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Electronic Gadget Ideas for a New House? 413

Posted by Cliff
from the going-beyond-wiring dept.
pmadden asks: "I'll be building a house this summer (standard straw bale construction, earth plaster, the whole low-tech gig). Naturally, I'll be putting gobs of ethernet in the walls, with drops to the rooms, on the roof, and so on. I'll add wireless too, once it's secure enough to keep all of you out. What gadgets should I plan for, so that I don't have to do a major retrofit? I'll have cables for TPZ cameras, for when they get super-cheap. We'll leave niches for putting in routers and stuff like that. What else? What cool thing will be cheap in a couple of years, leading my wife to ask, 'why didn't you plan for that'? Any recommendations for good Christmas light control systems, and so on?"
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Electronic Gadget Ideas for a New House?

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  • placeholder (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:22PM (#11725117)
    This is a placeholder, i will be referencing this when the dupe is posted.
    • When making a reference comment as an AC, you may want to include an MD5 sum of a phrase of your choosing. That way, when you refer back to it, you can demonstrate that it was really you.
    • Re:placeholder (Score:3, Interesting)

      by watsonta (259866)
      Be sure to put a Cat5 drop in the garage where you expect to put an irrigation controller. See AccuWater.com for the latest in weather-based irrigation controllers. (Disclaimer: I'm the inventor).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Today, you can get a lighting control system for any communication medium -- proprietary, ethernet, wireless. In my opinion, the wired ones are usually cheaper and more reliable than the wireless ones.

      If you plan to put in a lighting control system -- since you are energy conscious or you like to be able to set the mood or you just like another gadget to play with -- it might be prudent to think ahead and wire the house for it.

      (I know some people who claim that ethernet based dimmers work just fine, but i
  • Motorola (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MistabewM (17044)
    I was bombing around the motorola website the otherday and they now have home automation equipment that ties into your tv... could be worth looking at.
  • by reassor (817660)
    which is controlled by your Server and an Alarm is going off,when its empty. No,i am serious about that!
  • straw? (Score:4, Funny)

    by calebtucker (691882) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:23PM (#11725126) Journal
    question: why are you building your house out of straw?
    • Re:straw? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:25PM (#11725143)
      Bricks you fool, bricks!
    • He likes being surrounded by mold?

      Seriously, I wonder if the straw is treated for such first.
      • Re:straw? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ferretman (224859) <ferretman@gam e a i.com> on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:38PM (#11725232) Homepage
        It's not quite like that. We almost used strawbale construction before going with a different product (Polysteel) instead. Straw construction is very strong, makes for very thick walls, provide excellent insulation, and is relatively cheap. The straw is bound together in their bales and the whole wall sealed in plaster/concrete/etc. This makes the area they're in dry with no moisture, and hence no mold.

        Ferretman
        • Re:straw? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Digi-John (692918) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:51PM (#11725300) Journal
          This makes the area they're in dry with no moisture, and hence no mold.

          Dry with no moisture, you say? Impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the rare dry with moisture :-)

        • Re:straw? (Score:3, Informative)

          by thogard (43403)
          I have a friend who is planning a straw bail house. The wall seal isn't going to last more than a few years and once the bail absorbs moisture, its going to get very moldy if its mostly sealed up. My friends house is going to be a car port type roof and then bails for the non load bearing walls which will be a foot above the ground. The result is there will be that the concrete footer for the bails will take far more concrete than for a normal stud wall and a steel stud wall will be cheaper than the ext
          • Re:straw? (Score:3, Funny)

            by unitron (5733)
            "I have a friend who is planning a straw bail house."

            Anyone attemping to use straw for bail will probably soon discover that the government only takes cash or property bonds.

      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @11:47PM (#11726545)
        Typically, straw buildings are plastered onto a base of wire mesh. If you're using this method, be aware of the RF screening effect of wire mesh. Depending on whether you're using this and where you're using it, you might end up with RF screening that screws up Wifi.
    • apparantly he doesn't fear the big bad wolf.
    • Re:straw? (Score:5, Funny)

      by quandrum (652868) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:30PM (#11725183)
      Shhhh! No one has told him yet, but he's the first little piggy.
    • There are a whole bunch of reasons for choosing straw as a building material: it's cheap, enviornmentally friendly, an excellent insulator, breathable, and has great soundproofing qualities.
  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:26PM (#11725150)
    Wouldn't straw bale walls block wireless signals worse than normal walls? They are thick and are stuffed with organic material wrapped with chicken wire. This sounds like a recipe for bad reception...
    • by mboverload (657893) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:30PM (#11725179) Journal
      No, thats a good thing. If you want outside reception, you can buy an outside antenna. Otherwise it is good to keep the signal inside your house and safe from evil wardrivers (and your stupid neighbor trying to log into to your porno network share and deleting all your Asian...Yes, Bill, I know it was you!)
    • Straw is typically baled with baling twine, not chicken wire. The pictures on the linked site don't show chicken wire being used either.
      • Straw bale homes often have chicken wire laid over the straw as reinforcement for the facing, though.

