Hi Everyone. I’m new to the community as of today. My wife and I are in the process of building a new home and the contractor recently told me to start thinking about what I want the electrician to do. I hadn’t put much thought into a smart home before, but I have spent probably 50 hours of reading in the past 2 weeks. I have some questions and I wanted to share what I’m looking to do. I’m hoping you all can help guide me and/or offer some advice as far as setup, what brands, if I’m forgetting or missing something, etc. I apologize, but this is going to be long.
Home Details: About 3,500 sq ft of living space on the first 2 floors. With basement is about 5,000, however basement is not going to be finished at this time. I share this as I believe the distance between smart devices is important but help me out here.
1st Floor: Foyer, Office, Kid Play Room, Dining Room, Large Family Room (open to 2nd floor ceiling, Kitchen, Small Hallway and 1/2 Bath, and 3 Car Garage.
2nd Floor: 4 Bedrooms (3 on One Side, Master on the Other), Laundry Room Near Master Bedroom, Guest Bath, and Large Master Bathroom & Closet.
Brands I’m Looking to Buy:
Google Home (I’m a google person)
Logitech Harmony Hub
SkyBell HD Doorbell
GE Z-Wave Outlets
GE Z-Wave On/Off Light Switches
GE Z-Wave Dimmers
Nest Smoke/CO Detector
Haiku Fan in Family Room (Integrates with Nest)
LIFX Smart Bulbs for recessed lighting
LIFX LED Strips for under cabinet lighting
Arlo Pro (though I’m hoping a 1080p camera is released soon)
SONOS (though a bit confused if this is the right fit for my goals)
Various Sensors (Window, Motion, Door)
Liftmaster Garage Door Opener (with the WiFI MyIQ smarts)
Smart Vents (Keen b/c can integrate with Nest)
My goals are pretty extreme. I want nearly every outlet and switch to be smart, everything integrated, lights, sensors, cameras, everything to be controlled by voice (even TV hence the Logitech Harmony hub), etc. Also, I’m looking to install router, all hubs, etc in the basement so they are out of sight. However, I will have the upstairs washer room wired with an ethernet jack, so can install another router/booster if needed. Make sense?
Electrical & Lighting:
Ok, now let me try and articulate how I’m set up my draft schematic. Almost every room in the house will have a ethernet jack wired into it (all bedrooms, office, kid play room, family room, garage). Just seemed smart to do that while we are building. Ok, so let me say that as of right now, other than the outlets for washer/dryer, and my basic kitchen appliances, EVERY other outlet in the house is the GE Z-Wave. Also, in some rooms, for example the 1st floor office, I am planning on wiring running GE Z-Wave On/Off Switches with the GE Z-Wave outlets in the room (6 outlets/2 switches, so 3 outlets per switch). I know that may seem a bit unnecessary, but since the smart outlet only has 1 of the 2 plugs as “smart” I like the idea of being able to mix and match ultimate control over the outlet. For instance, I could have a light and modem plugged into the outlet, turn off the light via the outlet, but if I really wanted everything turned off, I could turn off the entire outlet via the switch.
For rooms with chandeliers, I plan on installing the GE Z-Wave dimmer switch. To the extent we will have recessed lighting (family room), I plan on just using a GE Z-Wave On/Off Switch and the LIFX bulbs. I like LIFX over Philips Hue because they are brighter and do not require a hub. Since LIFX integrates with Google & Smartthings, I will be able to dim the lights anyway and change colors (and if I one day regret it, I can easily wire in a dimmer and use standard LED bulbs).
I will have areas of the house like the hallways and garage where I’m going to run the GE Z-Wave smart outlets with no corresponding wall switch. I still want to be able to turn things on/off remotely, hence why I want the outlets. For instance in bathrooms, my wife is famous for leaving her curling iron plugged in. If I have the outlets, I can make sure power is cut from anywhere just in case she forgets.
Ok, so hopefully from an outlet and light switch perspective that makes sense and you guys don’t see obvious issues with my grand plans thus far.
Now let’s talk about security. On all of my doors, I plan on running the August Lock & Connect so I can lock my doors from anywhere in the world. I figure the locks, along with the SkyBell doorbell should be pretty cool. As far as cameras I’m up in the air and need advice. Let’s talk outdoor cameras first. I’ll likely run about 5-6 outdoor cameras. How do you feel about hardwiring cameras, vs plug-in (for power) wifi cameras, vs wire-free (battery & wifi) cameras? I have the opportunity to simply wire the house for outdoor cameras, but I’m not sure that’s the route I want to go. There are 2 options I’ve been exploring. The first option is simply going with the Arlo Pro outdoor cameras, which are completely wireless (run on battery and wifi). I know I’d be swapping batteries every 2 months for high traffic areas (4-6 months for lower traffic areas). Downside to Arlo is that you can only run 5 cameras on 1 account so if I wanted to use them for indoor as well, I’d need to pay a monthly subscription plan. The second option is maybe the Nest outdoor cameras, but with a twist. I’d have the electrician run power wires from the basement to the outdoor mounting locations, and then I’d install the cameras myself, splicing (cutting the nest power wire) the power wires together and then plugging all of them in in the basement. That way I don’t need to mess with batteries. I like the Nest/Arlo cameras because they have the 2-way audio/video so I could talk to intruders (or anyone else) from any camera vs just seeing them. Obviously, there is a 3rd option in which I buy a home security system with hardwired cameras and the recorders, etc…I just don’t know if I need all that jazz. I’m hoping Alro Pro comes out with 1080p cameras by the end of the year when I’d be doing this.
