?)

Thanks!

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This is the most flexible and cheapest but most work intensive option.
If you run everything to a central place you can get big Ethernet IOs and easily rewire everything in a central place.
Need a switchable socket - just rewire in your central place. The switch shall do something different - just rewire.
Just make sure you have enough space in your junction bux (get a big one).

If it is not possible to rewire all conduits I’d go for a mixture of z-wave /wifi.
Use zwave for blinds, movement sensor, e.g. static stuff and use wifi for lights with animation.

The nice thing about running wires when you’re building/renovating is that you can easily choose not to use them if technology takes you down another path. The same can’t be said in the opposite direction.

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