        (We just got _Serious Straw Bale_, since we're looking at putting together a cohousing project and straw bale seems ideal. You got your sweat equity potential, you got your *really* good sound insulation between units. And we're in Kansas, so there's plenty of wheat straw around.)
    • I'm not so sure the future is wireless. Cat 5 is just so fast, so cheap, so reliable, not to mention secure. For new construction, it would just be silly not to lay down Cat 5 if not fiber.
      • For a new construction, it is silly to install Cat5. Cat5 limits you to 100 MBit/s, the current standard. Unless you want to re-install all cables within the next five years, you should at least install Cat6, which allows using Gigabit Ethernet (10 and 100 MBit/s still work on that cable). You should install some spare cables, so you can add further wall sockets or replace broken cables without having to open walls. Just install two cables whereever you need one cable. And install cable pairs not only in one corner of each room, use two to four different places, depending on the size of the room. Unlike conventional Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet uses all four pairs in the cable, so there are no longer unused pairs in the cable that could be used for a second device or as a replacement pair. You should use tubes so you can replace the cables later. You should have a small room with a little 19 inch rack for servers, switches, and patch panels. Your initial plan should not fill more than 50% of the rack.

        For a lot more of good tips, search for "structured cabling" [google.com].

        By the way: It is no problem to use Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6 or even Cat7 for ISDN or analoge telephone lines, and you should do this. It gives you a lot more flexibility. There are even solutions to drive video and audio signals over Cat5 or better, and depending on the quality of the cable, it should be possible to drive antenna or cable tv signals over Cat6 or Cat7, using an impedance adapter on each end.

        Tux2000

  • Air ducts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mboverload (657893) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:26PM (#11725154) Journal
    Have two air ducts availiable where your comptuer will be. Then you can pipe the hot air from a rear fan and PSU outside. Even better, you could also attach ducts to the front for ice-cold computing during the night or winter.
  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:27PM (#11725158)
    Put TV jacks in every room except bathrooms. I mean it, every room. You never know when the location of your TV will change.
    • by TomTraynor (82129) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:30PM (#11725184) Homepage
      And a telephone jack in the bathroom. Hello.... you are with a telemarketing firm, please hold a second.... (sound effect of taking a massive dump and then a flush).
      • There are serious applications to that..

        I live in a house that a person in a wheel chair used to live in. There is a phone jack right next to the toilet so that she didn't have to miss any calls (by worried family, doctors, etc)

        Plus, if she got stuck somehow, she could call for help..

        I don't have a phone mounted there at all. I only have one phone in my entire house and I don't even use it -- I use my cell phone. The ONLY reason I have it is that the phone company *forced* me into it just so I could h
    • why leave out the bathroom? I'm sure there are TVs out there that can stand 100% humidity (and above).
    • Don't forget having Cat-5 running in EVERY wall. It is important to be future friendly, especially with the new push for a "networked home".

      Also leave space for things such as the next generation of TV-connections and even devices you can not yet think of.

      • Oops, forget the Cat-5 part. With the advent of gigabiut internet youw ill be wanting CAT-6 and even CAT-7 for when it comes into common use. Wiring costs dirt, so load up on any connector you cna think up. It will also be a big plus if/when you sell the house.
        • Would it be possible to but plastic piping in the walls where wires could be really easily placed? This kind of system would allow for easy implementation of future wiring.
          • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @09:08PM (#11725778) Homepage Journal
            This topic has come up three times this week...

            I've seen electricians use pipes for home wiring (and one underground conduit for a light-industrial location). When you put in a new wire you insert the wire in one end, and attach a vacuum cleaner on the other end and suck the new wire through.

