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Good afternoon,

I am looking at a house that is currently being build as our new main residence, i.e. still time to run all cabling. I am a techno-nerd, started dabbling in home auto-mation with Smartthings back in 2013, but now want to jump to the big leagues. I spoke with a rep from C4 Corporate out in Salt Lake just to go preliminary needs and see if Control4 would be right for my family. The house is 2 main living levels + full basement (will not be finished off right away) plus a playroom in the attic area (again, will not be finished right away). I've planned out my network requirements already; I ran about 2 miles of Cat6a in my current home to get proper wifi and network performance for all streaming devices etc etc. I am a big believer of hardwiring a device that doesn't move, leaving wifi for phones/laptops/tablets. My plan is to do the same in this house. Everything will be homerun to the rack in the basement storage area. Which now begs the question; what hardware am I looking at here? Here is some practical information for you experts:

Multi-zone audio:
8-10 zones of audio (each zone may have 2-8 in-ceiling speakers). I'm thinking audio matrix, C4-16ZAMSV3-B, combined with external/"dumb" amps. The main/pretty much the ONLY source of audio is Spotify. Here are the zones I've thought of:
Family Room, Kitchen, Breakfast Area, Dining Room, Master bedroom, Master bathroom, Guest bath 1, Guest bath 2, Playroom, Outdoor (possibly split in to 2 zones)

Audio/Video:
Family room has 5.1 setup Denon AVR w/ Klipsch speakers + sub. The AVR will be in the network rack in the basement with the rest of the gear. Currently our only sources are Cable STB and Apple TV but I'm thinking I may swap in the nVidia Shield, they are amazing, however we are an all Apple family, so working within one ecosystem has been a breeze. Would love to have the Neeo remote here.
Bedrooms (4 total) will have a TV with Cable STB as the only sources. Unsure on brand of TVs or if each room will get a TV, but I will plan to pre-wire for them anyway. The Master Bedroom will definitely have a TV with STB and possibly nVidia Shield.
Basement will house pseudo-man cave, this will have it’s own Projector/AVR/Speakers etc… no need to tie that in just yet. It will use the equipment in my current house, but wont do much with it until we decide to finish it off. 

Lighting:
Ability to control all light switches and dimmers throughout the house. By my count from the blueprints, about 30 2-way switches and 15-20 3-way switches. 

Shades:
Ability to control some shades/blinds if we decide to used motorized shades/blinds. I have them in the master bedroom at my current house, dual-roller and motorized, the rear roller is blackout with the front roller is light filtering and I gotta tell ya, they are awesome. 

Security:
Control locks for exterior doors, most likely 2-3 doors (there are sliders on the deck, not sure how they could be locked remotely). I'm assuming they would use keypads for all. I'd like to have the Doorstation for front/main entrance. I've never had this functionality before, so I'm curious about people's experience with them. Both my parents and my wife's parents have the Ring Doorbell which I really like the idea of, but hate the product itself. 

Climate:
Control 2 zones of air conditioning. We currently use 2 nest thermostats but I really don't like them. Just want to be able to control the thermostat remotely when needed.

Ideally all of these features would be controlled via C4 App on our iPhones, Neeo remote, and T-3 Wall display if I decide they are worth it.

So this is what I'm currently thinking in terms of Control4 hardware, most of it makes sense to me, but not sure which controller I need:

(1) C4-WMB-B Wireless Music Bridge
(1) C4-16ZAMSV3-B
(x) Amps to satisfy the number of speakers/zones. Probably Russound or Niles, I've used them in the past and like their price-point. 
(1) C4-LU642D 4K Matrix Switch w Audio Downmixing + the HDBT receivers in the bedrooms.
(1) C4-EA5 ?? No idea which controller I need. The rep from C4 corporate kept telling me it depends on the number of "streams" I want. I know what streaming is, but have no idea what it means in this context. My wife and I are going to be the ones streaming music from Spotify to the various zones in the house. Or we'd use the T3 wall display if we are hosting a party so people can use it too. 

So happy I found this forum, it's been an excellent resource so far. Thanks in advance!!

