Category Archives: Home Automation

Solar Power Panels

Well, I decided a long time ago that it would be neat to put a big solar voltaic system at my new place and try to generate 100% of the electricity needed for the house (and servers and everything else I use since I work from home).

So I ended up going with a system that will be able to generate 42.8kW of power (35.7kW will be the “practical” rating for it), which consists of 252 panels (each panel can general 170 watts of power). The idea is to generate more electricity than you need during the day (running the SDG&E meter backwards), then draw on it at night.

I hope the system has some sort of SNMP probing ability… would be cool to pull up a graph of power output over time.

Gefen HDMI Extreme Cables (Fiber Optic HDMI)

Looks like Gefen just expanded their fiber optic line of cables (all fiber optic components are built right into the cable) to also include HDMI cabling (they had them for DVI before), which means I don’t need the external HDMI extender units (7 of them from this post).

http://www.gefen.com/kvm/cables/fiberextreme.jsp#hdmiextreme

Now if they would just come out with a similar solution for dual link DVI, we would be all set… :)

Central Audio/Video Distribution

Okay, I finally sat down tonight and figured out what I *think* I need (at least it’s a start so the experts have something to start with) to do centrally distributed audio/video for the house.

Audio

So I’m thinking every room (minus bathrooms, except for master) should be an audio “zone” as well as the pool house and then 3 zones for audio outside (front yard, back yard and golf area). That works out to 20 audio zones. Three of those should be 7.1 surround (living room, home theatre and master bedroom) with everything else being 2 channel stereo. So after figuring that out, now what in the hell sort of equipment do I need to make all this work? Maybe this (this is all Crestron stuff)…

  • CNX-BIPAD8 (3 of them) – CAT5 24×8 distributor (24 possible sources in, 8 rooms out) any room could be on any source so 3 of these will cover 24 “rooms/zones”
  • CNAMPX-16X60 (2 of them) – 16 channels x 60 watts each (8 rooms per amp, 16 rooms total)
  • CNAMPX-2X60 (1 of them) – 2 channels x 60 watts each (1 room)
  • CNAMPX-7×200 (3 of them) – 7 channel x 200 watts surround sound amp (3 of them for the 3 rooms I want 7.1 in)
  • C2N-DAP8 (3 of them) – 7.1 surround sound processor
  • AAS-4 – Digital Audio Server (250GB of MP3s, able to output 4 independent streams as sources to the distributors)
  • CEN-IPOD – iPod dock

So in the end what would that give me? I would have the ability to pipe any of the 5 sources (4 unique streams of MP3 and music from an iPod) to any specific zone, plus with the ability to hook up 11 additional sources, you could pick up the audio output of a computer for example and use it as another source.

Video

So this is where it gets even more complicated. I want all TVs to be running digital signals (HDMI/HDCP) where possible. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Crestron has any equipment to run HDMI signals. Another problem is the HDMI signals are going to be coming from the server room, so you start to run into a cable length issue. So… enter Gefen.

  • EXT-HDMI-444 (2 of them) – 4×4 HDMI switch (4 sources switchable between 4 outputs. 2 of them should give 4 sources switchable between 8 outputs)
  • EXT-HDMI-244 (2 of them) – 2×4 HDMI splitter (2 sources switchable between 4 outputs. Need this to split the 4 master sources to the 2 4×4 switchers.)
  • EXT-HDMI-1000HD150B (3 of them) – 150′ HDMI fiber extender
  • EXT-HDMI-1000HD100B (4 of them) – 100′ HDMI fiber extender

The lengths are just guesses, but that setup would let me run HDMI signals over fiber at full 1080p resolutions (1920×1080).

What would really simplify this would be if there was a 4×8 HDMI switcher available. But I couldn’t find a company that offers a HDMI switcher/matix except for Gefen. I didn’t even attempt to go digging for a dual link (Type B) HDMI switcher. hehe

At least this gives me something to start with when dealing with the home automation guys… now I don’t have to meet when them and just be like, “Duuuuhhhhhhh… I don’t know what I want/need.”

It also made me realize I want conduit running to every place a TV could be.

Home Automation Checklist

Okay, I need to start making a list of things I want to be able to control from the home automation system for my house… So I’m just going to use this blog entry for that. If anyone can think of anything I’ve forgotten, please leave it as a comment and I’ll update this post as necessary…

  • Lights (indoor, outdoor and landscape)
  • Some door locks (front door, server room, office)
  • Heat and air conditioning
  • Music to any room (or outside)
  • Video (all TVs, central PVR/movie server?)
  • Fireplaces
  • Waterfall
  • Sprinklers
  • Spa
  • Cameras
  • Security
  • Windows (open/close windows, shades up/down, electrochromic maybe)

Passive RFID Tags

So I’m thinking about getting a system for my new house where you can get an implant and doors will unlock for you automatically. But I also thought it would be cool if you could use those to track where someone (or a pet) was in the house in real time. Well I talked to the VeriChip guys today and they say that only the active RFID tags (ones that have a battery and transmit a signal at all times) can be used for that. The implants are tiny passive RFID tags (they have no battery) so they don’t have enough range to do it.

That sucks… now how am I going to find my cats in the house?? :)

Human Implantable Access Control

So after my last post, I was poking around the Internet regarding RFID access control systems for buildings (for a house in my case), and I found a company called VeriChip. They offer systems that are wearable (what I originally was looking for), but also implantable inside your body, which seems pretty cool to me. It would be pretty hard to lose your house key then.

http://www.verichipcorp.com/content/solutions/1117566047

RFID Tagging

The US Department of Homeland security is going to start requiring foreigners to carry a “card” with them at all times. It will be an RFID type of card that can be read from 20 feet away.

Anyway… I don’t care a whole lot about that and the whole privacy concerns (I’ll let the privacy activists deal with that). But, it would be a neat technology to use for my house that I’m going to be building soon.

Maybe a card you carry in your wallet or something could automatically unlock the front door as you approach the door or something. Has anyone seen or heard of a company doing any RFID stuff for the home?

AMX vs. visiomatic Home Automation

Okay, I think I have it down to two companies for the home automation stuff…

AMX, which seems to be more widely deployed (the installers I met with last week have an office here in San Diego). It’s really impressive stuff (although for the price, anything is going to be impressive).

The other company is a German company called visiomatic. I think their hardware looks much better (so does my buddy which made the comment that visiomatic’s hardware looks like art, and AMX looks like computers) and judging from their site, it looks like it has more functionality (will automatically turn off the water main if there is a problem, can detect individual people in the house and automatically adjust music and lighting to their tastes, etc.) But the thing I don’t like about visiomatic (besides the fact they are on the other side of the world) is I can’t get any info from these guys. I’ve put in three different requests for info and/or contact, and I’ve gotten nothing so far. Makes me a little nervous with such a huge investment.