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Creating a Clever Home?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the building-a-better-home-through-hardware dept.

Toys 116

eKto1 asks: "We've recently purchased an older, dated home which we are in the process of gutting and restructuring. While there are no walls, we are obviously running the standard Cat5, and speaker cable to each and every room, however we would also like to modernize the house even more by making it intelligent, as in 'Smart'. I'd like to install touch screens in the majority of the rooms, to control things such as media (separate audio and video to each wall unit), lighting, temperature, etc. For those of you on Slashdot who have done this, what has your experience been? Are there guides for doing this easily and effectively, without having to sell the farm? Is there a way to allow distributed content to head units while keeping servers down to one or 2 units?"

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13332797)

fp lol

As Michael Eisner would say (1)

pio!pio! (170895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332819)

BRING MONEY

Re:As Michael Eisner would say (2, Informative)

stanmann (602645) | more than 9 years ago | (#13340825)

To elaborate on this post and add my opinion. Figure out how much you can afford to spend, Then SPEND ALL OF IT. 5 years down the road, you will either want upgrades or not, and it may be cheaper for components or not, but don't cut corners. If you can afford to put cat5/6 x 4 in each room, do it because adding wiring later won't be any cheaper. and having the wiring already in means you can upgrade the wall plugable components. Don't cut corners on connectivity within the house. As others have suggested go as wild as you can afford(and is safe) on power. Unless you are personally running every conduit for power, coax and cat5/6, and pulling every cable; the wire is the cheap part.

Conduit (3, Insightful)

andreMA (643885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332853)

A vertical run of conduit (hopefully through closets) from basement to attic will likely save you headaches later.

Re:Conduit (3, Insightful)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333085)

And put strings in the conduit. When you want to install new wire, just tie the string to the wire, and use the strong to pull the wire through the conduit. I've known people to lay multiple strings in the conduit, so you can pull new wires in, old wires out, etc.

Shoving wire through a conduit will drive you crazy.

I usually use a file to smooth out any jagged metal on the ends of any freshly-cut pipes. If you don't do that, the wire may get damaged as you pull/push the wire through the pipe.

Some baby powder can help make the wires slide easier.

Re:Conduit (3, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333302)

You forgot to tie another string onto the first, so that when you are done, you have both the new cable, and a string in the conduit.

ALWAYS pull a second string.

Re:Conduit (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333682)

And most importantly, don't put "string" in there.
use a strong metal wire, or a really strong cord that won't weaken over time.

Also, the most important thing is to PLAN IT ALL OUT AHEAD OF TIME.
For instance, lighting is simple, but changing from normal to specially controlled lighting could cause a total rewiring if you don't do it to begin with.

Re:Conduit (2, Informative)

nytes (231372) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334983)

I've never heard of using baby powder to make wires slide easier.

When I used to work for my dad (an electrical contractor) we used to keep a chunk of parafin (wax) in the truck for pulling wire.

Re:Conduit (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336013)

And put strings in the conduit.

I bet that (putting a flamable material in a conduit) breaks almost every fire code known to man.

That's why there's expensive plenum-rated cat5 that's designed for running thru, well, plenums (air-return conduits).

Re:Conduit (1)

grimarr (223895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13341444)

Conduit and plenums are very different. Conduit is usually only 1 or 2 inches in diameter (sometimes bigger in commercial buildings), and there's no air flow through one -- they're full of wires. A plenum is an open area used for ventilation, either supply or return. (I've never seen supply plenums, though.) For example, the space above a suspended ceiling, or under a raised floor.

But if all the air goes in ducts to the rooms, and in ducts from the rooms, then the area above the ceiling isn't a plenum, and I don't think you have to use plenum cable there.

Re:Conduit (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 9 years ago | (#13342455)

I bet fire wouldn't care whether there's air flow or not inside a conduit.

Re:Conduit (1)

akgunkel (567825) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333180)

You're on the right track with this. If this was my house, I'd be running conduit everywhere, even places I wasn't planning on pulling cable.

The one fundemental law of cabling is that you can never plan for enough. In 5 years you'll end up with more cable than you'll ever use in every room of your house, except for where you really need it.

If you have a well designed conduit system, at least you can easily add it later.

Re:Conduit (4, Informative)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334875)

Note that this is illegal according to most building codes in the US. This is because it can allow a fire to spread through the home faster either because of increased oxygen supply or because it offers a pathway for hot gases to travel to other portions of the house.

I looked into doing this, and the building inspector said no way in hell would he approve it.

Re:Conduit (2, Interesting)

BiAthlon (91360) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336012)

That's kind of funny. In Chicago (which has one of the most strict electric and fire codes) you are REQUIRED to run all wires in conduit.

Maybe they need to fire your building inspector.

Re:Conduit (1)

Door-opening Fascist (534466) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336469)

When I was doing data-comm cable installation for a school district we had to install conduits (for long runs) or sleeves (for short runs) between walls to keep in compliance with commercial electrical code. There also couldn't be air flow between rooms because of commercial fire code, so we ended up sticking Hilti fire caulk into all the conduits after we pulled cable. This turned into a PITA when we had to rip it out to lay more cable after our contract changed though.

Re:Conduit (2, Informative)

grimarr (223895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13341527)

That's hard to understand. Conduit between walls,
especially through fire walls, is common, almost universal. Even if you wanted to use a big 4 inch conduit, and only have a couple Cat 5s in it, it should be OK. The important thing is to seal it, to prevent the flow of flame/smoke/hot air through the tube. My inspector recommended packing it tightly with fiberglass insulation (after the wires were pulled), but putty and other things work, too. Fiberglass is easy to remove and replace, handly when you're adding wires later.

Conduit is OK, if done right (1)

Webmoth (75878) | more than 9 years ago | (#13342069)

I think the illegality that the poster is referring to is that to install conduit as suggested can cause fire/gases to be conducted from one area of the building to another, spreading the fire or poisonous gases thereby reducing the occupants' safety.

This can be resolved -- and in fact is generally required -- by sealing the conduit with some sort of firestopping material after cables are pulled. You may wish to use a material which may be removed to facilitate expansion.

And this, I might point out, is the realm of the electrical inspector, not the building inspector.

Don't overdo it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13332888)

It'll save you heartache and work down the road.

Be CAREFUL! (2, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332892)


Before embarking on your project, I would highly recommend you watch this [imdb.com] compelling and informative docudrama.

Forewarned is forearmed, after all...

Re:Be CAREFUL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13332978)

Hey, if this documentary was directed by Geordi and stars Peg Bundy, that's reason enough for me to base my schematics on it.

Re:Be CAREFUL! (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333164)

I would imagine that this little gem [imdb.com] would be more realistically informative. Especially considering that even with a very wired house, the actual laying of the wire is a small component of rebuilding.

Bah. Drywall. Tiling. I crave not these things.

--
Evan

Re:Be CAREFUL! (0, Offtopic)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333723)

No, no, no, all other are wrong. The relevant film to view both for creative inspiration and possible pitfalls is this one [imdb.com] .

Re:Be CAREFUL! (0, Offtopic)

dcsmith (137996) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334010)

No, sorry. Those are all cute movies, but THIS [imdb.com] is the one to watch.

