New Home OpenHAB build Advice (US)

I am in the planning phase of my build. We will be building a new home this Spring. I am looking for any information I can find about home automation wiring for electrical (switches and relays) and maybe some home security and smoke alarms. My build already includes running CAT 5E to all rooms with multiple network drops. I have built a Hestiapi Touch controller for my HVAC. I also already have an XBMC server setup for entertainment. I will have network APs situated throughout the house but prefer using hard wire connections. I do not want to use ZWave or Zigbee. We had a zigbee type system at my workplace and had poor luck with it. I do not want to use equipment that I need batteries for. I like the idea of having a fail safe system that isn’t dependent on network connectivity.

I have noticed that their is an immense number of options for wiring in smart devices into your existing home wiring but very little for new builds.

What is the most cost effective choice for a brand new build (relays, switches, methodology)?
What are the benefits of wiring everything into a centrally controlled panel (IE having your control relays in one location vs having them at the switch)?
What is the industry standard for home automation wiring in the US / UK for new construction? Can you direct me to any white papers about this setup?



Long discussion here but my usual suggestion would still be an ESP8266 :

If I had the opportunity to get a new build, I would wire EVERYTHING.

Put CAT5 to all switches, networks ports (obviously), cameras, PIRS, radiator valves, sensors… The list goes on…

Central wiring (star configuration) for ALL lights and sockets
The benefit of wiring is that you are not relying on Wifi which can be jammed.
The central configuration allows you to have everything in one place and if something goes wrong you only have one place to go to.
Put the relays in the central cabinet for the same reason.
PoE to cameras, PIRs, radiator valves, door sensors…

The CAT5 to ALL sensors may be overkill but with 8 wires if each cable you’ll have scope for extension (Add blind control to a window without having to rewire or go wireless and with PoE you’ll have the power too from the existing CAT5 for the window sensor)

Have a look at what Jon Oxer did with his house at:

It is not the most cost effective but the most secure and failure proof.

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Do not forget to learn what you are and are not allowed to do according to your local building code. That alone will probably narrow down your search space for what you can and cannot do.


I agree with Rich… you can add a lot of stuff, but it boils down to what’s within the local code. Yes, you can add stuff outside of it but it would be a headache selling your home, let alone having your insurance cover an incident from an uncertified device. In many cases, even installing certified devices, but if not installed by a licensed technician, you’d still fail local code.

This!! When my house was still being built, I made sure they wire 2 sets of cat5e and separate phone wires per room, which was nice and allowed me to have 2 isolated networks in the entire house. 1 gigabit (for my PCs/etc) and the other megabit with POE (for the IOTs), all terminated in keystone fittings. Have a centralized network cabinet so you have a single place to mess things with.

The cost was minimal since builders were already pulling wires. The additional cost was basically just for the wires, since labor was practically the same for them.

What I missed was hard wiring door and window contact sensors, so I had to go the wireless router using Honeywell devices for the alarm sensors and contacts downstairs initially, then extended the alarm to add wireless sensors in every door and every window in the entire house, including my gun safe.

If I had another chance I would also add wired CAT5 on two center points in the ceiling on both levels of the house and that’s where I would out the wireless access points. This is my current setup right now but I had to fish wires myself, which was easy enough since I had cat5e in the ceilings already for my cameras.

While you’re at it, install a good antenna on the roof, which you can use for SDR fun :slight_smile: mine is in the backyard, and I can listen to all kinds of frequencies already, including military and aerial signals :slight_smile:

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Thanks for all of the valuable input!

One interesting note is that our County does not have any building codes. State does have some for electrical but they are pretty minimal. I checked with our electrician and he is somewhat familiar with wiring for central control. I will definately be active here looking for as much information as I can.

I am familiar with Jon Oxer’s SuperHouse TV program. That is what really turned me on to OpenHAB. The problem is he has no real documentation on his system. I am looking for what specific relays to use for the back end of things on the high voltage side and how to go about implementing them.

All in all, initially I am really thinking of leaning towards the Sonos type setup but keep everything wired and keep central control.

I also do appreciate the advice on resale. That topic is important and often over looked. I don’t hope to recoup any money invested into the home automation system but I don’t want it to be so complex that someone else can’t figure things out.

Do any of you know what the cost savings is on Home insurance when you have a home security system? Also what are you folks doing for monitoring services? I was not planning on installing home security as I live in rural Montana and it’s not really of concern to me. But since I will be already wiring things and OpenHAB can handle it… I suppose why not wire it.

Thanks again!


If resell is a concern my advice is:

  • Maintain the ability to control everything like you would in a “dumb” house. This means wall switches that work and that work even when the home automation is broken. HVAC control that works independently if you HA is offline. Keep your remotes for garage door openers. Make sure you have keys for smart locks so you can manually open them. Etc.

  • Document everything. Keep all of your manuals. Generate drawings. Talk with your electrician and find out what information he would need to work on your house and make sure you have that written down. @Max_G has spent a lot of work on a wiki to document his house. Search for his posts and you should find some of what he is doing (if he doesn’t chime in here).

