Automating a home well requires communication pathways between the different things you want to control and automate. Light switches, audio-visual components, garage door openers, and climate control equipment–all of these can be harnessed only if there is a way to communicate with them.
A fully automated home will actually have two networks, an IP network and a ZigBee network.
- TCP/IP of course is the network you probably already have, providing wireless Internet access throughout much of your house. But most of us don’t have a network that’s ready for streaming video workloads, whether for TV’s or security cameras. That requires wired ethernet.
- ZigBee is a low-power, low-bandwith wireless protocol used in a lot of components for home automation. ZigBee provides amazing flexibility so that you don’t need to run ethernet cables or power cables to every component in the system you automate. ZigBee works as a mesh, so each component in the system can act as a wireless relay for all the others. Battery-powered components running ZigBee cannot act as a relay, but things like powered light switches and dimmers will.
To stream video to any room of the house requires bandwidth. So for the TCP/IP network in our house, I selected a 24-port gigabit switch from Luxul. Fortunately, my house is already wired with cat 5, which means I won’t need to pull much cable. I got a smaller, 8-port switch for our main entertainment center because there are several components to connect in there. I also picked up an 8-port Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switch.
Power-over-Ethernet gives great flexibility for things like a front-door camera or a wall-mounted touchscreen. Ethernet is required for streaming video, but with PoE you can run a touchscreen without running a power cable.
All of the dimmers and switches in a system work over ZigBee. In replacing existing switches, it also builds out multiple powered ZigBee nodes. That should create a pretty solid mesh throughout my house so that any battery-powered devices can be added. Controllers from Control4 include a ZigBee network, so for my 2,800 square foot home system I likely won’t need extra ZigBee networking components. (I’ll need to verify this notion.)
After I get the ethernet gear set up, I’ll put in the next post in this project.
Note: Control4 systems can be installed only by professionals. Go to the Control4 Dealer Locator to find an installer in your area.