Building a new house? Post your SuperHouse automation ideas!

I wanted to start a thread that we can reference on our thoughts and ideas for building a smart house. If you’re building a new house from scratch or doing some remodeling, what are things you would like to have done?

Here’s some of the things I usually suggest:

  1. Running as much Cat5/6 as possible. Run into every wall plate at least 2x cables. Consider going into ceiling lights even perhaps for future use. Not just for hardwiring networked devices, but for doing other things like Jon’s fancy light switches.
    1a. Run a few drops to each room as well. Maybe one set of two on opposite walls. Just makes it easier later on to plug stuff in.

  2. Hardwired door and window sensors going back to a networking closet. Something like these

  3. USB outlets in every room. They make ‘sensing’ ones that only run the DC converter when things are plugged in. You can obviously easily add these at any time, but when you’re building a house, spending $300 for nearly every outlet to have USB basically adds nothing. And consider USB-C since most things are going that way.

  4. Oversided gang boxes. I just found this one out this past week. My house was built with a lot of double-gang boxes when only a single-gang lightswitch is visible. This gives more room inside for wires and adding larger components like smart switches. (Yes, I know that Code does dictacte the number of wires in a box of ‘x’ size; but this would be going above and beyond).

  5. Planning media cabinets. I think most home builders ask this anyways, but I’ll throw it out here. It is nice to just have a TV visible, and all the gear is behind the wall in a closet, or around the corner not visible. Running speaker wires and so-on is a good idea. Perhaps just run speaker wire just like with the rest of the hard-wiring back to a media cabinet.

  6. Hardwired smoke detectors are code now, so you should already have them. Go and get some fire extinguishers also!

  7. Having Line & Neutral inside the light switch gang box is Code now as well in the US, so all new construction should have this also. If not, request it. If you’re up for it, go whole-hog and run every switch back to a central switch panel to control them from there.

  8. Hardwired motion & light sensors in every room and hallway would be super nice. Now that I’ve upgraded my house to basically all smart lighting, I want them to turn off automatically; but don’t have these sensors. The nice thing about motion sensors is they don’t rely on bluetooth beacons and being unique to each person.

  9. Smart outlets would be pretty nice also. Again, paying 10’s of thousands for a new house, and throwing in $500 for outlets doesn’t make too much difference.

These are just my thoughts. What else would you consider cool ideas for new smart homes?

Better than running cat5/cat6 EVERYWHERE…
Run conduit (just the flexible type…) to every box. Yes, it’s gonna cost. But, you’ll look back on it & thank yourself profusely.

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Well said @Tinker CAT5 and CAT6 might become outdated, so rather only use the cables now that are needed now, but get the pipes in place to future proof it.

@aspork42 Do you think active and neutral need to be wired to the switches when going the PoE route? If so, why?

Yes - Active and Neutral should always be in the switch box. This allows easier compatibility long term; and keeps things standard.

@aspork42, maybe you should pin this to the top.

Also. i was going through the RJ45 Light Switch Calculator which you came up with, specially looking at the relays you didn’t recommend. Given that i am in Australia, i was looking to purchase of an Australian website, that way i know that it would be AU rated.

I found this. https://au.rs-online.com/web/p/non-latching-relays/7943746/

Be interested to see what relay Jon used in his setup, once again, no recommendations, just sharing information.

HI Blackdart…you can buy Ice cube relays from most electrical wholesalers here in Australia…Personally im a fan of omron relays…

I like to think of things i.t.o. hierarchy of needs…

  1. Safety & Security - Alarm, Locks, Safety sensors.
  2. Health - Air quality, temp, humidity, light, sound
  3. Family, Social & Entertainment - TV & Wifi (What is the world coming to!).
  4. Utilities & Money - energy, water, connectivity, consumption
  5. Comfort - heating, cooling, shades
  6. Convenience - motion sense, hands-free, voice, A.I.
  7. Creative outlet - It’s a hobby. Do fun stuff.