Skip it (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332901)

Don't install CAT5 just do wireless. It's much cheaper. If you want a station for each level just put a crossover between floors and you're done.

Re:Skip it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13333017)

If there are no walls... it's better run plenty of conduit and wires. If he goes wireless there's potential for interference which is unlikely with cat5e.

Re:Skip it (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333118)

My assumption is he is going to add the walls which is why he wants to know what to add beforehand.

Re:Skip it (1)

damiangerous (218679) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333681)

Wireless is not as fast and reliable as wired, and it's doubtful it ever will be. The hardest part of wiring is snaking it through the walls, especially in an old house. If it's gutted now this is the perfect opportunity for future proofing.

Re:Skip it (1)

stanmann (602645) | more than 9 years ago | (#13340637)

And of course wireless is very nearly impossible to effectively secure from eavesdropping. Just ask anyone who showed up on the "wall of sheep" at defcon.

+5, Informative. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13332941)

"For those of you on Slashdot who have done this, what has your experience been? "

Good

"Are there guides for doing this easily and effectively, without having to sell the farm?"

Yes.

"Is there a way to allow distributed content to head units while keeping servers down to one or 2 units?"

Yes

Why? (2, Insightful)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332976)

You're going to end up with a "buggy" house that is unsellable.

Do you really want to be dependent on a server for your thermostats & lights to work properly? Or have to rip out and replace video gear every few years when your OS or applications change?

So you'll shell out thousands on computer & X10 equipment, then when you decide to move, you're left losing gobs of cash unless you find some dork who wants to take on a house full of aging computer & control equipment.

I won't even get into having a TV in every room.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333216)

Higher end houses (when you exceed a million dollars) already have all this equipment, and it is quite reliable. X10 is the dirt cheap knockoff end of the home automation market. The good stuff is very fault tolerant, ages well and is quite expensive. Rich people like their toys and don't tolerate things that don't work.

Depending on how he's planning on doing it, it will be very stable and reliable. (But given the way he's worded things, I don't think he's planning on doing it with experts).

--
Evan

Re:Why? (3, Funny)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334133)

(But given the way he's worded things, I don't think he's planning on doing it with experts).

That's ok. Since he's a Slashdot user, he's already an expert. At least, that's what I gather by the posts here, where everyone seems to be an expert on every possible subject... Why, I can feel my level of expertise increasing right now, just by making snide remarks!

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 9 years ago | (#13335112)

Heh. You'd be surprised. Check out science.slashdot.org, and the level leaps up -- at least for the stories that *don't* get posted to the home page. In fact, if a story does not get posted to the home page, it's very likely people in the discussion are actual experts.

I do note that most topics on Ask Slashdot (anything you'd either hire an expensive expert for, or can only be figured out by doing serious book reading research) get useless replies. Also anything with competition - if you say "What's a good way to do foo with Perl?", you'll get 50 answers on how to do it with PHP, 170 with Ruby, 7 in emacs, and 1 in either Intercal or Ada. And zero useful answers.

Incidently, if you actually want to use Ask Slashdot as a resource, there is a way: bookmark the discussion, wait a week or two, and then go back through it looking for links or references. A few people have likely posted a link or three to really nicely complete sites or cited a (gasp!) book that is nice. Watch for names to pick out too; you can find actual experts on the subject that people mention in their post.

--
Evan

worry about energy costs first (4, Insightful)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13332993)

Maybe you already are, but just in case (and for those who are considering this): consider energy costs first.

Smart homes seems like a neat idea, but what is the gain over just putting a stereo in each room, and a wi-fi receiver for those rooms where you really want mp3s? (As long as you need to remove the inside walls anyway you may as well run CAT-5, but for most people wi-fi works well)

Spend your budget first on low-E windows, and good insulation. Then put in a good heating/cooling system (preferably a ground source heat pump).

Saving energy will make the world a better place, and in the long run is good for your wallet. Your 'smart home' is not very smart if it wastes energy, and at best won't make the world a better place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the idea. I'm just urging you to take care of the important parts first, then the toys. I also encourage you to think about the toys. If you don't have a radio of some sort in your current bathroom, why put one in.

Re:worry about energy costs first (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334091)

preferably a ground source heat pump

Depends on what part of the country you live in. These things are a great idea in warmer climates, but if you live in the northern United States or Canada it will not produce nearly enough heat. Anywhere in the north pretty much requires the power of gas heat, which has become much more efficient in recent years.

False (2, Informative)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334433)

Not true. Ground source heat pumps work just fine in the far north. However you must go deeper. If you live in the south you can get by with pipes in a trench just a few feet below ground. In Canada you need to drill a well, as a shallow trench will freeze up and produce nothing. (A 24 foot deep trench might work, a 10 foot deep trench will not) If you have the land a shallow trench is much cheaper than a well.

Maybe when you get to permafrost to very deep a ground source heat pump won't work even with wells, but most of Canada is isn't that cold.

anecdote about a canuckistani heat pump (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 9 years ago | (#13335434)

The parents have a heat pump in their new home. I'm told it doesn't have enough power to heat the house once the outside air goes below -20C or so.

At that point they start up the good old woodstove to supplement the heat pump.

Re:anecdote about a canuckistani heat pump (2, Informative)

sporktoast (246027) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336164)


The important difference there being that you are talking about a heat pump, and the earlier post is referring to a ground source heat pump (sometimes referred to as a geothermal heat pump). The principle is the same, where the heat is pumped to/from is completely different.

Google [google.com] is your friend [google.com]

Re:anecdote about a canuckistani heat pump (2, Informative)

jesup (8690) | more than 9 years ago | (#13338987)

As someone else stated, that's a plain air-source heat pump in all likelyhood (though even with ground-source, it may be more efficient/cost-effective to not size it for the coldest possible days of the winter, and use an auxilliary to supplement on the coldest 5% of days).

Note that when a heat pump (air or ground source) can't keep up, it still produces a lot of heat, just not as much as the structure loses. The controller then calls for Aux heat, which can be electric (most common), propane/oil/nat.gas boiler via a heat-exchange coil, etc. Or it can be manual (wood stove).

Typical modern air-source heatpumps have an efficiency ratio at 17 degrees of around 2.1-2.5 - i.e., they produce 210 to 250% of the heat you'd get by running the same electricity into a resistive heater (100% efficient). They're usually over 300% (even 350%) at 45 degrees.

Ground-source heatpumps are more efficient because the source is a fairly constant 45-60 degrees, depending on where you live. In the mid-atlantic, 50-55 is the norm. New Hampshire is around 45-50. Texas is probably 60-65. (Bush has a ground-source heatpump (for cooling)). Thus in heating mode, they run at 300-400% efficiency regardless of outside temps (minus some pumping/etc losses). In cooling mode, they're also more efficient since they're dumping heat into a 45-60 degree heat sink, instead of trying to dump it into 90+ degree outside air. They also usually last longer (20-25+ years, as opposed to circa 13-15 for air conditioners and air-source heatpumps) since they're not exposed to the elements. Downside: considerably higher installation costs for trenching or drilling; hard to find local installers (this may change).

