Project to replace large Control4 system

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:09 pm
crofford offline
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Project to replace large Control4 system

I've been an Indigo user for about 15 years and have been spoiled by the ability to do my own stuff. I just bought a ridiculously large house that has a big Control4 setup. The original Control4 implementation and most of the electronics were installed around 2007. I thought I'd use this forum to solicit input on how to replace practically everything and/or integrate other things that are currently standalone. I've been in the house since the end January 2021 and I'm still discovering new things or researching stuff that I've discovered.
I'll get into details for each area as we go but here's a brief overview of the scope:
-15,000 sq ft house on 3.5 acres, detached one bedroom casita, covered bbq ramada, one attached garage and one detached garage
-Home theater
-Whole home in-ceiling audio and also outdoor audio in a front courtyard and throughout backyard (at least 16 zones...,that I know about), current sources are two Sonos units with Pandora, TuneIn, DirecTV, DVD changer
-Whole home video distribution (component video), current video sources are two DirecTV units, two Apple TV units, Blu-Ray, 100 disk DVD changer, Netflix/Hulu/Amazon, etc
-10 managed thermostats
-90% of light switches on Control4...and there's a lot of them
-house phone is on a Panasonic PBX
-entry gate to property with DoorKing keypad integrated to house phone
-doorbell at courtyard entry integrated to home phone
-various pool equipment with iAquaLink phone app
-Septic system with monitoring
-Closed circuit cameras
-GE NetworX security system
-low voltage landscape lighting
-irrigation system

The good thing is there's Cat5e and RG6 all over the place but it's a rats nest in the two distribution closets.
My first step is to clean up and replace the network infrastructure...that will be my next post.

I'm sure I've left off some big things but that's all the top-of-mind stuff. I'll be back after I eat with the first update.
Thanks all,
David

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:20 pm
FlyingDiver offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

Is the lighting actually Control4 switches? Or something else (Lutron?) controlled by the C4 system? Because if it's Control4 switches, you're probably better off updating the C4 processor than changing out all the switches. That's going to be really expensive.

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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:22 pm
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

Also, do you have the C4 Home Control app (I forget what it's called). The one that allows you to do most of your own programming? If not, I think it's only $150 and that includes a year of their 4sight service (cloud interface).

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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 1:13 pm
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

They are Control4 light switches and there are a gazillion of them.
The app is OS2.
You make a good point and I've been pondering that.
I don't think I want to continue to buy Control4 switches when they need to be replaced, and since there are a gazillion of them, and they're 13 years old, I assume that'll be happening. There are a couple that I think need to be replaced already.
Maybe the C4 unit can be milked for awhile for lighting, or even that single piece should be upgraded, but other major components will be replaced fairly soon. As A/V gets treated more like data and rides on the native IP network, matrix switches are obsolete. For example, I think I'm close to pulling the trigger on VSSL a.6's for the audio distribution. Each zone will be an Airplay 2 target just like HomePods and AppleTV's. I'll get into the details of this shortly.

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 1:18 pm
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

To clarify, the software version of my C4 phone app is OS2. The customization app is called "Composer" and I don't have that yet.

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:14 pm
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

All the wiring in the house appears to run to two distribution points. One is where the telecom providers come into the house - I think I'll name that the MDF. This is where the internet cable modem, PBX, alarm, gate entry, doorbell entry latch all reside. The other is the closet off the theater that has a 42u rack in it and all the A/V and Control4 stuff. I've attached a pic to show what kind of shape things are in. It was actually knotted up and worse than the pic shows but I've been tracing wires and I've started untangling things.
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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:23 pm
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

The RG-6s are white, black, and pink. Have you figured out which is which?

If it was me, I'd be trying to figure out how to terminate the CAT cables into a patch panel, rather than plug ends. The installers that we doing my house wanted to do the plug ends, and I put a stop to that. I bought the rack and patch panels, and they just terminated to it instead of putting ends on.

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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:29 pm
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

Needless to say, it's patch panel time. Although I've done a little cat5 cable work in my previous house I've never actually done true patch panels so it's a bit of a learning experience. Because I need to get certain things working right way (like wifi) I'm tackling both closets at the same time. There's a little space to work with in the theater closet rack so I've started the patch panels there. I've read and talked to people about the current network gear world and so I've picked Ubiquiti as the base infrastructure equipment. I've installed a Dream Machine Pro as the router and future security/VPN device and a UniFi Switch PRO 48 PoE in each closet. I've also hooked up three UniFi HD Access Points and I have three more UniFi In-Wall Access Points that I'll fill in some weak areas. I know I'll still need a couple of other AP's for garage and to reach across the back yard. So far the Ubiquiti stuff is pretty impressive.