            I know very few people who have seen this system, including electricians. They think I'm crazy. But I swear I've seen it at least twice...
    • Related (Score:4, Interesting)

      by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail. c o m> on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:44PM (#11725260) Homepage Journal
      Your focus on gadgets is misplaced. You don't know what will come along. Instead focus on infrastructure. This means tv jacks in nearly every room, Gigabit ethernet in every room (maybe more than one per room), possibly fiber, and more. As for wireless, this can be added if and when you want if you already have the infrastructure in place. Also you may want to have a second set of infrastructure so you can use digital entertainment systems to send out digital content to any room in your house.
    • Put TV jacks in every room except bathrooms.

      Put a TV jack in the bathroom as well... Since the price of LCDs are dropping, you might find the morning or evening news a welcome addition to your daily shower.

      It is definitely a selling feature...
  • by johnpaul191 (240105) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:28PM (#11725163) Homepage
    my uncle was just in town recently and had the plans to the house he is building. they are putting sockets under the roof overhangs just for christmas lights and they will all go to one or two switches. on one hand it seems silly, but on another it makes a world of sense.

    as for everythng else maybe you want to try to keep some conduit space open for the future. honestly who knows what we will be using for TV or internet in even just a few years. will everyone have fibre in the house? will coax be gone? will CAT5 cable be old? is today's CAT5 cable going to be good enough for tomorrow's speeds? i don't know how much it matters in a house setup, but cable is rated for speed.

    you might as well plan for ethernet everywhere. wireless is easy, but ethernet is cheap to do from the start. if you put something along the lines of an Audrey http://audreyhacking.com/ [audreyhacking.com] in the kitchen, it would be nice to have the wires ready to go.
    • Excellent Point (Score:5, Informative)

      by eno2001 (527078) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:12PM (#11725414) Homepage Journal
      I've lived in and completely rewired (electrical) and wire (network) two old homes (1905 and 1914 respectively) during the past five years. The one thing that is key to being able to account for future developments is having at least two hollow channels from top to bottom that can be accessed on every floor. Typically, your plumbing is already run like that. Electrical less so, but it should be. And phone/data also should be. So since you're building from the ground up, make sure to have one channel for electricity and another for phone/data or just data if you plan on using VoIP.
  • What to do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TomTraynor (82129) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:28PM (#11725164) Homepage
    How about leaving an empty conduit so you can snake additional cabling (Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre, etc) for future expansion. Everything leads down to a central location in the basement so that you set that up as the location where the server, TV (cable or satellite), telephone are centrally located.
    • by KingDaveRa (620784) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:30PM (#11725178) Homepage
      Well failing that, you could always try raised floors and suspended ceilings - maybe even some cubicle partitions...
    • and leave heavy duty string in the conduit, that way when the time comes to add cable, just tie one end of the cable (and a new string!) to the string, and pull it through the other end, easy!
    • Re:What to do (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Piquan (49943) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:13PM (#11725416)

      Another good idea: run a string along the conduit. That way, when you have to pull something later, you can pull it on the string (along with a new string). Easier than using fishtape, and (in my not-so-experienced opinion) less concern about cracking fiber.

      When you're choosing the conduit's thickness, don't forget that you're likely to have some runs with some thick bits of cable; for example, your home entertainment center may eventually have RG6 (for the TV cable), cat5 and/or fiber (for the home entertainment PC and/or TiVo), four pairs of speaker wire (to the 7.1 system's surround speakers), a stereo pair of audio signal wires (to the house music distribution panel), plus some stuff I haven't considered. You'll need some more room in the bends to make sure that there's plenty of space and cables don't get kinked; cable kinking can do icky things to signals even when it doesn't affect DC.

      I'm no architect, so I don't know how much your choice of building materials here is going to affect fire risk. Talk to a pro to make sure that the conduit doesn't make your home into a firetrap (by channeling fire to all the house walls quickly). You may need to use plenum cables at some points. But again, I'm not a pro.