 

EDIT: I came across this guide and found it to be very helpful, but can't understand the need for extra controllers for the "Medium" and "Large" Residential A/V Solutions. So I was working off of the "Small Residential A/V Solution" on Pages 6 and 7.
https://aplusautomation.com/pdf/Entertainment_solutions_guide.pdf

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One thing jumps out to me. It may be overkill for you to have a video matrix (if some of your sources are going to be at the TV anyway. Just something to consider. The reality is that everything is moving to streaming anyway. And it's going to be way cheaper for you to get Apple TVs/Rokus at each TV over using HDbaseT.

It might make more sense for you to just have HDBaseT for your receiver (but no matrix). 

Shades won't be an issue since those are primarily wireless (although can be wired too). Lutron is great.

As for lighting, since you seem DIY-oriented. You may want to consider RadioRa2. Those can be purchased as a consumer (and programmed), but are "professional" and have great compatibility with C4. 

Neeo - I'd read the feedback on that before you jump in. And see if you can test one out first.  

Thermostats  - even though they aren't fancy looking. I'd probably get C4 ones. Ecobee seems to constantly get disconnected for me. 

Locks - love them. I have Yale. Just make sure you are getting C4-compatible ones. 

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Thanks for the tips, I was contemplating the video matrix, and was unsure if I really need one. You bring up a great point about cost of not getting the matrix and just using the local device, i.e. Cable STB and nVidia shield (hardwired) at each location. As for the family room AVR, it will be in the rack along with the Cable STB, AppleTV4k, nVidia shield, so it would be a short HDMI run. 

I'll look in to the RadioRa2. For some reason I have it in my head that I need to buy the C4 lighting switches for it to work properly. 

The only reason I say I want the Neeo, I currently use the Logitech Harmony Elite in the family room and wanted something similar. Way back before they got purchased by C4, I was debating on getting in on their kickstarter. 

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I'd really test a Neeo out if you can. They are not for everybody. I personally hate them. But others here have sung its praises. They can be tricky to use with normal cable boxes though. Most people who say they like the Neeo have cut the cord. 

As for C4 Lighting vs. Lutron, you'll want to dig into the specifics. There are some differences in terms of functionality, especially with respect to keypad functionality. But they are relatively minor, and would just depend on the specifics of what you are looking to control. I personally like not having a single point of failure, which is why I chose Lutron. And Lutron's system is a solid as solid can be. You will literally not find a single piece of negative feedback about the reliability of their products (at least the professional ones). The final consideration is whether you want panelized lighting or not. Lutron has that too, but it is not diy, and I suspect C4 is going to be way cheaper in that regard.  

Finally, I'm a huge believer in Roku. And the reason for that is private listening mode. I don't know of a single other streamer with that feature. The basic idea is you can stream the audio through your phone. That is awesome for night viewing, and even better because it means you don't have to screw around with pairing your headphones to different devices. 

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one big reason for C4 lighting - increased zigbee strength.  Zigbee is a mesh network that runs C4.  Each lighting device helps increase your mesh signal/strength.  No 3rd party lighting system will do.  The larger the install, the more zigbee coverage you need.

The single/double/triple tap features of the C4 keypads are great.

Though you need to buy through a dealer, you can program the keypads once installed by the dealer in your project.  There is software you can buy called Composer Home Edition that lets you do all the programming - just not creating projects, creating rooms, adding/binding hardware, etc.  

The drawback to c4 lighting is the engraved backlighting.  It looks slick in marketing material.  Even with the newer "black bars" the light sensors are super sensitive and if you have 2 or more devices (keypad, dimmer, switch) in a single bank good luck getting them to all be the same intensity back light color.  So though I have engraved keypads I rarely if ever use the backlighting.

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3 minutes ago, eggzlot said:

one big reason for C4 lighting - increased zigbee strength.  Zigbee is a mesh network that runs C4.  Each lighting device helps increase your mesh signal/strength.  No 3rd party lighting system will do.  The larger the install, the more zigbee coverage you need.

The single/double/triple tap features of the C4 keypads are great.

Though you need to buy through a dealer, you can program the keypads once installed by the dealer in your project.  There is software you can buy called Composer Home Edition that lets you do all the programming - just not creating projects, creating rooms, adding/binding hardware, etc.  

The drawback to c4 lighting is the engraved backlighting.  It looks slick in marketing material.  Even with the newer "black bars" the light sensors are super sensitive and if you have 2 or more devices (keypad, dimmer, switch) in a single bank good luck getting them to all be the same intensity back light color.  So though I have engraved keypads I rarely if ever use the backlighting.