Also, in regard to the cameras I was thinking I’d run standard outdoor flood lights (hooked to GE Z-Wave smart switches from inside the house) and mount my smart cameras just under the flood lights. Then when the cameras sense motion and turn on, I would also have my flood lights turn on during night time. Essentially, creating motion sensing flood lights. Make sense? Also, if I use the LIFX+ bulbs in the flood lights, will the infrared really help my outdoor cameras see better at night?
Not to get too sidetracked, but what about Lorex POE/NVR 4K system? I know the cameras can’t do 2 way audio, but they are a lot clearer and better cameras. Does anyone know if the FLIR app on Lorex systems can be integrated with Smart Things? Or through IFTTT? For instance, would I be able to do the motion sensor idea to have the flood lights turn on?
What about battery sensors vs trying to get hardwired sensor while the house is being built? Any thoughts here? I know very little. May be way too expensive to wire every window/door in reality.
Cameras In General:
In terms of smart cameras I’ve been looking at Nest, Canary Flex and Arlo Pro. Focusing on the outdoor setup, Nest needs to be plugged in, so if I went that route, I’d have to get my electrician to do as I noted earlier, and run electrical wiring to each mounting spot, cut and splice the power wires myself and then plug them all in in the basement on 1 electrical strip. I don’t want wires running down the inside of my walls. The Canary Flex seems decent, but the Arlo Pro consistently gets better reviews and seems to work better. Anyone have any strong feelings about camera set ups? What about Nest vs Arlo Pro. Is one a better camera than the other when it comes to night vision, etc?
As far as indoor, I think I’m going to stick with battery powered cameras so I don’t have wires to hide. Likely Arlo Pro. Only problem may become how many cameras I can operate on 1 account/hub with the Arlo. If I use Arlo for both outdoor and indoor, I’d be looking at their Elite plan for up to 15 cameras I guess. Nest doesn’t have a limit on cameras, correct? Other thoughts?
Let’s now talk Audio/Video. I am looking to have audio throughout the entire house. I like the idea of Sonos, but I am not mounting speakers on every wall in my house (I don’t like how that looks). I am realistically going to have to do mostly in-ceiling/in-wall speakers throughout the house and they look super clean when installed. However, I also want a surround sound setup in the family room where our main TV will be. All of this being said, I need to figure out how I can wire all of this together so I can have different rooms playing different music, or all the same music, all hooked together. So for instance, I need a way I can triangulate my 5.1 surround sound in the family room so the 5.1 surround actually works when we watch movies, but also have these speakers integrated with the 20 other speakers I’ll have throughout the house for when we want to play music. Any thoughts? I am a bit out of my league here. I fear I am going to need a bunch of different Sonos like Amps (with Chromecast) in order to make this work, and then a separate entertain system amp for the surround sound that I hook something like Chromecast to.
I am also looking to have a Haiku fan installed in the famliy room since this rooms’ ceiling is open to the 2nd floor. It integrates directly with Nest so should help save some money on my electric bill. Also, I’ve been reading about these smart vents that integrate with Nest as well to close vents in various rooms that either aren’t in use and/or the room is already at the set temperature (such that the flow of air is redirected to rooms that need it more). Thought that sounds pretty cool and the batteries apparently last around 2 years.
Other Misc Questions:
- Can GE on/off switches be used with flourescent bulbs (ie in the garage)?
- Do I have any issues with the “load” or amount of power being drawn on the GE outlets? For instance, in the garage if I’m running a big piece of machinery I may need a devoted 20 amp circuit. Can the GE outlets handle that?
- If I buy standard outdoor flood lights and use the LIFX+ outdoor bulb that emits infrared, will it really help my outdoor security cameras see better at night? I know inside the house it makes sense, but a bit skeptical for outside.
- I keep reading that dimmer switches can’t be used with smart LED bulbs. Any other guidance you can share?
- Wired vs battery sensors?
- Hardwired vs battery cameras?
- If I put all my hubs, etc in the basement does that cause any issues?
Any reactions or thoughts you all have I would really appreciate. Thank you so much!