New house build: Wall panels; LEDs, wiring and other things

Inviting opinions and experiences… :slight_smile:

I read quite a few posts on tablets, HabPanel, cables, power supply, PoE, etc.
Also post stating to use openHAB as augmentation to existing ‘proprietary’ technologies (Building a new House - Decisionmaking …).

Some may remember that I started building a house in 2014, which happened more in 2015, then life threw a spanner in the works… the point: I said back then: no (traditional) light switches, which created all sorts of reactions.

I see the different view points, and keep wondering, when we switch to colour TV, whether we kept the black and white TV, just in case the colour TV dies. We use WiFi everything, yet advocate the use of cables. I do not like WiFi and will avoid it, unless there is no other choice. But this is a different topic. Yes, shelly-type things (Smart lighting in a newly built house) in parallel, but where is the cost/benefit by doubling up on wiring; is it not time (yet) to move on?

While appreciated, this is a mute point… when the power fails, all fails; not so in my case, as the house is UPS-ed with a 20kWh battery :slight_smile:

Back to the panels… my thinking is to use one! type of panel, as I figured that different panel resolutions lead to different presentations of screen designs.
ATM I am trialling a Raspberry 7" touchpanel… (any thoughts on it? better options?)

I was thinking of installing a sub-switchbox (Unterverteiler) in each room, to cater for the LED drivers in that room, 230V mains, some circuit breakers, and electronics, plus Ethernet.
Then I read another argument: “cables are cheap”… which suits my initial idea to let all cables converge in a tech space (which I have actually built, to house HVAC, hot water tank, mains, network wiring, etc.).
Cables might indeed be cheaper than some six electrical sub-panels?!
But then, cable length matter, when running DC for the LED lights WRT voltage drop. I was thinking of running DC carrying wires for the LED lights back the ‘actuators’; all LEDs are tune-able white. The wire will be suitable for mains (should anyone change things in the future). Controllers maybe bought (too many lights too expensive) or build (designed a 16 channel LED driver, individual addressable and controllable). As for the latter, why I thought of a n electrical sub-panel; e.g. four LED lights = 8 driver channels, one board per room.

As for the fall back… would we not create a fail-tolerant solution for key technology (or not pay with a PROD system)? Isn’t an Ethernet as reliable as 230V mains wiring. If a switch dies, would there not be a spare. I usually have spares sitting in standby (e.g. switch, power supply, router, computer).

With your input and concern, I might end up with a more thought-out solution. Thanks.

If you have proper automatons set up, it shouldn’t be necessary to use wall panels anyway.
In the rare case where my automations doesn’t do what I want I just pull out the smartphone and click on a button in the sitemap (or use its voice assistant).

Interesting comment :slight_smile: the automation part is clear to me, but I thought the purpose of panels is to provide user control to vary what the automation does. E.g. ambient light dictates a certain setting of lighting, but the user wants less… the panel would allow for the necessary ‘adaptation’ or correction.
Or in other words: should/are the panels only used to convey information?

Any tablet will do better, look better and it’s portable, too. Use habpanel.

I would have commented the same. You’re overestimating the value of panels.
The “change” habit to overrule automation setting will settle quickly in daily usage, and if there remains to be a recurring annoyance, you can easily adjust the automation values, too.
Another point: I haven’t valued speech input capabilities until very recently I got an Alexa… it’s very useful for this kind of application you’re into, i.e. to adjust lighting on (casual) demand.
No need to move over to the panel or have your smartphone with you, just speak out.

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:slight_smile: always appreciate your input…

OH in my case does property automation, rather than home automation. It looks after irrigation, pumps, water tank levels, temperatures, humidity, batteries, etc. and you’re right, once everything was working as intended, I did not watch any screens.

Voice is something I’d like to add as I progress… however, it will (has to) be hosted locally… and I see it as the change agent for any settings/commands.

I started with HABPanel a few days ago, but am struggling with it. :frowning: needs more reading and practice…

If by that you mean speech recognition is to take place locally then forget about it, there’s no local-only solution to provide a reasonable level of recognition (I tried and wasted a lot of time on that).
Alexa integration is working through myopenHAB, technically speaking Alexa is on the Internet or in a DMZ and does not talk to your devices hence no threat to your local infrastructure.

Hi Max,

I hear you :slight_smile: I had the very same sentiment when I moved into a new apartment and while I had the whole apartment rewired (ethernet to all rooms, more power sockets installed) I also made sure that one remaining previous light switch outlet was remaining in each room, but moved further up for better control.

In those points I installed something I call my Matrix for each room, an Arduino based, radio mqtt enabled, 16 soft silicone push button panel, with the buttons having different coloured LEDS behind them, inside a 3D printed enclosure I designed to fit nicely with the rest of my power outlets and can be screwed onto the - in my case German - electric wall mounting brackets. As the whole 3D case, with the Arduino, sits on top of the wall level inside the socket hole there are 230V AC to 5V DC converters to power each matrix in every room.