Things I wish I did with my new build last year… Hindsight in 2020…

  • 20mm Conduits everywhere. With draw-wire. Cat6 is nice but not if you change your mind on routing.
  • Extra space in outlet boxes and light switch boxes. Lucky I did double-depth on the light switches but didn’t on the wall sockets.
  • Better planning to occupy the electrician. They go for the quick and easy route but charge the same per point. Make them do all the code work up front - like wiring relays and switches - but that requires a detailed spec and plan from you. Don’t let them figure out this is going to be a smart home… Then the price doubles just because.

Rudie

If running conduits to everywhere is expensive - run conduit at least to the roof space from your home automation hub / server rack. From there you have access to your ceiling so you can install different sensors, it will cover all rooms in a single storey or at least all bedrooms and main bathrooms in a double storey house. And also your security cameras under your eaves, wifi access point or anything else sitting in your attic which requires POE/LAN etc.

I have just seen Jonathans live stream regarding building a new house.
There is a question that keep pop into my mind…

Why exactly is it important to keep things standard?

I know all the stuff regarding the electrician dont know etc… But honestly, neither standard wiring or non-standard wiring has to become a problem, even for an electrician (I´m an originally educated electrician many years ago).

In Denmark where I live, most electricians do learn about ethernet connections as well as standard household wirings. They even learn how to code a PLC, which is infact the same as a smarthome system in many ways.

We have the same discussions in Denmark - People are afraid of going beyond standard. But look at it from this perspecitive:
The wiring isnt rocket science. Most of it, the electrician already know. He knows what a switch is, he knows what a relay is. What he dont know is how the wiring are done, (from where to where). Thats basicly just a question of documentation. If the documentation is there, he will figure it out in just a few seconds. If not, he should find something else to do :slight_smile:

What the eletrcian may not know, is the logic behind the actual smarthome. This is where one will have to seperate the wirings and the logic behind. This is where specialized people come in hand. But this is beyond the basic wirings to me.

If I was ever to build a new house, I honestly wouldnt care about standards. There are too many compromises to be taken care of, and in my opinion, its worth nothing other than limiting your new house. Thats not my way of thinking for a new house. We simply have to step beyond standards, otherweise we´ll get nowhere except for limiting ourself.

Just my opionion about this.

Very valid points Kandersen.

The thing about standards is there are so many to choose from :slight_smile:

Where standards do help is where it makes it easy for a standard electrician to keep your home compliant - and keep the place from burning down. But the only “standards” that should apply here in my opinion is that electricity runs over specified wires gauges and is interrupted by a switch of the appropriate rating. Any electrician will understand a basic wiring diagram with switches, relays and safety devices. Or so I thought.

In South Africa where I live, our sparkies must comply with the SANS 10142-1 (Edition 2) standard. What infuriates me a little is in order to understand what is in this standard, you need to purchase the document from the local standards body! (or be a registered electrician). Fortunately a few “leaks” out there gives one a sense of what is required and it does give some good guidance on how not to kill yourself or others.

But where I agree we should be left to our own devices is in the logic and functioning of the smart home like you say. This is why I follow an approach of putting “dumb” relays into mains voltage switchable circuits and toggle those with smart devices physically separate from the actual switch. Mains wired by electrician, controller plugged in by me. Although I love the compactness of the Sonoff devices I don’t like putting mains voltage and logic voltage and logic function into the same unit. It feels like wiring a light switch directly into your brain with a piece of twisted pair wires. A creative DIY’er can get it to work but it would be considered non-standard practice by a “professional” - and I guess this is why they don’t like it. However, if the professional installs a “standards-compliant” relay and then let you plug the wires from the opto-coupler directly into your brain, he can wash his hands of your experimentation - and you are less likely to do stupid things with mains voltages.