We have 3 heat pumps (air-source, 2 dual-speed) with electric auxilliary (3 sections of the house with no way to duct between them). When outside temps get below 20-25ish, the aux's will occasionally turn on. We run a wood stove pretty much all winter, especially when it's very cold. With a small woodstove in the main section, it rarely if ever calls for aux if the outside temp is above 10, and not often when it's below 10.

Re:worry about energy costs first (2, Informative)

jesup (8690) | more than 9 years ago | (#13339942)

As stated in comments to other replies to this message, ground source heat pumps work fine even into the far north. Even air-source heat pumps (with appropriate auxilliaries) are efficient into the northern tier of states. And natural gas is no longer cheap.

Geothermal cost comparisons: http://tristate.apogee.net/geo/minneap.asp [apogee.net]
(NOTE: those are based on 6/ kWh; 60/ ccf gas; $1.00/gal oil). In most places, it's 8-10 cents/kWh, well over $1/ccf, and $1/gal oil? Ha! Try $2-2.50 at least. Even at the prices they list, in MN (not exactly a warm place), air-source is on a par with oil and better than propane, though behind natural gas. Ground-source beats them all be a significant margin; if you update the figures for current fuel/electric prices, even air-source heatpumps probably beat natural gas, and ground source beats oil by a 2x factor (circa $1000-1500/year), and beats natural gas probably by at least $500-800, maybe more.

A good energy costs calculator (for relative costs):
http://www.hearth.com/articles/47_0_1_0_M7.html [hearth.com] . Note: for heat pumps, use electric and put in an efficiency value of around 250. That will be a pessimistic guess for year-round efficiency unless you live very far north; year-round average is probably more like 275, perhaps 300 in middle to southern states. Ground-source heatpumps - use a value of 350 to 400. And don't forget to update the local costs of different fuels and efficiencies for furnaces!

Re:worry about energy costs first (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 9 years ago | (#13339976)

The insightfulness of the parent really depends on where you live and what your energy rates are.

Good insulation and windows go hand in hand, but if you live in a temperate climate, or somewhere where the cost of energy is low, extra insulation and super-efficient windows are false economy. Also, you may want to check your energy costs before you decide on a heating/cooling system. Where I live (s/w Virgnina), the cost for electrtic resistance heat is only about 10% higher than natural gas, and is 30% less than oil.

As for ground source heat pumps...make sure you check your numbers before you buy. Payback periods for most ground source heat pumps (there are a few exceptions) are >50 years, even at 4% interest. Don't be put off by "cold register air" from traditional heat pumps. Supplemental heat can be added via resistance coils that are staged (2-3 stages) based on outdoor temperature and will keep your regiter temperature as toasty as if you were running a gas furnace. Unless you live in the notrhern 20% or so of the counrty, you'll find that running a 2.5kW coil for a couple of hours during the coldest parts of the day in the winter may not make a $5/month difference in you heating costs, and even a doubling of efficiency (unlikely, even for a GSHP) over a variable-speed fan, 13 SEER air unit will take more than 20 years to pay back.

Overall, remember that energy efficiency has a diminishing monetary benefit as you get better and better. Jacking your walls from R-11 to R15 is a nice idea, but your windows will still top out at about R3.2-3.5 in the best scenerio. Spending an extra $1000 to save 27% of a component that accounts for less than 25% of you heat loss on a $75/mo heating/cooling bill ($5/mo) isn't really going to save you any money.

Saving the earth is a nice sentiment, but remember that most of the high-efficiency product come at a cost - both monetary as well as environmental.

Re:worry about energy costs first (1)

jesup (8690) | more than 9 years ago | (#13342496)

Those are good suggestions, though ground-source heat pumps can have 5-10 year paybacks - depending on the type and situation and energy costs. Here (SE PA) we pay 14+ cents kWhr (16.5+ if you sign up for all wind power, 6.5 or 9 cents in the winter if you have the "electric heating" rate).

It also depends on how much heat you need. Our old, sprawling, leaky 4100 sq. ft. house with ~80 windows (quite a few of them quite large) has 11.5 tons of heat pumps (5, 2.5 and 4 - 13, 15 and 10 SEER). (We've greatly improved the sealing, and added some insulation including to a sunroom which had no insulation (not even an airspace) in the ceiling - now it's ~R20 of high-density foam board). As for $75/month - I'd kill for that. :-) During Jan/Feb, our heating bill (without the 2.5 cent wind surcharge) is around $450/month, even at the 6.5 cent all-electric rate and using our woodstove daily. Outside temps are in the 5-20 at night, and 15-35 in the day generally.

You also have to try to predict future energy prices. They may not be as stable as today... You can also get considerably reduced costs for heating domestic hot water, especially in the summer, and hot water is often 30% of a family's yearly energy bill.

That said, installation and equipment cost is the primary issue. You need around 80-100' of borehole per ton in this area, and I think drillers charge around $7/ft or more. (This is for a standard water-coupled closed-loop pump.) Plus you have to trench to the house. Direct Exchange heatpumps (no water involved; working gas/fluid goes directly into smaller pipes in the ground) is more efficient and less moving parts, though it's a newer technology. However, it's harder to find an installer, and they may charge more, especially if they have to come a distance or they're overbooked.

In our case, after looking at it a lot, we decided it was just not worth it (yet) - payback was at best 7-10+ years, maybe more. We went with good 2-stage air-source units and put in a high-efficiency non-cat woodstove to supplement during the coldest months.

don't use Microsoft Windows. But use Doors. (4, Interesting)

Knights who say 'INT (708612) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333042)

Use the Coolest door ever [gizmodo.com] .

Re:don't use Microsoft Windows. But use Doors. (3, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333219)

HAHA, that video was funny. Only in Japan I guess. I would never imagine creating a marketing video when my product half works. Watch it, many of the slits don't go far enough, and it seems like once they do move, they won't go farther if nessesary to accomidate. As well the sensors should have a wider range, as the tops of peoples heads didn't always trigger the sensor for the slit that you would bump your head into if you actually used it. Cool, but this thing would quickly get destroyed in real usage. I guess in Japan people are willing to work around technology like that and duck.

Re:don't use Microsoft Windows. But use Doors. (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 9 years ago | (#13335587)

The video didn't work for me (probably heavy traffic). Does anyone have a mirror?