      • After you're done installing the cable ducts in your house, seal them up with some sort of wall plate and pressurize it with Halon. :)
      • by gremlin_591002 (548935) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @01:22AM (#11726925) Journal
        I am a pro. Use 3/4 inch conduit to all data/phone jacks. I like to put one next to every electrical outlet. Electrical outlets are almost always 1/2 inch conduit. Three twelve gauge wires fit easily into a 1/2 pipe and 12 guage will carry twenty amps. It's pretty rare to find an outlet that feeds more than twenty amps. You 'utility room' will have your hot water heater, electric load center and a wall mount rack for networking/AV gear. I like wall mounted because it keeps it out of the water. If you home run all your conduit then you're going to have one heck of a junction box. I like to mount it right above the server rack. Usually at least 12"x12"x6". In a traditional built dwelling I like a 1.5 - 2 inch conduit into both the attic and the crawl space. In a straw bail construction the south wall is usually the corridor/window wall for passive solar heating. I would run the big conduit pipe to there so it's easy to pull in stuff that got forgotten earlier. Try to design a drop ceiling for that front corridor, you can hide quite the cabling nightmare in that. :)
  • what you need to get yourself is everything managable form everywhere. x10 will be nice to electronicly controll your house! lights, alarm system, tv, sterio the whole thing. your server should be able to turn on some lights whenever you accessed it remotely from the bahama's (or probebly from your mothers when your flat broke after building it) http://www.traxsoft.com/emp/tc/myhouse.htm
  • Dilbert (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nifrith (860526) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:33PM (#11725197)
    Dilbert's Ultimate House [dilbert.com] might be a good place to start.
  • by HorsePunchKid (306850) <sns@severinghaus.org> on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:33PM (#11725199) Homepage
    You'll have a lot more luck searching for a good camera with pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities if you look for "PTZ camera [google.com]" (164,000 results) instead of TPZ camera [google.com]" (2,330 results).
  • Instead of worrying about stuffing in every kind of cable you can think of it might be better to work on conduits. If you have nice wide, easily strung conduit lines all over the place you don't need to worry about choosing things or the march of technology.

    Also, the chicken wire in straw-bale construction screams "Faraday Cage." Forget wireless.
  • by JPriest (547211) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:34PM (#11725204) Homepage
    The dilber author asked himself many of the same questions when building his house "Dilbert Ultimate house" [dilbert.com] or simply DUH. There is a portion of the site where he lists some poplular reader suggestions for the house and comments on some of the more practical and impractical ideas. This is not a complete answer to your question, but will help.

    As far as my suggestion, I say you should account for the possibility of having a small server room in your house. Such a room would should be easy to keep cool (basement?), fire resistant, and have some type of shielding from electromagnetic radiation (like thin sheet metal).

  • If you are at all interested in weather, think about putting in a wireless sensor package outside the house. I would look into the Davis Vantage Pro2 [davisnet.com]. The university that I work at has the original Pro and I am thinking about getting one myself. It works like a charm: current weather, trends, 48hr forecasts, and graphs all on the base station. Plus, there is great software available for free on Linux called meteo [othello.ch] that will populate a MySQL table with live data. Good stuff to then display using PHP and
  • Extra Cabling (Score:2, Informative)

    by Delta911Turbo (775275) *
    I would suggest putting lots of extra cabling in the walls. Even if you are not using the cabling it is much easier have it already in the wall instead of trying to run it again after the walls are already up. That means putting extra speaker/telephone/ethernet cabling everywhere, you never know what or where you might want to put something.

    If you are worried about using wireless within the house and are not concered with using it outside you could look into using this paint as your base coat to protect t
  • POWER! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MonGuSE (798397)
    I do not know the condition of the power system in your area. Are there alot of brownouts/blackouts spikes etc... Up untill recently I have had pretty bad luck with power so I would suggest look into putting in a central power conditioning system to protect all of those electronic goodies and if you are insane like I am and think your personal server needs five 9's for uptime you should look into a UPS system for your server(s) and possibly your network. Remember with Bush in the white house for another 3 y
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check out Control4 [control4.com].

    They came to our LUG this week to do a presentation. Really cool stuff they've got going. It all runs Linux, pretty hackable, etc. Control your lights, multiple audio feeds all over the house, and plenty more.

    I was pretty impressed with it all.
  • Suggestions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by axonal (732578) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:40PM (#11725246)
    Some interesting ideas would be the following. Some of these products can be found at smarthome.com

    Electric deadbolts. You could eventually link these puppies up to your computer and allow remote locking/unlocking of your house, possibly even remove the need of a key and use thumbprint identification instead.

    Be sure to put some ethernet ports near your major appliances. Some future appliances are planning to have network integration to let you know when they need to be fixed or require attention. Best Buy already sells a fridge with a wireless internet tablet.

    I'd also suggest putting fiber in at your important locations of data transfer. Your main office workstation, media center, etc. Also run wire for a 7.1 surround sound system, and if you want to add even more convience consider possibly installing a house wide audio system so you can pump music into each of your rooms.

    Also, you should possibly consider investing in VoIP. Rather than having to put in another jack for telephone, you could run everything through your ethernet.