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:35 pm
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

Yeah, I have all UniFi as well. USG router, 2 x 24 Port switches (one is POE), 1 8-port in the theatre, 4 APs. My setup is pre-UDM.

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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:36 pm
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

FlyingDiver wrote:
The RG-6s are white, black, and pink. Have you figured out which is which?

If it was me, I'd be trying to figure out how to terminate the CAT cables into a patch panel, rather than plug ends. The installers that we doing my house wanted to do the plug ends, and I put a stop to that. I bought the rack and patch panels, and they just terminated to it instead of putting ends on.



Best I can tell is the pink ones are part of a cable bundle that included two RG6 & two cat5e together. Only some runs used that, others didn't. I'll put all the RG6 in the patch panel as well.
I think I'll probably pull out those white panels and do something different. The cable conduit into the panels is overflowing anyway.

Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:45 pm
FlyingDiver offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

I didn't do patch panels for the RG-6, since I don't actually use it much. The outside (Comcast) line goes directly to the modem, and no where else. I have an antenna in the attic, and it goes to my OTA DVR and then to a few TVs, for emergency use if the DVR fails. I have pre-wires for a Sat dish, but it's not installed. I have more CAT drops in the house than switch ports, so I do move those occasionally.

Here's the back of my main rack.
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joe (aka FlyingDiver)
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Posted on
Sun Mar 07, 2021 9:32 pm
RogueProeliator offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

The other is the closet off the theater that has a 42u rack in it and all the A/V and Control4 stuff. I've attached a pic to show what kind of shape things are in. It was actually knotted up and worse than the pic shows but I've been tracing wires and I've started untangling things.

Someone did a disservice to the house with that job, given the other equipment that you have listed!

For better or worse, I actually ran more wiring than that in my house (which is a fraction of your house's size) when we built and was able to make it super tight and nice in a server rack. Those white panels have their uses, but IMHO, not for decent networking and wire management. I have a small one of that style that handles only the RG-6 cable for video distribution. All Cat6/networking/computers are in the rack.

I think you are on the right track to getting it cleaned up, though, with the Ubiquiti gear and changes that you have mentioned. I'd suggest getting the wiring and network tamed down first so that you know things are stable and aren't changing too many things at once.

I guess a big decision on the lights comes down to how necessary it is to have the lights on the same system and interacting with the systems (assuming your new systems or reworked ones are to be in Indigo). I'm sure it would be expensive as all heck, but mass-swapping out switches may be easier than trying to replace individual and integrate between two disparate HA systems.

Adam

Posted on
Mon Mar 08, 2021 1:18 am
crofford offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

I'd like to get input on what everyone thinks about central video distribution. I've never had it before and I'm not sure that I care. It's interesting that I can send a DirecTV channel to every TV in the house but will I use that? TV's are in bedrooms, great room, gym, game room, back patio, casita, garage, and theater. The only time I can imagine more than one TV on the same channel is a sports event, but even then, will people really be in more than two places?
The current C4 video is all component video instead of HDMI so the whole video setup and wiring to every tv will need to be replaced/reworked if I want to keep central distribution. Most of the TV's have ethernet also or nearby, but I plan to have good wifi throughout. The projector in the theater is HDMI/1080p but everything else appears to be 1080i or 720p.
Also, today the video distribution also uses the audio distribution. One thing I don't like is watching a TV and having the sound come from the ceiling.
Why wouldn't I just do new 4k tv's as needed with an AppleTV on each one and call it a day? Most of the stuff that I watch on DirecTV is available via an app on the AppleTV. It's been quite a while since I watched a DirecTV channel natively through the DirecTV receiver. And I think we've spent the majority of our time watching Netflix/Amazon/AppleTV+/etc.

I should mention that most technology that I use or plan to use will likely be based on Apple-centric stuff. I buy stuff from Amazon all the time and I search for everything with Google, but I'm a long time Apple user.

Is there anyone that's a big proponent of central video distribution that can tell me what I'm missing or not thinking of?