(sorry, not very good lit up image, the coloured LED buttons look a lot nicer in real :wink: )

The way I programmed the matrixes is so that there are not only the 16 button options, but some buttons also have double and tripple push options. So apart from lots of automations in the rooms with motion sensors etc. I can also use the matrixes to control heating, ac, blinds, light scenes, different lights ON and OFF, fans, underfloor heating etc. manually.

I also thought about this issue, but finding the Mean Well AC-DC converters,

which allow the adjustment of the output DC voltage, I decided to go for a central solution and adjusted each one so that the correct desired voltage arrives in each room outlet. I suppose this also depends on the distance there is in your new house.

Just some ideas which I decided for myself, as I was not a big fan of screens in every room, and the retro original Strat Trek feel was more my thing :slight_smile: Have fun with your house project, whatever you decide in the end for yourself.

All the best.

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The only thing I’d add to the conversation so far would be to consider failing gracefully. Stuff will fail. The router will fail, the RPis will fail, openHAB itself will fail, etc. Running wires does not prevent this. When something does fail, try to design a system that is still at least minimally functional/usable, even if only in a degrade state. This gives you redundancy and it takes some of the pressure off when something does fail, giving you time to fix the failure.


Yes, fully agree… the question is to what degree :slight_smile:
If I use, say, KNX for lights, these have actuators, if one fails, it may knock out 4 different rooms/lights; but, if the KNX modules are a back-up, the coincidence of both ‘automation’ and KNX failing is very unlikely.

I still have this ‘idea’ to have a centre light in from of an (ugly) oyster light (seemingly common in AU, from 20 to 40 cm; 8" to 16" in diameter), where I have the emergency light, as well as a few sensors (PIR, motion, ambient)… still thinking.

Depends on the actuators and wiring you deploy.
The recommended approach is to have at least one light per room with a physical switch attached.
It can be an actuator to have connections to both, light and switch.
You should apply this scheme for anything ‘mission critical’ such as one light per room and some of the HVAC stuff. I for instance use this to override the hot water pumps (the switch input being connected to the heating controller so pumps are still activated when OH is down).

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Yes, created my first panel… :slight_smile:

… I understand what you’re saying… as I can see after using / having / seeing the panel that this might well be the case (funnily enough).
I read some posts about sluggish panel response and ‘filtering’… must be related to tons of items in REST, as mine works very well so far.

Still thinking and debating the ‘fall-back’ solutions / approach…

There are even portable lamps available which - in case of failure - can be switched on manually. :wink:

Imho the hole fail safe thing is overrated.
Sure - if nothing works anymore it’s super annoying and a huge pain but you can express order replacement parts and have everything up and running again in one to three days.

That’s only something you can answer. What risk are you willing to accept where RISK = Likelihood of failure * Impact. Usually Impact is measured in money but you can come up with some sort of number here, like a scale of 0-100 or the like. When considering the impact, consider the worst case scenario (e.g. the failure occurs and no one can be there to fix it for weeks), as well as average case (e.g failure occurs and someone not you can be there to fix it).

Come up with all the scenarios you can think of, guestimate at the likelihoods, and then rank them based on the calculated risk. The ones at the top are the ones you need to spend the most amount of effort mitigating. Mitigations include:

  • redundant systems
  • spare hardware
  • failing open/failing safe (e.g. if an irrigation valve is ON and OH crashes, the valve shuts itself OFF either immediately or at some future point (e.g. when it was originally scheduled to shut off).

That’s a long time to have a sprinkler running (or not running) without the ability to control it. That’s a long time to not be able to open a garage door, or to have zero control over your lights. That’s a long time to no have cooling in the summer or heating in the winter (in some places either of which could be life threatening).

If your automations not working is merely annoying, than that risk calculation above bares that out. But I happen to know that Max is running everything off of openHAB, including some of the above “mission critical” functions.

And not everywhere in the world has 1-3 day delivery. And not all problems/failures are caused by failed hardware.

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I have no physical light or rollershutter switches anymore but still don’t have a wall panel - couldn’t find a good one yet. But I have to say, good automation does help, well, and alexa. It’s been like this for a year now.

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I am with you; as a project manager by trade I can relate to risk management quite well.
Assessing the most prominent risk an average household faces these days, the fridge, freezer and mobile phone come to mind… none of which are usually backed up by replacement hardware or alternatives.

Since light switches and even irrigation (if not used for production) do not fall into these high-risk categories,it supports my approach of not installing any light switches (for example).

What will certainly help is documentation of the systems, and quick guides for trades to understand the picture of how things work. E.g. for lighting: 240V > Power supply (240V/24V) > LED drivers (controlled by OH) > LEDs.
The idea of controllers assuming a default state has been implemented, and I will continue to do so. I use heartbeats via MQTT, which if not received by the respective device trigger either OFF or a default state.

However, I am looking at improving the fault-tolerance of my openHAB system… cluster, back-up, commercial network gear, etc.