    Consider your house's surroundings. You could install automated irrigation systems, lighting control, and as well as proximity gate/garage openers.

    Be sure to invest into a good security system to make sure no one steals everything you just put your money into. A good low-tech solution would be owning a dog.

    Keep in mind though, if you do plan to make an entirely large technologically saavy house, you should also install some house wide precautions. You should invest in a serious housewide surge protector/power conditioners. Perhaps even consider getting some sort of backup power supply incase of emergencies. In which case, you should also isolate your power outlets for critical systems that should run off the backup as well so you won't be wasting backup power on non-critical devices during power outages. Also take into account power saving devices, efficiency is good. Consider flourscent and low wattage lighting. Well setup HVAC systems will monitor your house's environment well and know how to properly adjust.
    • Maybe a wall safe would be a good thing to put in now, rather than cutting into the dry wall later.

      Poster mentioned PTZ cameras, but not where they'd be... Don't forget to run the cable high enough.

      Parent mentioned fingerprint scanners... What method of connectivity would those need? I'd hate to try to run USB through the house... hubs, everywhere!
  • by freelunch (258011) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:41PM (#11725247)
    Supply your in-ground sprinkler system with liquid propane and wire it to motion detectors.

    And please put it on a webcam so we can watch.

  • Might I reccomend running DMX cabling for indoor/outdoor light control? It's easy enough to get switchbox sized controllers that'll allow you to switch between light presets, plus, you could always install dimmers. ~Nick
  • alternate power grid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cynikal (513328) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:46PM (#11725271) Homepage
    The first thing i would be designing for a new house for myself would be a second power grid, either as a 12 volt grid running from a battery backup in the attic/basement, or simply alternate outlets in each room that run from a generator or power inverter from the car. either way my main concern would be to have a wiring scheme in place in the event of power failure where i can still run a few lights and essentials in any room without having to power the entire house and appliances off the main grid.
    • by technos (73414)
      Easier to plan in a few strategically placed battery backed emergency lights and a generator that can be switched to in event of a grid failure.
  • Solar DHW & Electric (Score:4, Interesting)

    by silicon dad (778893) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:48PM (#11725282)
    Consider Solar Hot water and Radiant heat.

    If your utility charges US$.17/KWH or
    more (PG&E customers with 2 * baseline
    in Silicon Valley) consider solar electric
    right away, otherwise put in the 600V
    DC wires from the roof to the electric
    meter for when the costs come down
    enough to make it attractive.
  • by demachina (71715) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:48PM (#11725284)
    I'd spend more time concentrating in efficiently heating and or cooling your house.

    If you live someplace with cold winters...

    Lots of well insulated south facing windows with eaves that overhang just the right amount so the windows are mostly in the shade from the eaves in the summer when the Sun is overheard but catch tons of sun in the winter when the Sun is lower on the horizon.

    Then put remote controlled motors on the curtains so that they automaticly open and close for optimal heat in the winter(all closed at night and open to the east in the morning to the south midday and to the west in the afternoon) and for optimal light and minimal heat in the summer(close the curtains on the east windows in the morning and the west windows in the afternoon when the sun is shining in them, and then open them for light when the Sun isn't shining on them.

    If the house is well insulated and you don't open the front door(or have a small entryway with two doors, to much you wont need much heat during the day in the winter. If you want to sink more money in to it you could probably bank some heat in water tanks or such and use them to keep the house warmer at night too.

    Passive solar aside, do plenty of research and find a very good digital thermostat and efficient heating, air conditioning system. You also want to be able to program it so it automaticly minimizes energy consumption during times you are always out of the house(at work or school), or in bed, and warms up the house just before you get up or cools it down just before you get home from work in the summer.
  • Time-Out Corner (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Takuryu (759826) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:54PM (#11725312)
    When planning your house for the future, you need to have one corner in one room of the house designed to have _no_ electronic hookups at all. If possible, you should also make it into a wireless dead-spot. That way, when your future child (heck, even those might be electronic gadgets by then) needs some discipline, you can send them to the corner for an experience of life in the 20th century (also known as "back when I was your age"). On second thought, you should have as many as you plan on having children...

    On a serious note, though... have you given thought to having one room without any hookups other than electric outlets? I have one room at my house that is my "escape" room. I don't have anything other than the room lights and a desk light in the room. I don't carry my cell-phone into the room. It is where I go to think, read books, practice playing music, etc... all free from the distractions of my gaming consoles by the TV, the new mail indicator flashing on the computer, etc.