Re:don't use Microsoft Windows. But use Doors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13336492)

Japanese are short. No ducking required.

only worry about infrastructure now (3, Informative)

bmwm3nut (556681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333120)

this is a project that should be done it at least two steps. the only thing you really want to worry about now is getting the wires into the walls. so plan on things like (as you say) cat-5 (i suggest cat-6 incase gigabit become affordable in the future), speaker wire, and don't forget enough electrical sockets. i honestly don't think it's too much to ask for one electrical socket on each stud. make sure they're on different circuit breakers, and if possible maybe set up some of them to be uninterruptable. my ideal wall would have a socket on each stud. 2 out of every three would be regular sockets - but on different circuits, and 1 out of three would be on an uninterruptable circuit that's managed elsewhere in the house. you could even look into the new standard 12VDC power that's starting to be popular for some lightning. it wouldnt hurt to put a line of 12VDC in the wall too.

once you have all the wires in the wall, then you can worry about hardware. the nice thing is that you don't need to worry about it now. you can just put in a cheap thermostat now and later when you say, "hey, i'd like to control the thermostat with my webserver" you can then put in a new thermostat and you'll already have the wires in the wall and you can set up the webserver to control the thermostat. likewise with anything else, you can add touch screens later. the benefit to going with normal stuff now and upgrading later is that it forces you to think modularly. if you put in touch screens now and set everything up with those screens, you'll probably be mad next year when newer less buggy hardware is out there and it's impossible for you to upgrade. if you think modularly, then you can upgrade the hardware however you want.

the same goes for your server room. don't worry now about how many servers it's going to take to run your house. just make sure you have a room wired properly that you can put servers in. then when you start putting more services online and you need more computing power, it'll be easy to upgrade as necessary. for example after you get bored having the lights and heat controlled by the computers, you can later upgrade and write your own security system that monitors the windows and doors at night. if some one breaks in, it'll wake you up, auto dial 911, automatically unlock the gun cabinet and give you a lighted path from your bed to the gun cabinet (or at least that's my dream for my comptuer controlled house).

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (4, Insightful)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333191)

Are you kidding me? 1 socket on each stud? Do you realize studs are 18" apart which in a 10x10 room means you have around 26 plugs? WTF would someone need that for? Not to mention copper is f'ing expensive. Go to lowes or home depot and look at how much copper wiring costs.

BTW I build homes for a living.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333569)

26 plugs is just about right for a kid's bedroom if your kid is as geeky as most parents on slashdot become.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

WebCrapper (667046) | more than 9 years ago | (#13337276)

I'd kill for 1 extra outlet right now - seriously...

In government housing overseas, you're stuck with 2 220 outlets and 1 110 in each room. I'm currently running my office with 4 computers, 1 router plus all my gadgets off 1 110 outlet (as in 1 plug, not the standard 2) and 3 power strips.

I'm a safety commercial waiting to happen...

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

bmwm3nut (556681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333642)

studs are 16" apart. i look at how many powerstrips i have in my rooms. particularlly my living room and computer room. since i'm not home right now, but here's what i can remember having plugged in in my living room: tv, vcr, dvd player, sterio, subwoofer, 2 lamps, 3 laptops, 1 hub, 1 vga -> ntsc converter, 2 cell phone chargers. that's 14 plugs that i can remember right now. plus what about transient items the the vacuum cleaner and stuff like that?

i don't think the cost of the copper wire is going to go up much, generally in houses there are 1-2 sockets per wall, that means the copper has to be run around the perimeter of the room anyway. so it's not much more copper to run from socket to socket (granted it will be more if you put more than one circuit per room, but you can always do 1 circuit per room).

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333840)

26 plugs with 1 circuit is no better than the octopus plugs we learned about on the Brady Bunch. Danger Will Robinson!

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336946)

26 plugs with 1 circuit is no better than the octopus plugs

Actually, 26 outlets on one circuit is safer. At least the circuit will be wired with 12 AWG. If you octopus a shitload of devices, your cord will melt, arc and then catch fire way before you draw enough amps to trip the circuit. The 12 AWG won't.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (2, Insightful)

gregmac (629064) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334344)

here's what i can remember having plugged in in my living room: tv, vcr, dvd player, sterio, subwoofer, 2 lamps, 3 laptops, 1 hub, 1 vga -> ntsc converter, 2 cell phone chargers. that's 14 plugs that i can remember right now.

So lets say your tv, vcr, dvd player, stereo, sub, hub, vga converter, a laptop and a cell phone charger all together on a tv stand of some sort, while the rest of the stuff is around the rest of the room. That means you take up 5 sockets (2 plugs each), which is 80" of wall. Instead of having them plugged into a decent sized power bar and all contained behind the tv, you have them all string out across the wall.

We won't get into how you have no surge protection close to the device, either.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

qux.net (107853) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336457)

Studs are measured center to center, not edge to edge. That's where the 18" comes from. 16" sounds about right for between 2x4s (a bit off, but probably the closest round number). You have to measure from the center though to account for different thicknesses and to be able to reliably find them for screwing/nailing things onto the wall (or fit standard drywall sheets or other things with standard sizes).

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

qux.net (107853) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336480)

er, yea... I wasn't thinking residential walls. 16" center-to-center is right.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336760)

er, yea... I wasn't thinking residential walls. 16" center-to-center is right.

Depends on the age of the house. Really old homes have large variablity in the stud spacing. In my house, built in 1909, the studs are spaced 18 inches center to center with a fair amount of variability. Even older homes can be spaced even further, up to 36 inches. Houses like this usually have real 2x4s as opposed to the wood saving modern 1.5x3.5s. Lots of houses built today are going 24 inches using 2x6 studs. I guess it saves time and money in construction.

Funny thing though, I have had a few contractors out to do some work on my house. Two had said that the majority of their work is fixing newly constructed houses, even in the million dollar range, as opposed to older houses. They just don't build them like they used to. You wouldn't think that someone would have a million dollar home built and want to save $5,000 by using PVC instead of copper, but they do.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

grimarr (223895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13341662)

Using 2x6 studs probably does save some labor costs, but one of the big reasons for it is because there's about 50 percent more room for insulation. Even on interior partition walls, it might make sense, so you don't have to listen to your kids' crappy music when you're trying to enjoy your classic Pink Floyd.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333293)

i honestly don't think it's too much to ask for one electrical socket on each stud. make sure they're on different circuit breakers, and if possible maybe set up some of them to be uninterruptable. my ideal wall would have a socket on each stud. 2 out of every three would be regular sockets - but on different circuits, and 1 out of three would be on an uninterruptable circuit

One on each stud, huh? That means a 10x10 room will have more than 20 electrical sockets. And three different circuit breakers per room not counting the lighting? That's dangerous and I doubt any qualified electrician would do it. Aside from that, your scheme would cost a fortune due to the excess.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

bmwm3nut (556681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333685)

how are three circuit per room more dangerous than one? you're splitting up the current draw over three circuits, so the over all load is lowered per circuit. if you're worried about knowing which circuit each socket is on, a simple color scheme could be developed to keep things straight - or just something simple like a small label under each socket that says "living room, circuit #1" and then in the circuit breaker box, you have a breaker labled "living room, circuit #1"

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (2, Informative)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333950)

how are three circuit per room more dangerous than one?

Aside from kitchens and dining rooms, you might have two in a room at most but they would be grouped and the second circuit would only be there because it is dedicated for a known purpose. Also, that circuit would most likely feed those specific outlets only and not any in other rooms. By dangerous, I meant having your recepticles round-robined on three different circuits so that three outlets within 36 inches of each other are going to be on three different breakers. Besides all that, what are you going to be doing in a room that requires 60 amps all at once?