The Neeo remotes use WiFi I thought? Or are they also affected by Zigbee coverage?

Also totally agree about the lighting. They look slick but the plastics are cheap. The engravings also look nice but the backlighting is terrible. I leave the backlights on full brightness in rooms that tend to be dark (like my upstairs hallway). In rooms where it's always bright, I shut the backlights off. The auto adjusting always seems to settle on some greenish tint on all the Configurable Keypads (not the Keypad Dimmers). Doesn't matter what sensor bar I used, I gave up on them. Those new sensor bars didn't improve anything with the terrible light sensor they used IMO.

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4 minutes ago, EverAction said:

The Neeo remotes use WiFi I thought? Or are they also affected by Zigbee coverage?

Also totally agree about the lighting. They look slick but the plastics are cheap. The engravings also look nice but the backlighting is terrible. I leave the backlights on full brightness in rooms that tend to be dark (like my upstairs hallway). In rooms where it's always bright, I shut the backlights off. The auto adjusting always seems to settle on some greenish tint on all the Configurable Keypads (not the Keypad Dimmers). Doesn't matter what sensor bar I used, I gave up on them. Those new sensor bars didn't improve anything with the terrible light sensor they used IMO.

Neeo uses wifi

But the system in general runs on Zigbee.  

another idea on climate - we use the C4 tstats.  Ugly as sin i agree.  You can find these for like half the price around $20-$25 I just cannot find the link right now - but its a remote sensor that is wired (not wireless) that runs between the Tstat and the location.  So you install these flush on the wall and you can leave as is or paint over it.  not really noticeable at all: https://www.workaci.com/content/acp-pbs so you have a wired solution, not using the cloud (nest/ecobee) using the basic C4 TStat but just removing the ugly tstats and putting them in a boiler room or something.

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Lighting - C4 is a must but forget the 2 way / 3 ways switch idea.  That is not how C4 works.  Once you have a light in the system, it can be set up (programmed or bound) to connect to any button on ay lighting keypad.  If you have dimmable loads, use keypad dimmers.  If you have loads that cannot dim, try and hide the Physical switches away and control these loads from another keypad.

Controller - sounds like an EA3 would be enough for you in terms of streaming, but I’d still recommend an EA5 - if you can afford it - for the extra horse power.

Neeo - took me a while to love it, but I love it now. Test it first as recommended above. For cable, you can make it a good option by using experience buttons.  My advice, get 6 experience buttons on your home screen and program a “home” command every time you change source.

Wireless music bridge - scrap that idea.

Thermostats - I agree with others... C4 are the best, but ugly.  Hide them away in the same place as you hide any light switches (see above). I hid my light switches in cupboards and kept keypads in the rooms.  However, I left the thermostats on the wall (not an issue frankly, but I would rather have hidden them away). 

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  • Lighting - Can go with Control4 and have plenty of options.  If construction isn't that far along I'd look at their Centralized lighting option.  This eliminates all of the wall clutter and simplifies your electrical plan and troubleshooting.  If not hiding as many loads as possible and using programmable keypads is a good alternative.
  • Controller - agree with SA C4 - EA5 all the way on this.  It's robust and will handle your system as you scale.
  • Remotes/Interface - I like the NEEO's (have 6 in the house) and have 2 SR250's.  The 250's have gone in the drawer now that the network here is more stable and upgraded.  They operate off the wifi so be sure your network is robust.  Mine will occasionally lock up briefly and just is a quick 30 second restart of the device
  • Multi-Zone Audio - Recommend Triad Audio Matrix.  Have had unit installed along with three 8-zone Triad Amps and works great.  They do run a bit hot so your integrator may want to install AC Infinity fans between them in the rack.
  • Video -  Would recommend looking at AVPro Edge 4k Matrix instead of C4.  More robust and reliable in my experience.  Currently have a C4 4K Matrix and at least one channel cuts out semi-regularly.  Ended up installing OVRc enabled Wattboxes and programmed reset to handle this.  Would recommend a Wattbox and OvrC devices to plug in for remote reset of devices anyhow (i.e. ,modem, router, switches, audio matrix, video matrix, cameras, etc).  Huge time and money saver from service calls and the associated expense.
  • Security - Like the DS2 door station from C4 (2N is the actual OEM).  Integrates into phone via Intercom Anywhere app and touchscreens if you install thru the home. For locks as long as they are C4 compatible you're good to go.  Have Yale Locks with touchscreen on both gates and Baldwin locks for all doors to the home.  The Baldwin have been installed for 7 years with no issues.  The Yale Locks for just over a year with no issue.  They get exposed to extreme heat here (Vegas - 115 degrees) and the occasional rain storms with no issues.
  • Climate - Would have to agree with others on the Control4 thermostats (OEM Aprilaire).  I have Nest units integrated and worked fine until Google migrated everything over in the last few months.  It still works but has been a pain.  
  • Network - Wire to everywhere you think you may need even if it's just a wish and not a 'today' project.  Can attest to doing this on my home as a retrofit and would have been far less expensive if just did all the runs to everywhere imaginable upfront than doing so after the fact.