Posted on
Mon Mar 08, 2021 3:11 am
rhanson offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

Regarding your patch panel, you should be able to find a patch panel that accepts keystone inserts, and then you could just plug all those things into the back. Assuming they fit nicely. Then you can rackmount a real switch and have it all wired up nicely. That would save you from having to re-wire all those keystones.

https://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-Keystone-Shielded-Rackmount-TC-KP24S/dp/B07M5QBPN8

Also, you probably should have all those lines tested. You can do it cheaply by just verifying conductors with a handheld meter. The real way is to have a Fluke bandwidth tester, both those are $1500+. A middle ground is this thing - bandwidth testing for a reasonable price:

https://pockethernet.com/

Regarding video distribution, here's my take. It depends what you're sending around to various points. If everything you watch is Netflix or server-based stuff, then you probably won't benefit from video distribution. Because at each TV, you could just stick an Apple TV or Fire Stick or whatever and call it a day as you say. But if you have unique things that need to be streamed around, like BluRay, Laserdisc, IPTV, international satellite, etc, then it might make sense. Once you put an IP (or HD-over-Cat6) receiver, plus infrared repeaters, plus audio tie-ins, it becomes a mess.

If you want to do any of these, then video distribution would be worth it:
- video wall of multiple TVs
- multiple TVs showing same sources at the same time
- being able to have equipment laying around the entire property and broadcast it to anywhere else (stuff not available on Netflix or internet-based or server-based stuff)
- taking a bunch of sources and doing picture-in-picture or tiled displays on 1 or more TVs

Every time I have run the math, it comes out to be way more equipment and much more hassle to maintain than just buying an Apple TV in every room. So it depends on if you have any of those special cases.

From your wiring it looks like your cameras are analog, not IP cameras. Camera quality has improved dramatically since 2007, and good (I mean commercial reliability, not crap from Best Buy) cams can be had for $120-$275 each. You may not have to re-wire, they can just upgrade the cameras and swap out the recorder for one that's network-enabled. If you are able to re-wire cameras for ethernet, that would be better, and you'll have more control over each cam.

Posted on
Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:09 am
DaveL17 offline
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Re: Project to replace large Control4 system

I've done a ton of research on this stuff for work I've done to our current house and for the house that we will (hopefully soon) be building. I plan to do all the low-voltage work myself at the new place which we will (hopefully) be building this season. As with most things, not everyone agrees on this stuff -- but this is where I landed.

Video distribution: we have tried several off-the-shelf alternatives with distribution and never landed on something that we were satisfied with (we didn't try any dealer-only systems). Back in the day, we had a robust analog distribution system that worked really well. But as things moved to digital (especially with HDCP copy protection) things got harder. We now have two TiVo DVRs--one serving the main level and the other serving upstairs--and mini-TiVos for the other displays. This works well enough, and the video is distributed from the DVRs to the mini-TiVos over a dedicated Cat6, and connected to a dedicated switch (so the traffic doesn't hit the rest of the network unless needed). Avoid MoCA for distribution (multimedia over coax). Beyond the TiVos, the only quality, reliable video over Ethernet solutions (for content, not cameras) are dealer-only, IMO.

WiFi: we only do WiFi as a last resort. Or put another way, if I *can* send data over copper, that's what I do. I redid all the copper in our current house (video and data) and ran home runs to each point. Doing that with finished walls was a beast. Didn't do as much as Adam did--we have two Cat6 and one coax to each video point and one Cat6 to each Ethernet-only point. I use Cat5 cable for my 1-wire sensor network (it was enough of a price difference to make it worthwhile). We still have a landline phone, but I've done nothing with that wire at all. The Ethernet stuff is terminated using Keystone jacks at both ends. This is really not that hard to do, but a bit of care needs to be taken when terminating Cat6 to retain the benefit over Cat5. Just pick a wiring standard (and stick with it). It's possible to mix standards, but it's best to avoid it. You didn't mention fiber optic, but everything I've read says that's better left to the pros.

Streaming: we've slanted toward Rokus as our main streaming devices, but I may transition us over to AppleTVs as Apple seems to be the only company that at least pretends to care about privacy. I don't have Ethernet connected to our smart TVs anymore and the streaming apps on the TiVos are a travesty.

Cameras: we don't have cameras at our current place, but I plan to add POE cameras at the new house over Cat6.

Networking: We have four subnets on our system:
  1. Main - computers, phones, NAS etc.
  2. IoT - things that need to communicate with the local network. These devices can't establish connections to the local network on their own--that has to be done from local network to the device. Think Raspberry Pi's, MyQ, etc.
  3. "Zombie" - These devices can reach the Internet only. Think Blu-Ray players and whatnot. I can't even ping these devices from the main network (by design).
  4. Guest-only WiFi. Allows guests access to the Internet (with a password).

We don't use dealers for anything. Not that I have anything against them per se; it's just that this stuff is entertaining to me, and I want to do it. This does limit access to a lot of great kit out there that is dealer channel exclusive which requires compromise and is--at times--frustrating.

I came here to drink milk and kick ass....and I've just finished my milk.

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