  • Realize that the smart aspect of the house will turn off some potential buyers no matter what. There is no getting around that. It will encourage some buyers though so it might wash out.

  • Have a backout plan. Your home automation controller will essentially be custom built and once you leave there will be no support for it for the new buyers. So make sure you have a way to plan in extracting or disabling the automation and the house still work.

I’m not a lawyer nor a real estate agent (though talking with either or both of those might be a good idea). These are just the things I would do. For my own home, when it comes time to sell it I will extract all my smart devices and replace them with dumb ones and take the smart ones with me to the new house (obviously I have to do this before I put the house on the market).

Greetings from Colorado.


My main concern about the resale is the value of the house. Anything extra that cannot be proven to be certified will decrease the price of the house. Here in my county, every house for sale must go through inspection and if you’re unlucky enough to have a potential buyer with a good inspector, they will nitpick everything in your house (and that’s also what I would do if I’m the buyer). Documenting is key, and make it discreet. Inspectors wont rip your walls to see what you have. Hehehehe.

(California here… Bay Area, Go WARRIORS!)

Having been through home buying twice now, I wish they did. I replaced the light fixture over my kitchen island just a month ago. There was no box, just a live wire sticking out of the ceiling. Gah! Now I have to go check every other fixture in the house to make sure they at least have boxes (I’ve found one other one so far without a box). Who doesn’t put a junction in a box? That’s like electricity 101.

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I’m doing this right now. It takes some getting used to having to flip all my switches manually for a change!

I know, right… Feels weird. I have zwave on every switch of my house, so the mechanical parts are actually momentary switches. When I use other switches (office/other homes) it just feels weird

My son (3.5) hates it because his electronic busy board no longer controls the lights!

I’m not building, just buying a newer house. One thing I’ll be looking for is a relatively easy way to route Cat6 to all the rooms. I did it in my current house using the crawl space and it was uncomfortable but doable.

Agreed. I found some shockingly (pun intended) bad wiring in my house. Codes are good.

As Rich has already mentioned most of the things to watch out for… I can only say: at the end of the day it is entirely up to you what you do. Sounds trivial, but it is what it comes down to.
When I started building my house three years ago, I had a slightly different "opinion’. Time has worked for me favourably, in the sense, that home automation has now been widely accepted – e.g. like a media room was a new thing a decade or so ago.

I have not yet decided what I do with the house lighting when it comes to control. But I am certain, I won’t install light switches. I would would ever have to, enOcean switches is easy to retro-fit; but the key is the backend, the controlling part. If this is done properly many after thought actuators can be installed.

In any case, any solution, commercial, professional, DIY, needs to be executed within code nad MUST be documented. Those who code know exactly what I mean: you may have your head around now, but in a few months or even years, you will have no clue where things are and how they work.

A simple example: I have a bunch of domestic battery-operated water valves including a timer. They are dying, unfortunately earlier than I thought, the point: they are dying before I could build my own.
I trialled an ESP8266 and Arduino solution last year in August. When I revived the project I wondered why I had a separate 3.3V supply for the ESP, and simply added a wire to the 3.3V out on the Nano. It took me 3 hours to figure out why the bloody set-up would not work. Solution: the ESP draws 70-100mA during normal operation, which can burst up to 400mA… which the Nano can not provide, hence, after the ESP booted it sh!t itself, with no intent to ‘talk’.

I have set-up two wikis: one for everything that is and stays on the property; another for my personal notes about any development, trials, set-up, etc. To get an idea about the property wiki:

Thanks again for the continued discussion. Each of you has provided very valuable incite on this subject. @Max_G, I love the idea of creating a wiki that stays with the house. That’s priceless! I will definitely be documenting everything. After doing some serious renovations on our old house and rewiring, I can appreciate documentation. Our home was built in 1911. It had old nob and tube wiring in the upstairs portion of the house. I replaced all of that and rewired quite a bit of the remainder of the house. Junction boxes? They didn’t exist when our old house was made. So I understand exactly what you are talking about.

Are their any good wikis online that describe how to setup a central panel yourself (I am talking about the interface between the main electrical and the lights)? Or any good documentation I can direct my electrician towards? I plan on doing all of the CAT6 myself and quite a bit of the electrical. The main thing I need the electrician for is to certify my work.

Thanks again!

Have you considered looking at a commercial system such as Vantage Infusion that can integrate with OpenHab? It’s a true central hub system that can work off of direct wire or an RF link. While the cost is definitely higher, you have a system that adheres to national codes and provides physical switches that are also controllable by automation. When and if you sell the home, the Vantage system stays with the home, yet your automation (OH) can leave with you.

Just a thought…a more expensive thought…but a thought! :wink:


@KidSquid I had not! Thanks for the suggestion. I am looking into that right now. That looks like / sounds like a good way to go given my circumstances. I have to discuss things with our electrician and see if he’s familiar with them. I like that idea. Hopefully it’s not that over the top expensive.

I love DIY but one thing I don’t want to DIY is the subpanel for between the main panel and the switches. So this option looks like a very good choice.

Do you know of any others out there like it? Other than Sonoff…