What I’m advocating here for is an understanding between hobbyists and regulators to let us play with our toys with complete freedom - but in a safe and compliant way. If there is mutual understanding of what they are trying to achieve and what we want to do perhaps there would be “minimum standards for home automation” emerging that will satisfy both.

Back to reality however… While we wait for that, all I can suggest is to involve a registered professional in at least the planning phase of your new smart home. If they say the relay is okay then I say yay! Maybe there is an enterprising electrician out there that can start an online consultancy and help us out with design?

Love the idea of running some larger conduit @Serg. It would be a good idea to plan a network closet on each floor and have some extra conduit running between them all.

@Kandersen keeping things standard is a double-edged sword. You’re probably only on this forum because you like to customize things (something I think we all share). I work in a production level machinery environment and every time we customize a machine, we have to take care to do lots of extra documentation and training. Our field technicians are factory-trained, and they always complain when things dont work like ‘normal’ or are wired differently. So even in the best case scenario, it can be difficult to stray too far. You have to understand that once you’re going out on your own, you and you alone may be the only person who can quickly resolve an issue.

Having the documentation accurate and up to date; and accessible is a big plus; but can still cause trained people to throw their hands up. They have to now know hardware and software; but they won’t easily have access to the software to test and debug.

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I am in the very lucky position of currently building my own house. We have designed it, the frame is up and it is watertight and are going to spend the next few years doing as much of the building work ourselves as we are under no time pressures.

I am doing the laying out of the wiring myself and have a neighbour who is a qualified electrician and will connect it all up and certify it, but we do have an open book as to how we do everything as long as it fits within our building regulations.

I have been listening to your hanguts and watching your videos for the last few months during lockdown and am enthused to get involved with your discussion and project on lighting systems.

Being a newbie who has spent time working with control systems and I have a few thoughts on how I envisaged controlling my lighting and what I would like to do and why! My partner see’s it from a practical standpoint of what does she gain and what does it cost. I just want to make life easier and see it as ideal time to plan out the controls for my new house.

Your ideal set up you’ve discussed seems to be based on a star arrangement of supply to each light with the ability to retrofit a ‘Standard System’ of switches should you sell your house.

I was already thinking on similar lines however went down the serial lighting power supply loops to a 4 or five way junction box for each light fitting.
From the junction box I intend to run a 3 core and earth cable down to each wall mounted switch box. In the UK it is standard cable used for 2 way, 3way etc lighting circuits.

Scenario 1:

I use Sonoff TX style lighting switches, all running tasmota (thank you for your guides) or similar as my partner loves the look, or if standard switches are used a Sonoff mini or similar. I’ve played around on a test jig and using nodered and MQTT all works like a dream. 1 way, multiple way and Alexa or google control. Really simple to get working.
I have yet to decide how best to do a multiple way switch with a dimmer, but got it working with a tuya-connect tasmotized Moes dimmer. Not sure that is the best way to do that.

All lights work. I’m lucky I will still be able to get too 80% of the junction boxes if modification is required in the future.

Live, neutral, switched live and earth all available at the wall box.

If we sell with the wiring in place I can connect normal lighting circuits as standard. 5 – 10 mins per switch.

Scenario 2:

Similar system as above but I also run network cable to each wall box. Future proof but caused my electrician to raise his eyebrows as to if he could happily sign off the work with the network cable being in such close proximity to the high voltage power circuits. As discussing in length on your online chat. Can see advantages, but would love to hear see more of your thoughts on if the extra effort and cabling will be worth it. Every room has at least one Ethernet port in it, tbh I have kept them separated only crossing at 90 deg to stop possible interference.

Scenario 3:

I revert to your star supply idea.

I never considered it as the extra amount of cable and routing of the high voltage and networking cabling did not seem to make sense. Or actually, until I read it, I had never thought of doing it that way.

I have the space to do it as I have designed a plant room in the centre of the house, but again would be interested to follow yours and others threads of thought as to the advantages over the cost and complication of the different methods.

Important thing to me:

Future proofing. Improve or revert back to basic standard system if required.

