Planning How to Automate your House

Before you start cabling think about what you are trying to achieve.  Start simple at first.  I'll use my install as an example.  I started off thinking about my video and audio.

Audio and Video

Here's a list of the devices I wanted to distribute to rooms around my house:

  • Sky+
  • SkyHD
  • Freeview
  • PC/mediaplayer
  • DVD(this was 6 years ago!)
  • Xbox
  • Wii
  • CD player
  • Record Players

I needed to distribute these audio and video sources to 4 rooms with video capability(TV's) and the remaining rooms with just audio.  I decided it would best to cable all rooms for everything just in case!

Lighting

At this point you really need to decide what type of lighting system you are going to use as some systems require Cat5 to each light socket and other such as Z-wave use wireless RF.  I decided to opt for X10 control as i had quite a few existing sockets that would be difficult to chase too and massive flint walls which block RF signals. But I'm now starting to use Z-wave as knowing the state of a device via polling provides a much better solution when controlling. But bigger loads such as 500W security lights need neutral wires to work so remember this.

So I listed the lights i wanted to control:

  • 4 x 500w floodlamps
  • 2 x 300w floodlamps
  • 8 x normal inside lights

This gave me an idea of what each system would cost, which can be a deciding factor.

Security

Alarms

Alarm type is required early on and it's most probably best to go to a professional installer depending on what kind of system you want. If you trust your self enough to make a fool proof alarm go for it, but i doubt your insurers will have as much confidence in you!  I went with a professional installer because i hadn't done it myself.  However if I were to build a new I would want something that also works over IP.  I'll investigate that in another section.

CCTV

You can do alot with CCTV, but you need to spend time planning the location.  Bad location makes them almost pointless.  You need to decide if they are going to be hidden or visible too.  Night vision is a must really.  My requirements were:

1 x ptz

4 x fixed CCTV

To IP or not to IP that is the question! At the time of installing IP cameras of any quality were very expensive.  They have since come down in price.  The advantage of an IP security system is great for travelling over longer distances and makes install nice and tidy.  You can also administer the camera's remotely which is a big bonus.  I'll write more on this in another article.

Sensors and PIR

Think about location.  Like CCTV, if you get these wrong it can be a nightmare.   Identify access points to your property.  Try to avoid false alarms by placing PIR's in areas that are not going to trigger because a tree or a bush is moving in the wind.  You can also use your existing alarm PIR sensors if it has the right inferface.

You need to identify what system you are going to use to recieve signals from your Sensors so you know what cables to use.  Cat5 normally does the job well and so does a standard electricity line using x10.  I opted for X10 because I had already done quite a bit of ground work and digging in a Cat5 cable over a 100m of crushed concrete was too much of a pain.  If i had thought it about first I'd have run a power cable and a Cat5 cable to every PIR sensor. I will go into more detail about PIR sensors later, I'm just pointing out you need to think about them as soon as possible.

Heating

You can control most systems using a clever thermosat.  If you are fitting a new system do your research.  If you can get a Cat5 cable to your heating system just in case, do so.  It'll only cost you a few pence to put a run of Cat5 from your heating system to your rack/hub.  Most systems are wireless these days.

The control Room or Node 0

Possibly the most important part of your install.  This is the area all your cables will come back to and where all your devices are stored.  Choose a good space.  If you can afford the extra room around it to work on it comfortably do so.  You'll find yourself in there alot so space is a good thing.  More detail on this in a seperate article.

Anything else?

There's always something else! By this I mean other things you want to control.  Things like electric gates, TV's to turn off at the power, garage doors etc.

The golden rule here is think ahead to what you might want and run the cables just incase.

Here's the planning list I first created in June 2005 before i really knew what i was doing.  Some would say I still don't.

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