I've been researching a lot and reading this group's archives. I'm about to build a house and want to wire it up to "the nine's" I'm looking at whole house audio, distributed ir and video, alarm system, outdoor audio, x10 or insteon, and anything else you guys can think of.
My thoughts currently are HAI Hi-Fi for the whole house audio, 2 cat6/2 rg-6 to each room. I'm kind of lost at all the options. Power catches on the doors? Outdoor video surveillance? HAL 2000 voice control? I don't have to use all the options right now, just need to know how best to wire it to help me install this stuff in the future.
I wouldn't get bogged down on all the minute details of you can do at this point, especially voice control. But concenrate on wire paths throughout the home instead. So before the insulators and drywallers get there you need to get some buddies and wire/conduit it up. Or better yet home run 1.25 or 1.5 inch plastic conduit from termination room to a point near the floor in each room, from those points run 1 inch plastic conduit to wall switchs, speaker jacks, phone jack locations. Then let them drywall it up. Then when you move in just pull the wire yourself, thats what I did. And I have not even bothered to wire all the rooms yet based on lifestyle, but if I need to all I have to do is pull/push the wire down to the basement termination room. Last week I wanted another network jack in my wifes office for a fax, and it took all of 15 minutes to drop another cat5 to the basement and install the jack, I dred how long it would have taken to get the wire from the second story over the garage all the way down to the basement without conduit. With good open wire paths you can do anything you want later. Choose a central termination room first and hopefully you will be able to figure out everything while the carpenters are framing and you can actually see the passages/ blockages for wiring. If you want you can put in the dual runs of rg6qs and 3 runs of cat5 (voice, data, wallswitch) without conduit, but install conduit along those paths anyway for other wires in the future. Also consider pre-wiring the motion sensors so you wont have to use wireless ones, speakers, cameras (use wire with coax and power piggybacked for cameras). Getting caught up in anything other than having good accessable wiring paths at this point like software, brands, etc is jumping the gun. By accessable I mean having access panels, conduit, or whatever is needed to make new wire easier to install later as well as the pre-wire/conduit being installed before the drywall goes up.
I'd make sure you ran CAT-6 to every spot that you possibly, remotely thought you'd ever have a need to relay some sort of information. Whether it's an instruction, a voice, a picture, a video signal, a low voltage electrical signal, an Ethernet signal and just about anything else that travels through wires, you can likely run it through CAT6 with some sort of adapter. It's probably going to a universal standard for quite some time.
Run RG6QS for TV to the places that you never want to have to dig out and repair ever and as a backbone because in my (not universally agreed upon) opinion, the extra shielding provides some degree of protection from cable nicks and other mishaps. Run RG-59 and CAT6 to places where you might want to mount a video camera (attic, garage, bird feeder, etc). There are adapters that can run video, audio and 12VDC to power the cameras through a single coax cable. If you use those you won't have to run separate power cables and audio cables if you want sound as well.
Run conduit between floors and anywhere you think that adding cable is going to be very difficult in the future. An important consideration is the dollar per foot it costs to install cable in an open-walled, unfinished house as opposed to one that's finished and occupied. I'm sure that someone's worked those numbers. Off the cuff, I'd guess that it's a ten-to-one difference, especially if you're willing to convert SAF to $. The costs get even higher if some carpenter leaves a broken hammer head inside the wall cavity you're trying to drill through. (-:
If you are instaling Underfloor Heating or similar zone based heating...
Don't forget the room thermostats. Some now have network capability if you run the right number of wires to them. Some use CAT5 for example. At the very least this allows you to set all the time clocks from one location!
Make sure the electrical wiring is suitable.. For example in the UK you won't find a neutral wire behind most light switches but a neutral connection is needed for some home automation applications. Might be worth telling the electrician you want a neutral wire at all light switches and in the ceiling at all light fixtures. This means using wire with more cores.
Specify deep back boxes ones (in the UK that means 47mm). Many builders install shallow ones as they don't require the wall to be chased out.
When I was rewiring with a view to future HA, I ran every lighting and switch point back to a wiring centre (which was a depopulated Consumer Unit). Even prior to HA installation, this made it trivial to alter the switching arrangements when required. When I moved to HA, I mounted relays and some X10 professional modules on the CU DIN rail, and the conversion was easy because access to everything was in one place. I used triple and earth everywhere too, with multiple runs for multi-way switch points, just to give extra cores if needed (and could be used to supply a neutral to a switch point).
The wiring centre method makes this unnecessary, but it would be a good move if you aren't using a wiring centre and need to distribute X10 modules around. If you are starting from scratch, you can avoid X10 and use relays directly driven by a suitable ontroller. I only use X10 where I want dimming, or retrofitting HA to an installation without being able to get a hardwired control cable to the switch location. However, this is also influenced by X10 being much more expensive in the UK than the US.
I did centralized load switching when I remodeled my basement. Installed a 60 amp sub panel off the main 400 amp service, then each breaker of that went first to a switch bank, then out to the bsmt light fixtures (6 banks of 6 switches each for 36 fixtures). This is very unusual wiring but did make it a little easier. The only reason I did it was because X10 was my intention, and X10 is pretty unreliable so I wanted close-together devices some day. By the time I finished my basement (5 years later) Insteon was out and I am elated over that development because it has proven to be ultra-reliable (had it for a year already). I could have used conventinal wiring. But I dont think you would have much luck getting your builder and inspector to go along with a centralized load center for all your switches. It uses up about 4 times the amount of wire and it would be new to the electrician and costly. I think it's best to just make absolutely sure you have a neutral in every J box, and that the mud plates for switches dont have rounded openings so you can accomodate the rather wide Insteon switches, they are not deep but they use every millimeter possible of width. I would definitely go with Insteon and only use X10 if you absolutely have to for devices that are not yet available in Insteon (occupancy, photoelectrics, etc). Insteon devices talk X10 too.
Choosing your home run closet location is essential too, I find that a central location is best with all low voltage wires coming to there from relatively equal distances, instead of locating it off in some far flung corner where half the wires will be long runs.
Dont forget a central vacuum system tubing rough in either, now that I have central vac I cant imagine not having it.