Enjoy the project!

 

Last there is a video on YouTube that's quite long but informative worth watching in small bits: 

 

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I had all lutron radio ra lighting in my control4 home but then it became so much extra work to create scenes. You need to create your scenes in lutron then call them up in control4 programming. 
 

Then if you want to tweak a scene, back to lutron. If you have control4 lighting , you can easily tweak the scene right on your touch panel or phone using the control4 app. 
 

And only control4 lighting extends your zigbee mesh. 

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Definitely go with video matrix. What's the point of having such a unified solution and not have the ability to sync up all tv's in the house. 
 

the feature is a must for parties. Even guests using my bathroom get to view the music videos that I play during gathering. 
 

I also only have to rent one cable box from my provider. 
 

also TVs that sync is also great while cleaning the house. Put on a show or video throughout and enjoy it in each room. Very wasteful, but hey... c4....

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Since its a clean buildout, I also recommend:

- AV Closet with active ventilation. My closet is in remote part of my house and heavily insulated. So no noice. I have two high efficient 8” duct fans - one that pulls air from a low vent in my living area and one that returns air back to the living area (but in an area that is not heavily trafficked as it will be noticeably warmer). You do not want to supply direct heat into the AV closet.

- I suggest installing 2” conduit from the AV Closet to each TV so you are future proofed.

- Blind power: I ran 16/4 to each window from my AV closet for power. I went with Qmotion shades which only require Cat 5e or better for power. I suggest you choose your shades, determine what is required for power, and run the smallest (diameter) and most flexible wire possible to each window. I have doors with shades and so had builder install power hinges. Works great.

- Garage Doors and Master Water Control Valve: run control wire from your overhead motors to your AV closet.

- Cameras: Run Cat6 to each potential camera location.

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3 hours ago, JSTRONG said:

I had all lutron radio ra lighting in my control4 home but then it became so much extra work to create scenes. You need to create your scenes in lutron then call them up in control4 programming. 
 

Then if you want to tweak a scene, back to lutron. If you have control4 lighting , you can easily tweak the scene right on your touch panel or phone using the control4 app. 
 

And only control4 lighting extends your zigbee mesh. 

This is definetly true. But it’s not like you are doing this every day. It’s also technically possible to do it without creating scenes in Lutron, but I wouldn’t recommend it as the lights won’t be synchronized.

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And another benefit of using control4 lighting is in addition to controlling lights, you can have dedicated volume control and audio video control as well right on your lighting keypads. 
 

Garage door left open? Light up your control4 lighting keypad dimmer Garage button red. I use a keypad button to monitor my pond water level. I tried to send programming back and forth to lutron and never could get those things to work. 

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Thank you all very much, I have a lot to consider. I'm still not completely sure on how the lighting system works, I had figured they were unique switches in a sense that they are similar to the GE z-wave ones that work with Smartthings. I tried to do some research on the panelized lighting but don't fully grasp the point of it. Either way, it is probably a moot point because the rough-in electric will be done shortly and there is no way to change it without a major backup. 

I plan to run smurf-tube/conduit to all the main points; basement to main TV in family room, basement to attic, cuz ya never know! That's what I did in my current house, my 44U rack sits in the basement with 2 24-port patch panels, 48 port POE switch, USG Router, Modem, Logitech Harmony Hub, Smartthings hub, Switched PDU, 3 cable STBs, bunch of Sonos AMPS, Sonos connect, 2 AVRs, and my homemade Server running UnRaid (holds ~30TB of movies/TV shows) as well as a host of other applications/VMs/Dockers. Plus 2 UPS units at the bottom. The new one will sit in a very large storage area so I'm not over concerned about extra ventilation.

