Two Family Home: The Rules of Converting Your Single Family Into a

Building on to my House

Simple House Building / March 14, 2017

Article ImageDon’t get mad at me.

I AM one to embrace technology. I have current computer equipment, a wireless printer, an iPhone with a gazillion apps, an iPad, surround sound theater, a jacked Cannon digital camera, bluetooth, and a Smart House by Control 4.

The last one, though, is the one that gives me a rash.

I have been building my dream house for the last 4 years (Old Chinese Saying: House Done, Life Done) and had sales folks stopping by to convince me I needed more than I had planned for this, my hopefully last house. I hadn’t considered making the house a smart house. I was going to have state of the art lighting, nice surround sound, flat screen TV’s, a sound system, an alarm system, radiant heat and air conditioning. When the salesman told me this can all be controlled together, in conjunction with many convenient features like setting lighting scenes throughout the house with the push of a button, or have my lights shut, music go off, and garage doors close with the push of another, I began to get sucked in.

One company I was talking with proposed a comprehensive system for $120, 000 all inclusive. Well, this was going to trump the cost of my plumbing, electrical, HVAC, flooring, and slate roof. No way. Can’t even consider it, thanks for stopping by.

As I was getting on with the project I began to reengage with the idea that maybe I can have the smart house. Or, better, a PART of the smart house. I knew a low voltage wiring guy who wires these houses for a living, I could install all the basic equipment (TV’s, speakers and such) and do the house over several years setting up one TV at a time, holding off on the full-on sound system, adding the alarm to the system later…just making it scalable but setting up everything behind the walls ready for the full system if I happen to win the lottery. The initial commitment I would have to make is to the lighting. The lighting uses these special $150 switches and dimmers. I know, we are used to them costing $3-$27. These are little RF devices that talk to one another and, this system eliminates all 3 way wiring in the house. No longer do switches that operate lights from more than one location need to be connected by wire. The way it works is this: All switches, dimmers, and thermostats can be hid in closets and cabinets, not visible at all. One doesn’t need to ever touch them. They are controlled through the Zigbee network that will be in the house. The lighting switch legs go directly to this hidden dimmer in the cabinet. No 3-way wiring. So, the house is easier to wire for the electrician, making that a little cheaper.

Then there are the keypads. The keypads are populated buy the “buttons” that get programmed to control the hidden light switches. These are single gang, standard electrical boxes with 110V power fed to them. The keypads come with anywhere from 1 to 6 buttons on them. The idea here is to eliminate a gang of 3 to 6 switches and/or dimmers and consolidate into a slick single package. These buttons can be programmed to do anything, and they are specially labeled. For instance, on either side of my bed is a 6 button keypad. There is a button called “GOODNIGHT”. Goodnight shuts off all the house lights both inside and out, music, TV’s, illuminates the cupola on top of the house, closes the garage doors, sets the alarm, and lowers the temperature in the house to 65 degrees in the winter, and 70 degrees in the summer. There is another button called “PATH TO BATH”. When you wake up in the middle of the night, one sees a dim blue indicator light (the color and intensity of each buttons indicator light can be programmed too), once pushed the lights slowly illuminate and provide a lit up path to a dimmed bathroom. After done, walking back to bed, the alarm motion sensors feel you walking by and shut off the lights behind you until your in bed and stop moving, then the rest of the bedroom lights go off. Pretty cool.