Bare-stud remodel - What would you do?

I’m doing a full remodel of the primary floor in my house, including most of the electrical. I’ll be including a whole-home control system in the project. Initially I had planned on doing a structured wiring system, but I worry about the direction of the industry and flexibility of the system in the future. Instead, I’ve decided on using OpenHAB with Z-Wave and Zigbee components. I also have every room wired with at least two drops of cat6 in conduit. I’m a software engineer in robotics, so I have experience with programming and electronics, however I don’t have much experience with home automation, so I don’t know how I could maximize an RF-based system with the opportunity of open walls.

Would any here mind sharing some experienced insight on how to make the most of a new system in this situation?

In my office if the client is certain they want a smart home capable house we will recommend running Cat6 to every switch/light location. This allows for a 12V control system with centralised bank of relay’s if they decide wifi/RF isn’t good enough at the end result. For the cost of a roll of cat6, and time to run it, it’s just not worth risking not doing it.

This is because we’ve had wifi installed smart home systems and the signal quality just wasn’t up to scratch which leads to frustrations, and as the architect, I get it in the ear…

You also have to remember that this home may not be your ‘forever’ home. Not installing any form of manual control could very well limit your capital gain from the property when it goes to sell it. Potential buyers may well be put off from the fact that the lights and general home control system can’t be manually managed. At this point in time most people are not up to speed with home automation management.

There’s obviously more to it than this, but we don’t recommend wireless home automation solutions in our office. We feel the risks are too great that the end result won’t be reliable.

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Thanks for your input, Paul. I completely agree regarding the necessity of manual control. During the process of slimming down our options, my wife asked me if I could just build an app for our phones and tablets which could control all our lighting and blinds, and eliminate the unattractive switches on our walls. I responded that I could, but we would hate it within three days when the wifi had interference or we left our device in another room.

My proposed solution would include physical switches with integrated Z-Wave. I feel the 900Mhz band is less crowded than the wifi 2.4Ghz band along with typically better ranged performance and Z-Wave’s mesh networking, which could afford greater reliability. This is of course my hope. I use 900Mhz mesh networks in my work with success, but I control the hardware to a great degree in those scenarios.

I’d be interested to hear about some of your specifications, Paul. I would assume you spec all electrical circuits be run from panel to load first and then to switch to eliminate the later work of bridging at the junction box. Is that correct? Is there a 12v system you typically recommend in your office? Much of what is offered in that realm here in the States is heavily controlled by the manufacturers to only be installed by certified integrators, which I’m certain you’re aware of and I understand might also be the case in NZ. This is a non-starter for me as I insist on having the full configuration suite available to me at any time.

Again, thank you for your time in replying and sharing your insight, Paul.

Yeah, my wife insists on hardwired switches heh.

It really depends on the client as to the system we recommend. We just finished a Control4 equipped house, but the contractor did much of the specification and work while I wasn’t on site so I didn’t see much of how it was integrated.

I have worked with a few tech savvy clients recently who did the wiring themselves in parallel with an electrician, but the electrician tagged out of any of it as he wasn’t prepared to take the risk of things not working on the software side, and consequently getting blamed for it.

My personal recommendation is what i’ve mentioned above, but it depends a lot on the hardware you have available for switches and lights. If I was renovating i’d be integrating z-wave dimmable switches behind standard wall plates to create a full mesh network. If I was at all worried about the quality of the mesh, I’d over spec the number of nodes, but if every switch had one it’d probably be safe.

There’s no perfect solution i’m afraid.

I’ve also found there’s no perfect solution yet. It’s been pretty

Thanks again for your input, Paul. The experience from a working architect
is definitely valuable.

When we moved into our house 11 years ago, the first thing we did was drop cat5e to every room. Each room has a minimum of 2 sockets, with key rooms - lounge, study having 4. In the subsequent years our devices have changed, but the ability to plug stuff in and not having to worry about dodgy Wi-Fi signals has made life considerably easier.

What I do regret is
a) not dropping more sockets to each room (in some rooms I still have to use a switch)
b) not including high quality coax as well (for cable/sat tv)
c) not using a standard cabinet for the node zero
d) not doing the cable to switch and light positions for 12v controls

As Paul has already said, for the cost of a roll of Cat6, it would be foolish not to flood wire with as much as you can fit in. It’s easy to throw in a couple of extra cables now. Try explaining to your significant other why you need to break open a wall to “just add another couple of cables” once it’s all decorated!

Just make sure that you know where each end goes!

I agree with the cable approach… though disagree with having light switches and people not buying the home.

As a matter of principle: if you ask 5 people to do something, they come up with 5 different ideas. The point here is: you have to do something you are happy with.

Looking at technology adoption curves over the last 100 years, they have become steeper with every new technology. E.g. look at the electric car.
Check this out:

[Source accessed Aug 1, 2017]
My point: more and more people will adopt home automation, hence, the “no light switch” argument will become mute.

I am building a house ATM, and light switches, after some hefty debates, will not be installed. We have and will prepare some material, which will go with the ad in case we sell, e.g. that we are looking for someone who does not want bills, has the best living comfort, and likes feeding themselves… and rather wait for the right buyer than subdue to the market.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours; you need to be happy with it… no matter what you do, there will be remaining issues (as the world is not perfect; nor is any human invented solution).

In any case: good luck :slight_smile:

With regards to 12v, cat6 based hard-wired controls, what’s available in the US? I looked at KNX but it’s basically non-existent here in the states.

I thought they use DALI in th US?!

I’m currently building a brand new house and I’m close to needeing to work with my electrician on the wiring.

I’m definitely a noob to home automation, although I’ve been in the software industry as a developer for over 30 years.

First question: Is there a really good guide to wiring up a house for home automation? I’m having a hard time finding a really good source that can take me from barely knowing anything to at least being able to work with my electrician.

When I read the advice to run CAT6 to every switch and socket, it seems to make sense. I would assume that would also mean running cabling to every device, for example, door & widow sensors, smart locks, motion detectors, cameras, etc., correct?

I would also guess the CAT6 is run in some sort of daisy chain to all the devices, since it would seem pretty wild to run point-to-point from the hub to each and every device, correct?

I guess my fallback is my original plan to have all Z-Wave devices in a large mesh all over the house. But you guys worry me that I’m missing an opportunity on the new build to get the wiring in place.

So much to learn, so little time… I’m happy to go off and do lots of studying, if you have a few good pointers on sources, that would be very helpful.


Have a look at some of the posts already in existence… which should give you enough to think about.
I am building a house, but had three years to think how I can best automate it… also meaning I could explore the technologies, even trial them, build sound cost benefits analysis, and so forth.

A general consensus seem to prefer wired over wireless…
Some argue to future proof your house you put the best cable standard in today.

Pointers… search the forum… :slight_smile:

@Zzyzx - not sure how relevant this still is, but it might help -

DALI does not cover all the applications, it is limited to lighting applications only. Moreover, the bus speed is pretty low for even thinking of having other types of applications (such as HVAC, audio, etc.)

I didn’t say ‘use it’… given the claim the poster could not find any solution, I was aware that DALI is available in the US :slight_smile:

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