Need it to work without instructions! Anybody can walk into the house and the lights work as they would expect.

Need it to work without any internet, realistically on a limited basis if internal network goes down.

Provides me data on what state things are in.

Ability to run a script to turn on or off lights when arriving home or going out.

I will be following this thread and would be happy to get involved in developing any ideas or testing anything out here in the UK. I am in the lucky position my time is my own.

Keep Safe
John

With regards previous thread on this:

1: Cat 6. Every room mostly to 2 point.

2: Door sensors. Only outside doors 6 downstairs. Was thinking Zigbee? Agree hardwired maybe better.

3: Definitely. One at least in each room. Did thin about having a 5 volt ring but went off the idea.

4: All my light boxes will pull out. Noggins put inside the walls to hold other future tech like Sonoff mini etc. Large space in each stud partition pre designed.

5: Media Cabinet: already designed into spec. pre hardwiring every room for speakers.

6: Hardwired Smoke CO2 Heat all interconnected. Part of UK Building Regs now. No home automation feed though. Need to think on best way to do that with certified alarms.

7: Done: 3 core and earth to each wall box. Yet to be convinced about back to cabinet.

8: Motion sensors: Not yet decided which way to go.

9: Smart outlets: Intend to use some with sonoff basics or similar. Not found UK spec built in that I like.

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I have started owner-building a house in Australia in 2015… life threw a spanner in the works, and it is only now that I can continue the build. When I started out, I made the call of not having any light switches. Mostly perceived with disbelieve at the time, but far more accepted today.
I spent significant time to make sure I making the right decisions, and am comfortable with my current approach.

In essence:

  • I will have no light switches; if these are ever needed, enOcean type switches will do. Given the amount of lights in the house, being dimmable, working in groups (scenes), there is no other way.
  • In consultation with my electrician and legislative/code requirements, the best approach is to work in the ELV (extra low voltage) space, thus allowing DIY work.
  • Only the power outlets are 240V mains, nothing else (other than some kitchen appliances, and external roller shutters)
  • Any ELV wiring is standard TPE (twin cable plus earth, double insulated, or 3 core plus earth)
  • Extensive data cabling (Ethernet) into each room, etc.
  • All lighting (all LEDs) wiring and Ethernet will run into a central distribution enclosure.

Of course, some form of control must exist. Each room will have a touch screen powered by a Raspberry Pi (with 7 an 10 inch screens). The lot managed by openHAB using Ethernet and MQTT for any communication.
The rooms have motion and presence sensors, temp, humidity and VOC sensors.
The house is a passive house; no heating, no cooling.

I hope in a year’s time, the build is complete.

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Hi all,

Im relatively new here and to home automation, and have been madly watching videos and reading up on everything that I can.

I am also in the process of doing a new house build as a owner builder here in Australia, and am looking at options to future proof for home automation in terms of lighting and gpo’s as much as possible with the electrician. Am wanting to have a traditional light switch setup initially which i can progress to automating and also revert back to standard operation in the event I decide to sell in the future.

My thoughts at present are to undertake the following to future proof as much as possible;

  • to run conduits with draw wires or cat 5e cable to each light socket and gpo all wired back to a cabinet next to my switchboard… would look to have wired smart light switches in the future at some stage
  • Run network cables to roof cavities in conduit in each designated room for sensors etc back to cabinet…
  • Reed switches and cabling for home alarm to each window and external door, garage
  • Oversised gang boxes everywhere with usb sockets as required

Where im stuggling is deciding what the best option in regards to electrical wiring options for the lights, with current thoughts being individual wire runs to each rooms light circuit back to the switchboard so that a standard switch works for the room, which in the future can have the switch removed and reinstalled as required with a smar switch and lan wires in conduit.

Im not sure if this is the best option, but is a thought at the moment… would love to hear what other peoples ideas and installations may be :slight_smile:

Kind Regards
Anghel