Also, any room which is technically considered a bedroom (regardless of what you are using it for) will require three 20 amp AFCI breakers which aren't cheap. On top of that, your plan would probably require three or four sub-panels because of how many breakers you want to install. Plus, you'd probably have to upgrade your service to 320 or 400 amps.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

stanmann (602645) | more than 9 years ago | (#13340688)

For a truly un-qualified geek/nerd to be found on slashdot, the 1 socket per stud with a set of un-interuptable sockets per room sounds very reasonable. I would kill for enough sockets in my "computer" room to actually "use" all of my computers simultaneously. Now having that kind of service in every room may be extreme, but having 1 or 2 rooms wired that way sounds very rational.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333929)

Geez, wish I had your budget. As others have stated, an outlet on each stud is overkill, and incredibly expensive. Especially when you start talking about running more than one circuit through the wall. Also, I belive in most residential areas building permits restrict the number of plugins on a single circuit. 15 seems to ring a bell as the local limit, but I don't remember for sure.

Wiring Cat (5,5e,6) when building/rebuilding is a good idea. 5e is relatively cheap. Run extra. Run your phone system on Cat 5e as well. Have a central block where phone and network end up. Label everything, and label it well. Then you can drop your switches, voip box, cable/dsl modem etc. here. Add in a UPS if desired. Servers can go here, or in a seperate room. Since you've run and labelled all the wiring properly, should be a problem. Just plan it all out in advance.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (2, Informative)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334978)

new standard 12VDC power that's starting to be popular for some lightning

Um... even a 12W fixture chews a solid 1A... multiply this by 20 fixtures (not unthinkable to get a decent amount of light in a few rooms) and you have a nice solid 20A...

Now add on the heat losses from the current (in the wire, alone). We can assume about 1/2 Ohm resistance in the wire if it's a long run back to a central transformer... I won't even get into the losses in the transformer (which only runs at ~85% efficiency).

P = 20^2 * 1/2 = 200W of copper losses for 240W of light...

You should see the reason why mains power is distributed and generally used at high voltages...

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

bmwm3nut (556681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13339676)

i didn't say the 12VDC lighting was smart, i just said it was getting popular. the reason it's getting popular is because most places have regulation on who can lay high-voltage (110V) wire, but if you only have 12V going through the wire, you don't need an electrician, and you don't have regulations about how close the wires can be to other things, or GFCI circuits, or anything that goes with 110V. it's a stupid energy wasting way around stupid arbitrary housing codes.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

tomlouie (264519) | more than 9 years ago | (#13335095)

Several other qualified people have pointed out that having so many outlets in a room, just in case, is a bad idea. But this juxtaposition struck me as incredible.

> "and if possible maybe set up some of them to be uninterruptable"

Where, pray tell, would you keep the diesel generator and fuel tank that will power some of your house on demand?

> "you can just put in a cheap thermostat now"

It seems that you would be willing to spend thousands of dollars beyond what is standard on the electrical system materials (not to mention the cost of labor and expertise for someone qualified to do the work), but you're not willing to drop less than $200 on a top of the line stand-alone thermostat, which would pay for itself in reduced heating and cooling bills in less than 3 years. Guh.

Tom

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (1)

bmwm3nut (556681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13339694)

> "and if possible maybe set up some of them to be uninterruptable"

Where, pray tell, would you keep the diesel generator and fuel tank that will power some of your house on demand?


i was thinking of something like having UPS battery backups in the basement that would be hooked up to the UPS outlets in the rooms. it would be awesome to have a generator or something like that, but unless you live on a farm, you proabably can't get away with that. i'm not saying that getting enough UPS batteries would be cheap or anything, i'm just saying it would be cool to have. you obviously would have to make choices about where you'd want your UPS outlets. you probably don't need them in the bathroom, but having them in the living room and computer room would be helpful.

Re:only worry about infrastructure now (2, Interesting)

ibbey (27873) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336797)

Gotta say I agree with the others on this... A socket every 16" is ridiculous. Think about it-- you're right that I have more devices then outlets in my office, but most of the devices are concentrated in two locations-- my desk & entertainment center. Why would I want to drag cords all over the room when a carefully placed power strip does the job even better (and adds surge suppression to boot)?

But where you are correct is that you do want more outlets then are usually provided. My dream room would have one outlet every 64 inches in most walls and one every 48 inches in areas where I expect to need more. Normally, no wall should have fewer then two outlets. Cat 5 (or 6) & cable should be available in opposite corners of each room where it makes sense.

And here's one that I haven't seen anyone else mention... At least one power outlet in each closet in the house. You may consider adding cat5 in the closet of your office as well. Handy for servers, but make sure it's well ventilated.

Couple ideas (1)

revmoo (652952) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333155)

Set up a main house fileserver, make it SCSI and RAID. Then, setup a tftp/nfs server on it and use PXE to boot all of your clients from this main server. This way instead of having to do an OS install on each machine and worry about drives dying you have one server handling everything. It's easier to make backups this way too.

Plus the lack of a grinding hard drive is quite welcome.

CAT6e (2, Informative)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333318)

Someone if going to tell you to go wireless, someone is going to say fiber. With more and more WEPs going up in my neighborhood, I am having problems with my setup now and really wish I had wall jacks everywhere. And fiber is just overkill, but this is Slashdot and someone will mention it.

I say make sure to run CAT6e, which will nicely handle Gigabit over Copper. You may want to stream some sort of HD video or other high bandwidth signal in the future over the network, so go with a cabling that will work. I would also run at least two RJ45 ports into each room, more in the large rooms. Don't worry about phone lines, you can always wire up from the patch panel a traditional line into one of your feeds, and RJ11 (phone) plugs into RJ45.

Power! People overlook this. Make sure to put in enough outlets. I don't even know how many extension cords and power strips I am running now. I wish my house had twice as many outlets, and it was built in 1999!

Re:CAT6e (5, Interesting)

renehollan (138013) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333827)

The general rule is to run 2xCAT5e (or Cat6) and 2xRG6/U coax (quad shielded) to every "drop" and home run back to a distribution panel. Each drop is terminated in a modular Leviton (or similar) wall plate module. You put a "drop" wherever you might want telephone, data, or TV. One can even get "Speedwrap" cable that combines the aforementioned cables (with and without 2xfiber as well) -- it adds a bit to the cost over individual cables but is easier and neater to pull.

The reasoning is as follows:

One Cat5e is for telephone (some PBXs do require all four pairs, though this is getting rarer). You don't need Cat5e for phone, but it's pennies over Cat3.

One Cat5e is for 100 Mb/s ethernet. 'nuff said.

One RG6/U is for RF (cable, local modulated channels, satellite, etc) to TVs.

The other RG6/U cable is for a "back feed" from a local video source modulated on some TV channel that is not in use -- at the headend you can combine them with the incomming cable/satellite feed, and broadcast through the house.

Anyway, that's the "recommendation". There are a few areas where it falls short, and a few other problem with it:

1. Satellite feeds can require two coax cables to each drop (so, forget about the "backfeed"), if you have a multi-satellite dish: if you have a dual satellite tuner, and want to tune different polarizations on the same satellite, or different satellites, you need two cables (at least for DirecTV). Dish Network "stacks" the horizontal and vertical polarizations on one cable, but you still need two cables if you want to watch programs on two different satellites (or watch one and record the other). So, say goodbuy to your video backfeed unless you run extra coax.