And while I titled this post with “wall panel” in mind, which I pretty much solved with HABPanel, the LED wiring business still keeps me awake at night. I asked that question four years ago and still have not progressed, given the complexity of where to put the drivers (central vs close to the LED), wiring (DC vs AC)… The thikning here ATM is to wire everything back to a central space I have literally built for all things technical, network, electrical, OH, NAS, HRV, hot water, heated floor valves, pumps…

Keep the ideas coming; I appreciate it… as this forum is often the only ‘educated’ group I can run my ideas by; thank you. :slight_smile:

I have also been thinking about things like this, though I’m not close to building my own house I am thinking ahead in my home automation.

I have considered ways to power LED lighting throughout the house and had come up with a concept that involved 24VAC wiring going to custom devices in each room. The problem with that plan was control and doubled up cabling. I never tested it before but I have my doubts about how well 100BASE-T ethernet would work in the same cable as noisy 24VAC power.

Recently I came back around to thinking about this problem and how it would be nice to have a medium power PoE device that I could put something like Tasmota on. That way I would be using existing standards which would make the hardware readily available and proven. I did some looking around and there is beta support for the ethernet PHY in the ESP32 that was added a few months ago. Alas the power capacity in the hardware found was the 12.95W class, not going to power many LEDs with that for room lighting.

So I’ve started designing my own device that meets these requirements that so far supports up to 28.8W passive PoE and will be able to support receiving power from an external power adaptor such as a higher power PoE splitter. Would something like that be of interest?

I also want voice hosted locally and have been looking at Mycroft. I have not invested the time to set it up yet, but they do offer a self hosted option for those more technical users willing to set it up.

My first thought is: have an empty pipe from the main power splitter (basement etc) to each of the locations where you plan to have light. That is cheap to install (when building a new house) and you buy yourself some “oh, i change my mind”-options.
I personally forgot that part, I have 240v to the lights without the pipe. SO I will never have the option to power the lights with PoE. But I can always run DC to it and keep the converter hidden, as I do have a cable going straight from the possible light location to basement. And now, I have a mixed setup. Some 24V LEDs, some 12V LEDs, some 5v RGBW LEDS. Some have the converter in the basement, some next to the LEDS. I think I would prefer one big converter in the basement instead of little converters here and there, but then, what difference does it make. :slight_smile:
The other option is to have the converter sitting where your light switches would be, to keep this space available if you plan to sell the house to a noob who cannot program their lightning in openhab (meh) :smiley:

I hear you… this LED business is doing my head in; given the variations possible; .e.g.
Off-the-self: LED, driver, actuator… with actuator being central or in the ceiling next to the LED.
How many LEDs will one driver serve? LED current will determine driver / LEDs wattage.
DIY: I have developed a 16-channel dimming LED driver (16 x 6W), allowing configs of say 8 tune-able whites, 16 individuals, 5 RGBs.

I also thought of electrical sub-panels per room, to put the driver, power-supply etc in, also in support of short DC wiring… but have given up on that idea (wring all back to a central location).

As for your ideas…
I wouldn’t change a 'standard like PoE to drive LEDs.

I would also separate 24V from networking cables; main reason for the latter: I will be using 1.5mm2, which can be repurposed for 240V should the need/wish arise (hence the separation).

Building in AU is different to mainland Europe… lots of hollow spaces, where drivers can be placed. In the standard AU ‘sh!tbox’ as I refer to it, cables can be run in the ceiling by accessing the roof space, and cables can be dropped into hollow walls. I have rewired my previous house with Ethernet w/o any problem.
However, I am building a passive house, totally unusual in AU; 40 times more energy efficient, compared to the standard AU house. Cabling as an afterthought will be much more difficult if not impossible… mainly due to the house being air-tight; fully covered with a special foil and sealed (yes, sealing every penetration).

Also, each dimmable light requires a driver (which determines the number of ‘converters’ (as you refer to them).

As you describe your house compared to standard-AU, that is how new houses are build here in Germany and with that in Mind, I therefore think those pipes(google pictures for leerrohre) are highly necessary to be flexible after the house is fiinished, especially because you are “trying” new things. At leaste one per wall.

Yes, but that’s like the candles you need on power outages - you never know where they are when you need 'em. Or if you do, you don’t find the matches in the dark.

Yes and no.
Agree when it comes to redundant server setups. Typical for IT guys like ourselves to invest in tricky-complex solutions to mitigate the risk of server HW outage.
But as-typical to apply wrong priorities: other components of your (smart) home are way more likely to fail.
As Rich correctly noted, RISK = Likelihood of failure * Impact.
Having the mission critical parts of your home to work without OH on the one hand side is a real must.
On the other hand side it’s alsolutely sufficient to restrict that to the mission critical components and functionality.
Just too many more things may go wrong (e.g. SW refusing to properly start or initialize again, Internet down so you cannot lookup things(!), …), at the wrong time (on sundays, during power outages or when you’re not a home but your wife is, …).
BTW impact can also be greatly reduced by having simple but ready-to-be-deployed replacements available (but on site and readily configured).