    Your mileage may vary, of course... but when your mother-in-law/father-in-law/mother/father/etc come for a visit, you would also have a room that would be somewhat "safe" to put them in... "safe" meaning that your house doesn't burn down when they try to figure out how to turn down the radio.

    Takuryu

    PS: You could help out the economy here and buy one of our fine, high-tech toilets [theplumber.com].
  • Go for solar power (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grqb (410789) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:55PM (#11725322) Homepage Journal
    Design your house so that you can add a solar power array. Dollars to doughnuts there will be some incentives for doing stuff like this in the future and it might even save you money in the long run. You can add a 2.6kW solar array for $23,000 as was done in Rochester NY recently [thewatt.com], it works quite well. You can sell any excess power back to your utility and also check the status of your solar arrays online.
  • by dindi (78034) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:55PM (#11725329) Homepage
    i am planning a house too, and i will put my bedroom in a faraday cage.
    cellphone signals, computer radiation, high/low voltage cabling radiation goes byebye...

    if you plan it nicely you can still have your tv stuff there, just use a projector with mirrored image (back projection)

    why? just think of your office, the phone in your pocket... the phones next to you ...

    now you sleep 6-8 hours, at least have all the bad stuff shielded from you and your family - especially small kids ....

    on the other hand i always wanted a sensor like in johnny mnemonic that tells me the water temperature when i open the tap :) or be able to tell the tap if i want drinking cold or showering hot .....

    hmmm .. well a motion detector that places a nice red dot on anyone entering the area would be cool too ...

    more seriously: i really like the ideo of the house to be in different states depending on time and the number of people being home to automate lights (dicro filter is a nice touch for colour)/..
    also temperature control depending on users ...
    maybe have r2d2 bring my coffe or protein shake after my excercise
    • cellphone signals, computer radiation, high/low voltage cabling radiation goes byebye...

      Why not a nice tinfoil-lined coverall to go with your tinfoil hat? Then not only will all the bad RF radiation go away, the CIA won't be able to use their mind control beam on you.
      • yeyeye!
        or a faraday cage for my head for the daytime too ...

        actually as i heard the tinfoil is good for ufo mindcontrol stuff ... hmm maybe i just build a dome and tinfoil + mesh-wire cover it .... but then earth radiation will reflect back at me as it was a huge dish ... not good ... maybe i just leave that planet alltogether ..... information overload ... all these signals everywhere .... and that cellphone ... but wait i move to costa rica to avoid all that .. and now the local telco wants to
  • by mbrinkm (699240) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @07:57PM (#11725340)
    Whatever amounts or locations that you decide for any wiring (electrical, coax, cat3/5/6, speaker, fiber) install it in conduit. This gives you the ability to "upgrade" the wire in the future using the old as a pull wire for the new. Then in specific locations that you feel may need future capabilities (entertainment areas, computer areas, etc) add a second spare conduit with a pull string installed for potential expansion. One note, this can get VERY expensive so planning it to meet your budget while maximizing your flexibility is important. But, if you have the money, putting everything into conduit and have some spares in the walls can give you some peace of mind.
  • I don't think gadgets are really the way to go here. What you want is to make sure that you account for maximum bandwidth from each room to a centralized location. Cat 5 enhanced or Cat 6 would be currently good choices. As time progresses it appears that having every room wired allows you to do a multitude of things sine Ethernet seems like it will virtuall carry EVERYTHING (Multimedia, Internet, Phone, what have you). Probably a minimum of two drops per room with at least on drop up close to the ceili
  • I have been imaging a system for running wires in a house, that was intended to facilitate future types of wiring.

    I imagine pvc pipes running through most walls in the house. They would all lead to a closet in the basement where all of the networking, a/v, security, home control equipment would be.

    Regardless of the type of wiring, you could just knock a new hole in the wall where you knew the pvc pipe was and install what ever kind of outlet you wanted.
  • Erm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dasch (832632) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:03PM (#11725366)
    Christmas light control systems

    Do you mean an on/off switch?!