If you want to combine an OTA signal from a TV antenna (including OTA HD), you can diplex it onto and off of one of the satellite feeds, though a separate cable is better. It is generally a bad idea to try to duplex a cable feed with an internal satellite distribution network. So, add another RG6/u cable. That adds two extra coax cables (and quad-shielded ones are thick and somewhat inflexible), to each drop where you might have serious video equipment, i.e. anywhere you have a TV or computer that processes video, or video recording gear intended to archive programs. This will probably be the media/family room, computer room, and perhaps master bedroom. For good measure, you might want to add a second (or even third) such drop in such rooms, if you decide to move the furniture around. To racap: that's one Cat5e for telephone (your satellite and cable box or TiVo might need it), one Cat5e for data network (everything needs a data network port sooner or later), two coax for satellite, one for a backfeed, one for cable TV, and you can diplex the OTA signal on one of the satellite cables if you use both the backfeed and the cable feed.

Other locations where there might be a TV (kitchen, bedrooms) can probably get by without the extra two coax cables.

Next, consider the location of wired telephones. You want at least some wired telephones, that use a landline, at least one on each floor, that you can dial real 911 from. You probably want these locations at opposite ends of the room where the TV drops are, if any. Even if you go wireless for phones, you will probably want data network drops on the opposite end of the room to plug in your laptop, etc. Run 2xCat5e for phone and data.

"But why not wireless phone and/or data or MythTV over the LAN (or wireless), or VoIP over the LAN (or wireless), etc. and avoid all that cable?" I hear you cry.

Three reasons.

1. Security.

2. Bandwidth.

3. Expense.

You may have wireless phone (and VoIP, and data), to be sure, but keep it in the DMZ on your network. You definately want some real hardwired landline phones for emergencies. Wireless bandwidth is never going to be as good as what you can get on a wired network, and wired networks are easier to segment if you have to. While it is clever to digitize all video and audio with a Myth backend to distribute to Myth frontends, coax cable is cheaper. You won't get satellite or cable HD MPEG2 feeds any time soon, and using a PVR 350 on the downsampled SD svideo feed from an HD box, just so you can distribute it over ethernet is lame. Trust me: an HD STB in the room you watch is cheaper and better. Audio and VoIP over the LAN is practical, however, though VoIP ATAs and SIP wireless handsets are still far more expensive than a hardwired phone, or a POTS wireless phone with the base station plugged into a VoIP ATA (that's what I do: with the second like on the wireless handset going to the landline).

Your headend has a big switch for the data network, and possibly a DSL modem and VoIP ATA, and multiswitches and distribution amps for the satellite, OTA, and cable TV feeds. Here's a trick, though: run a POTS loop from your headend to your computer room and back, where you have your VoIP ATA and data firewall: you probably want a real computer running iptables as your firewall, and not some cheesy Linksys box in your headend. You can put your wireless phone base stations there as well, if you want. Do run more than one data network cable back from the computer room to the headend: one for secure network, one for DMZ network (if wired), and one for media network (if you want to segment your data networks that way).

You might want to install surveillance cameras outside, and consider running Cat5e and RG6/U to them, as well as a pair for power.

Do remember that it is a lot easier to run cable when the walls are open, so run more than you think you need. (The suggestion to run conduit between floors is a good one to heed as well).

Be very, very careful (2, Informative)

Fished (574624) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333325)

We were doing much the same thing until we discovered that our infant child had high blood lead levels. I had always thought that the issue was kids eating paint chips--well, that's bad, but what's worse is kids (and adults) breathing the dust kicked up by renovations in homes with lead paint. It is very difficult to avoid kicking up dust from plaster walls and paint, so you need to make sure that you are taking steps to protect yourself and your children! I mean it! This is double-plus-un-good.

The older the home, the more dangerous it may be, as paint manufacturers steadily cut the lead content of their paints from the turn of the century on. Don't guess, get it checked. And, if you have children, walk away and bleed money if you have to rather than expose them to lead.

That's what we did, and I now own a home built in 2003, and am very grateful that I don't need to worry about my kids' being poisoned by it.

Re:Be very, very careful (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334981)

Add to this: If you are having a contractor do this work for you, and they don't mention asbestos (could be in old tiles or linoleum buried under carpet or plywood subfloor, taping on your heating ducts as well as insulation) and lead paint, get a different contractor. If they don't mention the possibility of your house having both, they probably cut serious corners in their work.

Asbestos and lead paint were still used in housing until the mid 70s.

Remember, whatever you do will be obsolete quickly (2, Insightful)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333344)

I've been into this for close to 30 years now. I've been in my current house for 17 years, and I've rewired FOUR TIMES as the technology has changed.

I can absolutely tell you that the most important thing you can provide is ACCESS. Several others have mentioned conduits and wiring channels, and I can't overemphasize how much I agree with that. The only thing that's saved me is the suspended ceiling downstairs, and the clear opening between there and the attic. You don't want to be opening walls a year or two down the road because you need a new kind of wire somewhere.

X10 is great when it works, but it's inherently limited. Unfortunately, the alternatives are WAY more expensive. You can do a really cool setup with a couple hundred dollars worth of X10 stuff, and old Linux PC, and a web app from Freshmeat. Start off simple, you can always add wireless tablets as touch screens down the road when someone is selling them off cheap.

Dumb Terminals (2, Interesting)

Shads (4567) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333409)

Using NX/VNC/etc type things to a terminal server should lower your cost substantially.

2 choices: Reliable (hardwired) or cheap (PLC) (2, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333450)

Reliable or cheap. That's your major choice here. If you want reliable, what you want is an extra run of CAT 5e to every outlet and switch in the house, so that you can choose from a variety of hardwired remote control switches. If you want cheap- you'll want to go with X10, A10, or one of it's variants, in which case you'll want 3-wire power to every switch, including ground, and while you're rewiring all the electric anyway you'll want to install a signal bridge in the switch panel, so that the electirical phases are linked.

For software, well, that depends on your favorite operating system and programming language: HAL or HomeSeer for Windows, Mr. House for Linux, all three of these choices have a variety of dynamic libraries that allow them to control most whole-house controllers.

I personally went cheap- but still ran out of money about $1200 into my system. So I've got PLC, in a house that doesn't have 3 wire to every outlet, with only the incandescents and only 2 flourescents actually computer controlled. I also never got my infrared breakout boxes done to control my A/V equipment- and PLC turned out to be rather non-secure in my neighborhood for controling garage door opener and the like (in that it would leave my garage door open and illegal immigrant meth adicts would steal from me in the middle of the night). So if you have the money, you're much better off with a hardwired system. And go for a discount wholesaler like http://www.worthdist.com/ [worthdist.com] as opposed to somebody like http://www.smarthouse.com/>.

What about me? (1)

drxenos (573895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333599)

What would you guys suggest in my case. My house has NO attic (vaulted ceilings) and NO basement (split level). Without ripping up the floors and walls, how the hell do I run cables with it being ugly?

Re:What about me? (1)

JoeD (12073) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333754)

How are the air vents run? If possible, see if you can follow the same route. If not, then run the cable inside the air vents, but if you do this, make sure the cable is rated for that. The vents can get quite warm in the winter when the heater's running, and condensation can collect on it in the summer from the AC.

