Building a new Home around LinuxMCE
- 1 Intro
- 2 The central hub
- 3 Provide extra connectivity to your Home Entertainment Center
- 4 Controllers versus hard wiring
- 4.1 Plan integration with home security
- 4.2 Plan integration with your swimming pool controls
- 4.3 Plan integration with your HVAC system and thermostats
- 4.4 Plan integration with your sprinklers and outdoor lighting
- 4.5 Garage door opener integration
- 4.6 Automatic curtain controls
- 4.7 Wiring Considerations
The ultimate piece of hardware: your home.
Think of it as a big computer case.
New construction is the ideal time to plan for a LinuxMCE system.
Here are some lessons learned and advice when integrating a LinuxMCE system into your construction plans.
The central hub
While wireless is quite popular, interference is always a worry for some homeowners and homebuilders. Therefore, hardwiring Ethernet is still the most popular way to create a home network.
Each room that has a phone jack or a cable jack ought to have an Ethernet jack as well. All Cat-5 or Cat-6 wiring from the RJ-45 Ethernet jacks in each room should be run to a central closet that is constructed specifically as a communications hub. It doesn't add significant construction cost to run an extra CAT-5 wire at the same time as other low-voltage lines (such as cable, phone, and speaker wires).
(In the future, fiber optic cable between all rooms will be desirable, but I don't know how to do that in 2008, and it isn't economically feasible at this time).
This communications closet should have its own air-conditioning duct, since there will be multiple electronics components in it. These components may end up being expensive, so an indoor location is advised (it is too easy to break into a garage). Furthermore, garage temperatures may fluctuate far more significantly than they will in an indoor location.
The closet should not be part of a utility room, as the humidity and heat from washer machines and dryers are not very nice for electronics.
The communications closet should not be next to a bedroom or area that requires quiet, such as a baby nursery. Some components may have noisy fans.
The communications closet should have all the telephone, cable, and Ethernet (CAT-5) wiring terminating in patch panels inside it. Any satellite, cable, or other external data sources should also terminate there as well.
The communications closet should have multiple electrical outlets -- the more the better. I have twelve outlets in mine, and it still is not enough! (I hate extension cord octopi).
If you wire security cameras into the home, end the surveillance wiring in the communications closet as well. Plan for a rack mount for the camera interface, which usually requires power and a panel for RCA outputs and/or Ethernet connections (if the cameras are Ethernet connected).
All speaker wires should terminate in the communication closet as well, and should terminate in a well-marked patch panel with high-quality banana plug female connectors. When you place speaker wire, it is best to include in-line volume knobs locally in each room. It is very difficult to put these in later.
You should plan in advance that a large amplifier with enough channels and powerful enough to power all speakers in the house will be situated in the communications closet. Make sure a sturdy shelf is available to support it, with adequate power. This can be a lower shelf.
The LinuxMCE Core server PC will be in the closet, obviously. It will be connected to one or two routers. At least one router must be wireless, and should be on a high shelf.
Although the PC to be used as the LinuxMCE server can eventually be "headless" (no monitor), until your system is functional it will be easier if you have room for a small monitor on the shelf next to the server. It is also easiest if the shelf holding the PC server has a slide-out drawer on which you can rest a keyboard and mouse.
Anyone who has seen a modern complex telephone PBX in an office building will have seen this type of setup.
Provide extra connectivity to your Home Entertainment Center
Many contractors place much of the wiring noted above in the living room, with the intent of building a home entertainment center around the wiring. Avoid the temptation to do this. That was a construction technique from the 1990s and is outdated with the concept of a central Core server used to control your entire home.
Nevertheless, it is still useful to provide an extra RJ-45 jack with CAT-5 wiring to your Entertainment Center (i.e. 2 RJ-45 jacks/wires for Ethernet connections), in addition to your cable (if desired).
This provides opportunity for a redundant system, or at least a local access point or switch/router in your living room. Note that there are many iPod interfaces that will connect to a RJ-45 jack.
While not strictly necessary, it has been very helpful for me.
Controllers versus hard wiring
You must now decide whether you want switches for many of the large functions of your home in the communications closet, or whether you will use a home automation system like X10 or Insteon (or Z-wave).
If you use one of these home automation systems, buy the switches in advance and install them at the initial construction, instead of traditional switches. It is much less expensive to install them at the outset, making your home ready for home automation, than to swap them out later.
Plan integration with home security
All motion detectors and door contacts used for security systems should also terminate in your communications closet, especially if you are not using the X10 or Insteon type of systems. If you already have a home security system, locate it in the communications closet temporarily, while you transition to a total LinuxMCE solution.
Plan integration with your swimming pool controls
The swimming pool can be controlled by the LinuxMCE system. Make sure you plan to place the controls planned in the communications closet, or at least use X10 or Insteon (or Jandy) controllers for the pool switches.
Plan integration with your HVAC system and thermostats
This is one of the primary reasons to use LinuxMCE: to effect energy savings from an automated home. If you have radiant heat, additonal water heaters, redundant air conditioning systems, make sure all of them have a control terminus in the communications closet, or at least X10 or Insteon compatible thermostats.
Most HVAC contractors are used to a very simple thermostat. You must insist on installing a thermostat compatible with your X10, Insteon, or other home automation control. If not, then all HVAC control wiring should pass though the communications closet and have an additional switch placed there. This is one of the most important and most often neglected steps in a new construction, when home automation is planned.
Also don't forget your whole-house fan switch.
My home has a whole house fan, radiant heat, and two HVAC systems. I have mechanized doors that close off a large part of the house at night (so I don't have to heat the whole house). Each is most efficient at a different time of year, and depending on the weather. Only a computerized system can remember all the variables.
Plan integration with your sprinklers and outdoor lighting
Yep, you guessed it. Controls should be here (or at least X10/Insteon compatibility). I never said the communications closet should be small. It's a walk-in closet, right?
Garage door opener integration
Of course. But this is easily accomplished with X10/Insteon switches.
By now you should think of yourself as a house neurosurgeon. Your job is to keep the brain of the house healthy.
Automatic curtain controls
My neighbor has them: motorized curtains. They are important for keeping parts of his house cool. They can be controlled by LinuxMCE through the X10/Insteon interfaces. Make sure the curtain switch is compliant.