    *cough* crazy Americans!
  • Surge Protection (Score:2, Informative)

    by TheBillGates (266114)
    In your utility closet, have central surge protection for your phone and cable. It's far cheaper to buy industrial strength suppressors for your phone and cable modem than to have individual suppressors. If this will also house your server, put in a good UPS.
  • This isn't a gadget, but it's a life saver when you need to add new gadets, run new cable or fix a busted pipe. It's cheap, comes in many different sizes and styles and can be installed/repaired by anyone.
  • Speaking as a person who lived in a house that was the first on its block to be wired for electricity back in 1905 (completely ineptly, by the original owner of the house) I can tell you that power is a more faithful source of headaches than other sorts of wiring. You should probably worry more about power wiring than signal wiring. Figure out where your computers will go and wire that room as if it were a laundry room. Make sure your computers never share a circuit with a microwave oven or other high amper
  • Some Pointers: (Score:5, Informative)

    by RedLeg (22564) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:24PM (#11725497) Journal
    Out of order:
    • First, Wireless (IEEE 802.11) IS at the state to keep HaX0rz out. I know, I was on the task group (IEEE 802.11i) that did the work. The keywords to look for in the marketplace are WPA or WPA2. Now, YOU have to turn the security on, and WEP is not the answer. At this point, I would only recommend equipment that is WPA2 (IEEE 802.11i) capable, and recommend using the AES or CCMP crypto option. TKIP works, but CCPM is the better option.
    • For the home, Since you're talking about strawbale, I'd run at least a parallel set of conduit to each wall, in each room (some rooms will need more that one pull or pair per wall, think kitchen). One should be for power, the other for "media". Pull CAT6 to the wall where you THINK you want it, pull the pull string to ALL of the others so that you, or the person you sell to down the road has max flexibility.
    • Include a wiring closet in the plans. Make sure there's enuf room for at least one full height 19" equipment rack in there. Tie ALL of the media runs to this room. Bring the cable TV, broadband network, telecom, etc into this room and distribute from there. Consider tieing some of the aforementioned "media" (CAT5-6) into blocks on the wall TELCO style. This affords flexibility later.
    • Even if you ignore most of my other advice, NEVER allow a contractor to remove or not leave a pull string in a conduit run. With a conduit in place, and a pull string, you can retro-fit a,most anything cheaply.
    • I personally would pull a ~2" PVC pipe from each room to the wireing closet, and outfit it with a pull string, just in case.....


    If it's not already obvious, I'm advising you to build your house as if it were flex office space.
    • Re:Some Pointers: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NotoriousQ (457789)
      Even if you ignore most of my other advice, NEVER allow a contractor to remove or not leave a pull string in a conduit run

      That also typically means that you should have conduit runs...to everywhere you might consider it. Any closet could later become a server closet, so put two conduits to a closet as well.

      If your house is multi-story, you would probably want the conduits going between floors. It was the biggest PIA to get CAT5 going to the first floor in my house, as it felt like every conduit was hitti
  • Possible gadgets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MemoryAid (675811) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:33PM (#11725567)
    Since most responses ignore the question and talk about cabling (cable is not a gadget, electronic or otherwise), I will supply a few lame ideas:

    Weather monitoring station. Probably somewhere high up for the sensors, with a more convenient location for the display. Presumably, these will be LAN appliances some day, needing only ethernet.

    Digital interface for an aerial antenna. If you ever want to transmit pirate TV like the telestreet [indymedia.org] movement in Italy, or do the A/D conversion of over-the-air television closer to the source.

    Lighting control bus. Like X-10 works over power lines, perhaps more flexibility would be available if the control circuit has its own data bus.

    Irrigation control. Depending on climate, of course.

    Whole house audio.

    Whole house video.

    Toaster network. [casemodgod.com]

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head, except for the obvious computer network thing, of course.

  • You could embed glowstrips in the floor to delineate specific routes in your home for when you get in late, so you don't have to turn the lights on to get where you're going, and then have to make your way back to turn them off and bumping your way back in the dark to get to bed.
  • CONDUIT! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hobadee (787558) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @08:43PM (#11725616) Homepage Journal
    CONDUIT! For the love of God, CONDUIT!

    If you're really big on the idea of upgrading in the future, you seriously need conduit. It will save hours of your time in the future, as well as encourage you to do more upgrades! (Upgrade all my CAT-5 to CAT-5E, SURE! No prob!) Well, ok, so maybe it isn't quite that simple, but still, conduit will save you the hassle of drilling through walls, climbimg around in the attic and crawlspace.

