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Ask Slashdot: Shortcuts To a High Tech House

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the whoever-has-the-most-toys dept.

Technology 281

First time accepted submitter phaedrus9779 writes "I'm a recently married man about to take on the next big adventure: home ownership! I came across a great house in a great community but I need a little bit extra: a high tech house. The problem: money, I'm on a budget. I'd love to have home theaters, super high tech weather stations and iPads seamlessly installed in all the walls — but this just isn't possible. So my question to the Slashdot community is: how can I build a high tech house that will be the envy of my friends, provide lots of useful gadgets, and not break the bank? Also, as always, the cooler the better!"

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281 comments

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Aren't you supposed to ... (3, Funny)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540173)

... grow out of thinking that stuff is important when you get married?

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540213)

Depends who you marry [youtube.com] ?

Fuck you Slashdot (-1, Flamebait)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540233)

Fuck you and April 1st.

Children! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540533)

You and the OP should get together and play video games sometime. Sounds like your both about the same age. Lol

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (4, Funny)

oztiks (921504) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540231)

From experience its just the opposite.

From the lack of sex, you find that you spend most of your time secluded in your shed. As such you have one of two choices

a) accrue a large collection of adult material
b) find a hobby ...

I went with hobby.

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (5, Informative)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540347)

c) find a better wife

Seriously, I've never understood all the horror stories, not before and not after my own marriage.

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (4, Funny)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540761)

But in that case the old wife gets your house and shed...

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540795)

There aren't that many nymphomaniacs unfortunately. At least I couldn't find one.

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540821)

You're assuming /. readers have much of a choice.

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (4, Funny)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540677)

What if your hobby is accruing a large collection of adult material?

Debt is the most prized American possession. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540357)

I don't think that you understand American culture very well. This isn't about the house or the gadgets or the technology. This is about the American male having a higher debt load than his friends and relatives. That's what really matters in America. The bigger your debt, the more American you are.

When an American says he "owns" a house, the house is secondary. It's the $400,000, 60-year mortgage that's important. His neighbor maybe only has a $350,000, 40-year mortgage on his house, so his neighbor is clearly the inferior being.

Then there are the American's car loans. Many American couples own three or four SUVs or trucks, because that way they can possess more vehicle loans, each for a greater amount. You don't want to be the only American on the block with one or two cars! That'll clearly show that you're scum.

Credit card debt is also a very important indicator of how American somebody is. If you've only got one credit card, you're probably just trash. You're worse than trash if you haven't been paying at least some interest on the balance for a few years. Real Americans will have maxed out at least four or five credit cards, while working hard on maxing out the sixth, seventh and eighth that they possess. Buying the overhyped Apple useless-gadget-of-the-hour is a great way to achieve this goal.

I hope you have a better understanding of American culture now, and the utmost importance of debt. No American household is complete without owing huge amounts of money to some faceless corporation, especially when there's no hope that they could ever repay it during their lifetimes.

Re:Debt is the most prized American possession. (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540555)

When an American says he "owns" a house, the house is secondary

Its a part of modern american doublespeak. For another housing related laugh, "I'm building a new house" means he watches "this old house" and some HGTV shows and he signed a contract for some illegals to build it for him. Confuses the shit out of me because my Grandfather actually built his own house... sears and roebuck dropped off a flatbed truck of lumber in a then new suburb and him and his coworkers swung hammers one summer in the 50s. Him and his coworkers all moved into the same subdivision at the same time and helped frame each others houses, then they contracted out for the technical stuff (electrical, plumbing) then my grandmother and friends painted the inside walls. Resulted in my dad growing up in a very tight knit neighborhood. I'm told this was not the norm, but also was not unusual, in that generation for "building a house" to mean physically swinging a hammer.

Re:Debt is the most prized American possession. (2)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540635)

Sounds like socialism to me!

Re:Debt is the most prized American possession. (3, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540675)

my Grandfather actually built his own house... sears and roebuck dropped off a flatbed truck of lumber in a then new suburb and him and his coworkers swung hammers one summer in the 50s

Keep in mind that if your grandparents had kids at the time this is a very romanticized view... Likely your grandmother was expected to wrangle the kids all week and then on weekends as well while pops swung hammers building the house - Very tough. Today, there's an expectation of shared childcare, so on weekends you're at the park or swimming lessons or whatever with the kids, which makes finding time to build a house pretty tricky.

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540529)

Have children and you will consider high tech as secondary as a knife to a chicken

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (0)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540657)

Install a Rape Dungeon...

Re:Aren't you supposed to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540701)

Or a Chuck E. Cheese.

