Hello all, I am kinda new to this kind of stuff and being a computer hardware nerd and my roommate being a small time programmer we wanted to see how this would be set up and a final cost of everything we need. So a couple of questions.
Does anyone have like a visio or a data diagram of how they have everything setup in there own home with what products they have and how it is linked.
I a first timer with this and any suggestions for a n00b?
Also ask yourself how much torment you and (perhaps more importantly) your spouse are willing to put up with. Home Automation is a pain in the ass. The old rule applies "good, fast cheap... pick two". The higher-end systems are expensive but can be configured to practically wipe your ass for you by voice control. You'll pay for that privilege, both in device costs and programming costs. Try and cheap out and go with lower end devices and you'll shift the burden of support and programming onto yourself. Your time isn't free, especially when it means the wife is getting really annoyed at not being able to just 'simply turn the lights on'. So be careful about just how 'cheaply' you think this can be accomplished.
You may also find automating things independently to be less expensive and more reliable. Sure, a sprinkler system that's integrated with a PC and can be controlled via the internet is a nifty idea. But then again, a $60 standalone setup running off a couple of AA batteries will keep cranking right along, unlike a crashed PC. I know, I've tried both. Look at it this way, thousands of dollars in dead landscaping is what to worry about, not some fancy PC interface.
Same deal with alarm and security setups. Yes, you can integrate it with a PC or other home automation system. But if you NEED it to do what it does, tying it up to an automation system 'just for kicks' isn't always such a great idea.
As usual, Bill makes some very valid points. However, there are a few mid-priced home automation systems around that are both user friendly and at least reasonable in cost. ELK Products' M1G system (which I support) and HAI's Omni series (which I don't support) are both worth of considering.
The ELK system is a UL-listed residential security and fire alarm panel as well as a full-blown home automation system. It plays nicely with numerous lighting and HVAC protocols, has an Ethernet card for web access and control, etc. HAI offers similar features but someone else may provide specifics. Both of these systems can be configured by a homeowner. Both also work with or without a PC and/or a web connection.
Lighting and HVAC control using some of the newer gear is much less of a PITA than in the past. Z-Wave (ELK yes; HAI no) compatible switches, dimmers and thermostats are available or under development from over a hundred firms, including many of the biggest names in the industry. Both systems also support the old standard, X10 (low cost but higher PITA quotient). I believe HAI also supports ALC (high cost and not retrofit friendly, but operates flawlessly once done).
If you plan to develop your own PC-centric system, write your own software, etc., you do have a lot of work ahead of you. For a one-up project it may not be worth the effort. OTOH, if the you plan to develop something to market go for it. One fellow I know bought a Napco P9600 security system a few years ago with the intention of doing just that. He wrote an HA software product called HomeSeer which is now one of the leading sellers in the DIY home automation market.
Not always true. My wife loves HA and is even more anxious than I am to get it up and running in our new house. When there's a problem or a programming request she let's me know and is patient while I debug new things. But then, she's a very special woman - that's why I married her. (Sci-Fi is her favorite channel too!)