Re:What about me? (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 9 years ago | (#13337906)

Large molding along floor and ceiling can hide runs of cables. Cut holes in sheetrock first and go fishtape your cables.

Re:What about me? (1)

nmos (25822) | more than 9 years ago | (#13341719)

If you're thinking of running anything inside of your ducts check your local building codes first as it may not be legal in your area.

Re:What about me? (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334692)

Start with wireless as much as you can.

Where you must have cables you are in for a lot of work. Easiest is to pull off baseboards, run cables behind, and replace; done right this works and looks fine, but it only allows a few cables. Harder is to drill access holes where needed (get long drill bits so you can drill from your future box where possible), and then patch as needed. Remember to plan everything so minimize pain.

Re:What about me? (1)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334961)

Go to home depot and buy a fish tape, and one of those 5 foot long flexible drill bits. Cut the holes for your outlet in the wall where you want it, use the flex bit to drill through the base of the wall into the level below. Stick your fishtape down it. If it lines up with another wall, or goes into an unfinished basement, you're golden.

Otherwise, you might end up having to cut access holes to pull the cable through. Cut them outlet size, and when you're done, just put a blank plate over it. I had to do this in 2 places in my house. My basement is finished, but I still managed to run wire to every room in the house.

Also, if your cable tv wires are not stapled down, you can use these as fish tape. I attached a bundle of RG6 and 2 cat6's to a couple of them, found the end in the basement, and just pulled the old wire out while pulling the new stuff in at the same time.

I successfully rewired 10 rooms and did away with the old crappy coax that was in the house. Some of them really took a lot of time. It just depends on how much you really wanna mess with it.

Re:What about me? (1)

drxenos (573895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13338460)

That's the problem I am having. I got to replace some crappy tv cable. I have no basement (the lower level of the house is where a basement would be), and no attic (vaulted ceilings). I think the cables were stapled down, so I cannot snake them. There is a space between the upper floor and the lower ceiling, but it seems inexcessable and the lower level floor is concrete. For right now, I have a cat5 cable going straight through the walls of two rooms to get internet to my daughters room. It ugly, but I don't know what else to do.

Do some research first (1)

JoeD (12073) | more than 9 years ago | (#13333856)

And by research, I don't mean asking Slashdot.

Write down what you want to have in each room. Go wild, put down everything. Touch screen, ethernet, remote control, whatever.

Then see what's out on the market that will do what you want. What kind of remote control options are there? Is there an alternative?

Then start trimming back. Do you REALLY need to control the thermostat from EVERY room? Do you REALLY need remote-controlled lighting in EVERY room? Chances are, you can cut back quite a bit.

If I had to pick one thing to do, I'd say to lay some conduit to every room, and put Cat5 (or 6 even) and a string in each one. No speaker wire, though. If you want to listen to music, put a stereo in that room and grab the music via the Cat5.

Do that, and you'll be relatively future-proofed without getting stuck on some technology that may be obsolete in 5 or 10 years.

Account for time (3, Informative)

knightPhlight (173012) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334082)

I do high end low voltage installations for a living. And while most of the hardware is insanely expensive, the same results can be achieved with commondity equipment and open source solutions.

That being said, pre-wiring is the most important aspect of what you will be doing. Depending on your budget you will want to wire CAT5 (or 6e) into all light switch and telephone locations. At a minimum you will need CAT5 to every video location.

Wireless technology is too dependant on outside factors to be reliable. Good old copper gets the 1s and 0s to the correct place much more efficently. Plus, if it's called for, power over ethernet doesn't work very well wirelessly :) CAT5 isn't just for bits and bytes any more. It works great for remote thermostat sensors, infrared transmission, etc..

While we install touch panels by AMX Corp. [amx.com] the same thing can be done with a cheap touch overlay'ed display, PXE, and VNC. I would recommend staying away from X10 products. If you don't want to spend the time to write your own control software, the NetLinx programming language (used on AMX products) is easier than learning QBasic. Some of their controllers show up on Ebay for reasonable amounts.

The single most preventative aspect of this project is the amount of time involved. We will spend months in design, prewire, install, and programming on even relatively small systems. But if your wiring is not in place, no amount of time spent will be as productive.

Took a while to find it... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13334126)

But you could save yourself a lot of time by checking out Pluto [plutohome.com]

http://homephonewiring.com/ (2, Informative)

lizrd (69275) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334237)

http://homephonewiring.com/ [homephonewiring.com] is a really good website for understanding the whats and whys about installing proper cabling in your house. The site was a big help to me when I redid all the phone/data cable in my house last year. The guy does sell some stuff on the website, but the information is excellent whether you decide to buy from him or elsewhere. I did end up buying a punchdown block from him and it was a fair price and shipped quickly. Other stuff I got either locally or on Ebay.

Central Cooling! (2, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334304)

Put a water outlet/inlet by each socket, and a central cooling/pumping station outside. Install water cooling in each computer in the house, and have them quiet, fast and cool :D

SunRay! (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 9 years ago | (#13334440)

Is there a way to allow distributed content to head units while keeping servers down to one or 2 units?"

Sounds like a job for SunRay Server! [sun.com] You can even run the server software on Linux....

For those without a sense of humor: this may actually work--if it were me I'd be looking into it more than casually--but I'm mostly joking.

alternate forms of clever house (2, Interesting)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#13335963)

While having lots of cables to run all kinds of signals everywhere is a really cool idea, don't forget that while you have the drywall off it's a really good time to think about efficiency. Heating oil could be really expensive in the near future and the electricity to run your a/c isn't exactly going to get cheaper. A clever house is one that doesn't waste energy.
  • insulate like crazy. additional stud thickness, vapor barrier, expanding foam around every box or hole in the wall, insulate the hot water pipes (and cold depending on climate), insulate an attached garage even
  • shorten the runs of ductwork as much as possible, avoid running them through uninsulated attic or basement space (i have this problem)
  • upgrade to high SEER a/c compressors and high rated burners. climate may indicate heat pump.
  • use electric dampers or a zone system to turn off HVAC to unused rooms. i have my zones on individual timer/thermostats.
  • whole house fans are pretty cheap and can save a lot of money on a/c. swamp coolers are kind of white trash but work okay in some areas.
  • not sure about attic fans. usually if you have good attic insulation and gable vents and soffet vents you're fine, but if you have a large uninsulated attic with a lot of floor area in contact with living space it might help
  • thermo pane windows! not just double glazed, but the kind with an e-coating to cut down IR transmission through the glass, and no wood frames, they warp and leak within 3 years.
  • awnings don't last very long, but roof-like overhangs over south-facing windows are a good alternative.
  • find a good location for a wireless outdoor thermometer so you can monitor temperature and humidity well enough to intelligently choose whether to use the whole house fan/attic fan/swamp cooler/heat pump or a/c that day. or just leave the windows open if it's going to be 70 that day.
  • swap out electric range, oven, water heater, dryer, for natural gas or propane. swap out electric heat (baseboard or cental) for whatever fuel is cheapest in your area.