Just so I'm clear on the music streaming, if I were to just have an EA-5, I could have multiple Spotify streams in multiple zones throughout the house? I currently have about 7 Sonos zones in my house and can have a different song playing in each. The likelihood of this ever happening is damn near 0, but I just want to understand the limitations.

Unfortunately this may be all for naught, we had a very big hiccup in the deal so it may not ever become a reality. I knew that the second I made this post, something would go wrong.... I have a tendency to get ahead of myself at times! Thank you all very much for your help thus far!

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1 hour ago, swipes said:

Just so I'm clear on the music streaming, if I were to just have an EA-5, I could have multiple Spotify streams in multiple zones throughout the house? I currently have about 7 Sonos zones in my house and can have a different song playing in each. The likelihood of this ever happening is damn near 0, but I just want to understand the limitations.

EA5 = 5 streams of audio. So yes, you can have up to 5 separate streams of spotify playing in multple zones.

 

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If the electrical runs for your lighting loads have already been done then you wouldn't be able to do panelized lighting.  The video here from Tym Homes based in Utah  shows an example on a new construction.  I wasn't able to it on my existing home.  But in areas that had 3 & 4 gang plates originally I just put in a single 6 button keypad and hid the 4-loads behind walls in cabinets, etc to get rid of the wall clutter.  That may be overkill in your case and for most people.  In the future with a new home or teardown/remodel I'll definitely do the panelized lighting.

For the rack the ventilation is important.  If you can put a mini-split unit in that'd be ideal to control ventilation and temperatures in that space.  Also units like those from AC Infinity are useful for the amps/devices that run hot.  

The other big thing that's been great is the WattBox and OvrC devices.  I used to have the Pakedge system with BakPak and switched over to Araknis and OvrC enabled devices.  This will allow you to do your own resets and your integrator to spot problems before you may notice.  

Co-sign on JSTRONG on the EA5 -- done with Tidal here but works great.  

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@gregheard Thanks for posting those videos... still working my way through the pieces of the long one, but the level of detail is very helpful. I'm familiar with Tym Homes, I've watched a few of their videos to get an idea of what I'm getting in to with C4/Crestron/Savant. It helps explain the theory behind panelized/centralized lighting but it seems like a lot of extra work if you already have rough-in electric done, this would need to be done before that phase. Also, unsure of how high on the WAF the 6 buttons would be. 

 

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FWIW, I just ripped out my video matrix and went with an Apple TV 4k at every major TV. I got rid of all Cable STBs and went with Hulu, Netflix and Prime Video as apps on all the AppleTVs. A 4k matrix can be upwards of $10k so I think the cost savings + easy of use at each TV is better than this way.

If you go with an EA controller you do not need the wireless music bridge. I just took a wireless music bridge out of my system because I switched to EAs.

If you think you might do cameras later, go walk around your house and pick spots in the eaves where you might want to see a camera and run some more Cat6 there so you aren't trying to do it later when the insulation is all in.  If I were doing my cameras again I'd have added two more spots, basically wanting coverage wide front, wide back, driveway, front door, front yard, and the ones I didn't think about were the access gates into the backyard.

Since you're pre-electric install, if you plan on doing a whole home generator later, or an interlocking kit or power transfer switch for a portable since those would go near the main panel anyway.

Good luck with the new construction, it sounds exciting!

 

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On 8/7/2020 at 9:05 PM, eggzlot said:

Neeo uses wifi

But the system in general runs on Zigbee.  

If you are using Neeo remotes and panelised or non-c4 wireless lighting throughout then you really don't need Zigbee at all, it would only be of use for SR260 remotes and C4 wireless light switches. If you wanted SR260 remotes but not the wireless lighting then add a CA1 to each room and run ZServer on there. The remote wouldn't be able to roam the house, but in 99% of the installs I've done the remotes stay in the same room all the time any way.

 

On 8/9/2020 at 1:19 AM, JSTRONG said:

EA5 = 5 streams of audio. So yes, you can have up to 5 separate streams of spotify playing in multple zones.

 

Just one thing that often catches people out, one of the streams of audio from an EA controller is presented on the HDMI output so needs to be converted to digital coax/analog to use with an Audio Matrix. This conversion can lead to sync issues with other zones.

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