    Also, make a central patch panel somewhere in your house. If it's already built, put it in the garage where your cable and phone come in, if the house is still in the planning stages, create an MDF room! (Where you house all your patching, as well as your file server and MP3 server than can play any song to any room in the house.)
  • at the corners of the eves, bring in 110 power and put them on a single circuit. then bring them back to a single box for a timer, or switch. Very handy for xmas lights.
  • Run conduit! (Score:3, Informative)

    by OmniGeek (72743) on Saturday February 19, 2005 @10:03PM (#11726055)
    Run conduit in the walls and ceilings, with a couple of pull strings in each pipe so you can run the newest kinds of cable (or replace older lines) after the fact.

    I've run conduit for some wiring retrofits, and you simply cannot beat it for sturdiness and ability to pur new stuff in. Power wiring has to be heavier when run in conduit, but yopu'll NEVER kill a circuit nailing up a shelf again.
  • Wire for DC! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Once&FutureRocketman (148585) <otvk4o702@sneCUR ... minus physicist> on Saturday February 19, 2005 @10:49PM (#11726311) Homepage
    Along side your regular AC house wiring, you should run DC wiring. You could install a single transformer running at the highest DC voltage you wish to supply, then install voltage dividers at each wall outlet, so that you can select the voltage you want at point of use.

    What does this mean? NO MORE WALL WARTS! Also, you'll save quite a bit of power because the wall warts are very inefficient and burn power (1-5 watts) even when nothing is plugged into them. In a modern (esp. geek) house, those multiple small loads running 24/7 add up really fast.
    • Re:Wire for DC! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wronskyMan (676763)
      Not a good idea- the reason high voltages are used is power=voltage*current, so for a given device, a higher voltage will mean a lower current; since resistive losses are poroportional to the square of the current, you will need MUCH thicker wires for DC (on the order of 1/2"). For example, common household 120V circuits are reated at 15A; if your computer uses 15A@12V from its power supply, this means only 1.5A@120V is needed, letting you use 8-9 computers (theoretically) on the same circuit, whereas if yo
    • Re:Wire for DC! (Score:5, Informative)

      by rco3 (198978) on Sunday February 20, 2005 @02:21AM (#11727180) Homepage
      DC wiring? Voltage dividers at each location? Are you nuts?

      This is poor advice.

      1) Well-designed wall warts are not that inefficient. Some geek with an ammeter who doesn't know the difference between real power and complex power may suggest otherwise, but he's wrong.

      2) Resistive voltage dividers are either a) mind-bogglingly poor regulators or b) mind-boggingly inefficient or c) both. Add in the fact that the resistors tend to get HOT, and you're got a recipe for unhappiness.

      3) Linear regulators, such as the venerable 7805, provide good regulation but the efficiency drops as the input voltage rises. Delivering 1 watt of power from a 5-volt regulator connected to a 24-volt supply is only 21% efficient - it wastes 4 watts to deliver 1! It also uses about 1/4 watt at idle (no load).

      4) AC transformers can easily be greater than 90% efficient. Choosing a secondary and rectifier to give you a 7.2 volt unregulated supply and then regulating it down to 5 V with a 7805 will deliver 5 watts with about 52% efficiency, and will draw around 65 mW with no load - far less than the 1-5 watts you've claimed. I'm curious to know exactly what sort of wall-wart is being described there.

      5) That 65 mW I calculated will cost (around here) far less than $1 per year. There are 8,760 hours in a year, which is 8.76 kilohours. A constant drain of 1 watt will result in an annual energy use of 8.76 kWh. Electricity at $0.114/kWh would result in an annual cost of exactly $1 for a constant ** 1 watt ** drain. You'd have to have a LOT of really inefficient wall-warts to justify running a complete secondary DC supply system, even if its efficiency were as good as you think it would be.

      6) Switching-supply wall warts can be much more efficient than linear regulators, and run cooler. 80%-90% under full load is common, although quiescent efficiency can be much less.

      In summary, anyone who suggests using high voltage DC and dividers to increase efficiency clearly knows nothing about power conversion OR efficiency. If you REALLY want to save power used by wall warts, don't listen to parent. Use switching-based wall warts and disconnect them when not using them. If you are really worried about saving $1/year, running a (thousand dollar or more) auxiliary power system is penny wise and pound foolish.
      • Re:Wire for DC! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hankwang (413283) *
        DC wiring? Voltage dividers at each location? Are you nuts?

        And in addition to the things you mention, you will get horrible grounding problems as soon as you connect two devices that were supposed to have independent power supplies. Maybe one of them uses a virtual ground at +2.5 V (e.g. computer loudspeakers), while the other doesn't (most digital electronics). Connect both to a computer and you will burn both of them, and possibly the router downstairs that is connected through the ethernet cable as wel

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