Next thing to do in the cleverness front is to actively protect the house. Some of this will indeed involve wiring:

  • central-station monitored alarm and sensors on all doors and windows, don't forget fire and smoke alarms (county inspector probably won't let you for get the last two)
  • if it's an unoccupied cabin/second house you'll also want flooding and freeze alarms
  • outdoor lighting. maybe the automatic IR sensor kind, maybe plain old switch kind.
  • go crazy and wire up some video cameras. these can feed into a server so you can check what's going on around the house even when you're away.
  • actual deadbolts with reinforced doors and frames on all doors. double cylinder if next to a window or window-in-the foor but for gosh sakes let everyone know where the key is.
  • 2 or more fire extinguishers on every floor (near the exits)
  • evacuation plan (esp for kids) very important if you have any rooms that require more than one turn to reach an external door. doors to wooden patios don't count! and rope ladders for 2nd floor bedrooms

Anyway, I just want to express that there is more to a smart house than just internet and audio/video.

You forgot one important thing (1)

JediTrainer (314273) | more than 9 years ago | (#13338319)

Your CO detector. They are just as important as your fire/smoke alarms, and in some areas (such as Toronto) they are now required by law. Particularly if you're going to be using a whole load of gas appliances. Carbon Monoxide is bad m'kay?

Re:alternate forms of clever house (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 9 years ago | (#13340083)

actual deadbolts with reinforced doors and frames on all doors. double cylinder if next to a window or window-in-the foor but for gosh sakes let everyone know where the key is.

Don't do this. It violates the building code in practically every state. If you're concerned enough to do this, spend the money to buy a door without windows and/or change the swing of the door to get the lock away from the windows. Do not double cylinder any egress door for any reason.

control (1)

Seany-Heady (151106) | more than 9 years ago | (#13336478)

I think that the wiring part got covered in another post. the other items that your talking about though are:

home "control" is normally kind of customized to the home by the installer, but the last one that i helped put in was an elan system. (http://www.elanhomesystems.com/ [elanhomesystems.com] )

For lighting you really need to look into lutron (http://www.lutron.com/ [lutron.com] ) and then hook them together.

Pluto (1)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 9 years ago | (#13337222)

Pluto [plutohome.com] .

Pluto is the only all-in-one solution for your home that seamlessly combines media & entertainment, home automation, security, telecom and computing. You can control your whole house with a mobile phone, a touch-screen tablet or a web-interface. A Pluto system is like an appliance - not a computer. It is self-configuring, maintaining and updating. No technical skills are required to use or install Pluto. Pluto is above all simple. The devices are all plug and play. Pluto is also an open platform, offering unlimited expansion potential, and requiring no special cabling. This is Pluto: a complete, comfortable and secure solution for your home.
And it's all open source.

More Real Ideas (1)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 9 years ago | (#13338973)

OK, this being Slashdot Everyone talks about the networking and forgets everything else. We've just had a quick brainstorming session here in the office and here's what we came up with:

1) Thermostats in every room, if possible linked to the HVAC to regulate temperature on an individual room basis.

2) Movement sensors and heat sensors in every room. Use these together and you can turn the lights on and off as someone enters and exits a room. They can also be used for burglar alarms and fire detection.

3) Motorized blinds on each window. You regulate the heat so why not regulate the light level?

4) Run a ring of 50-pair cable round the house with drop points in each room. This won't be good enough for computer networking but it can carry signals from sensors and commands to motors throughout the house.

5) Fit a whole-house UPS

6) Fit a whole-house vacuum system for cleaning. Just one big collection cylinder in the basement and nothing too heavy to carry around.

7) Panic buttons in each room

8) Numerical keypad instead of front door locks. Never lose your keys again.

Discuss.....................

Ed Almos
Budapest, Hungary

Re:More Real Ideas (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 9 years ago | (#13340179)

1) Thermostats in every room, if possible linked to the HVAC to regulate temperature on an individual room basis.

Good for convenience, but be careful as most residential units are not really meant for zoning. It's not an electronic problme but a mechanical one - too many zones shut down and your fancoil unit will overheat and die prematurely due to the pressure in the system being too high.

3) Motorized blinds on each window. You regulate the heat so why not regulate the light level?

Nice idea, and very high end, but also insanely expensive (you'll probably end up at >$1000/shade, on average) and difficult to integrate into existing window heads, if you like the no-see-um/built-in look.

As for the ohters, most are just a matter of money. I guess I'm not really a security freak, since I live in a small town, so the panic button in every room feels a bit paranoid. Though if you were to have one, it may as well be in any room - hate to have it be in the wrong room when I needed it. Whole house vacuums have never really done it for me. They're quiet, but I find the long hoses as cumbersome as a good canister vacuum.

Better than motion/heat sensors, put good dimmers on every light you can think of. It may sound silly, but after experimenting extensively with X-10, I abandoned central control altogether and opted for large banks of dimmable lights. Most rooms had only one light circuit, with different levels controlled by a dimmer. They're the best in bathrooms for any late-night necessities when a night light is too dim and full lighting will blind you.

PlutoHome (1)

drdestructo (44777) | more than 9 years ago | (#13339431)

http://plutohome.com/ [plutohome.com] - Open Source, free as in beer and mostly free otherwise. If you want a roll-your-own Home automation package with media capabilities, this is the way to go.

simple light switches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13339832)

I recommend that you put in simple light switches that turn large numbers of lights on and off. so, instead of each room having 3 lighting "zones" (kitchen: counters, island, sink, blah blah) just have a switch at each entrance to the room that will turn all the lights in the room on, and then off again on your way out. you will save in the long run, on bulbs, electricity, and precious minutes of your life.

Don't to it yourself. Do it right (1)

Meest (714734) | more than 9 years ago | (#13343144)

You will increase the worth of your house if you use a standard, Don't make a bunch of stuff yourself.

http://www.crestron.com/ [crestron.com]

I would highly reccomened using crestron. as much as it will be cheaper to do it yourself. other people have said it, its going to make people not want to buy your house later on if you do need to move.

I'm planning this at the moment + Helpful Links (1)

PlasticMonkey (863080) | more than 9 years ago | (#13343394)

I'm planning this at the moment for when we have some building work done, and while googling and talking to different people I found the http://swhowto.com/ [swhowto.com] (Structured Wiring HOWTO), and IMHO wiring is going to be the hardest part of the project.

Once my wiring is done, I'm going to build 4 or 5 'kiosk' type units into/onto walls in different parts of the house. Each kiosk unit will contain a mini-itx board (most likely from LinITX), small touch screen (most likely from EarthLCD.com) and will be connected to the network via gigabit ethernet utilizing the cable I layed using (partly) the mentioned HOWTO.

I also want two portable 'kiosk' type units, but I haven't researched enough to comment.

You should look into software at the same time you decide what hardware you're getting to run your setup - not before, not after.
If you're using stock, cheap stuff such as X10, lots of OSS software to run on all kinds of hardware is already available but you've got to be able to spend time configuring and diagnosing when things go wrong.

I'm no where near an expert, and I'm only really posting to give you the valuable link - but I would love to know what other people were planning so I've given you (I hope) a small insight.

Apologies for my shitty punctuation and English in general actually, I just looked over my post and it's full of andandandand but hey, I'm tired.

- phil.
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