Yeah, I know, six of one, half-a-dozen of another...

Nest & Tankless heater (5, Informative)

Tronster (25566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540177)

Two items I can recommend that cost a bit upfront but do indeed save money down the road:
- Nest Thermostat ( http://www.nest.com/ [nest.com] )
- Tankless water heater

A good tankless water heater will cost a few K (with installation, etc...) so perhaps just start with the Nest. There is currently a waiting list for them, but I was able to get mine about 3 months after waiting. It looks cool, and if used properly, will continually save you money over the life of the house.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (4, Insightful)

ari_j (90255) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540221)

What I've read about them says that tankless water heaters wear out faster than the traditional kind with a tank, and that the replacement cost eclipses any energy savings in using one. They are also reportedly less convenient and comfortable (due to a cold water "sandwich" effect as they send water down the line and attempt to sense how much heat to apply to the next water coming through). If those articles and reviews are wrong, I have yet to find any reports of it.

For cool water heaters, look at a point-of-use water heater for sinks to get instant hot water, and locate the main water heater directly underneath or next to your shower plumbing. Those will actually improve your lifestyle and save water.

But at the very least, take Tronster's advice and install technology that serves a purpose in your house. If you're on a tight budget, wasting money on things to impress your friends is probably unwise (read: it's beyond stupid).

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (3, Interesting)

Keruo (771880) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540345)

I don't like the idea of tankless water heaters at all. There are plenty of things you can do to reduce water heating costs.
If the house is in a windy place, think about getting a small wind mill, something you can easily place on your property, (think something like this [homemadewindmill.org] )
Add directly attached heating element to the water tank and add temperature control relay to switch off the current when the water temperature in tank reaches desired level.
Second grid-connected heating element could be low-level triggered, if you're using up water faster than your wind power can heat up, the more expensive heating method kicks in and keeps your reservoir going.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (4, Interesting)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540467)

If you are ripping out a perfectly good tank heater to put in a tankless, then it probably doesn't make sense. But if it is time to replace anyway, it doesn't cost all that much more. The big benefit is not having to keep a giant tank of water at temperature for many hours a day. Every time your water heater fires up when you aren't using water, it is money out the chimney. Plus, their burners are generally more efficient at turning gas into hot water. The exhaust coming out of the one I installed is not much warmer than room temperature. And they are not nearly as complicated as installing homemade windmills...

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (2)

anotherzeb (837807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540565)

Agree with keeping the tank if possible - especially if your geekery is likely to extend to environmentally friendly (or keeping the bills down) and you have roof space and / or garden for solar thermal water heating - the warm water will need a nicely insulated tank to stay warm and a bunch of solar thermal tubes (or a self engineered system for more geek points) could be just as good a talking point as living on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540583)

I don't like the idea of tankless water heaters at all.

Can you provide a more detailed engineering assessment? Or is it something like you believe you speak for the flying spaghetti monster in stating its a religious abomination, or ...?

You pay money to get the capital equipment such that you dump in water and energy and out squirts hot water. Tankless is just a better deal financially than tank. I'm not really seeing the facebook like button effect at all.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540681)

Tankless is just a better deal financially than tank

What a fine engineering assessment. Please excuse me while I go laugh myself to sleep.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540747)

I don't like the idea of tankless water heaters at all.

Can you provide a more detailed engineering assessment?

That is a personal opinion, but I'm thinking of the power grid here.
When you're using electric equipment to heat water directly during usage, you're causing massive drain spikes to the network at mornings and at evenings depending on how people take showers.(doesn't apply to gas utilities, but I'm assuming electrical here)
Properly insulated tank can be heated during off-peak hours(the electricity might be cheaper) or using solar/wind, tankless rules those options out.

It's just a question of "do you have room to place that massive water tank?" mostly.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540837)

Ah I see. My tankless is natgas powered, and they locally store more than a days worth, so that did not cross my mind.

I have seen the system design where you a large thermal solar tank storage feeding into a electric tankless, which strikes me as a pretty good design.

The one saving grace is most of the tankless heaters I've seen draw similar power to a air conditioner. So a house with tankless and air conditioning, draws 50 amps at 5am for a couple minutes, then more and more power until running darn near continuous 50 amps around 3pm for the air conditioner, then declining etc.

Also all the houses in my neighborhood simultaneously run full out air conditioning at 3pm on the hottest day of the year, but the phase variance in lifestyles is pretty large, so my entire neighborhood probably only draws one heater at a time.

In a non-air conditioning wired neighborhood, your example Could be an issue.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540355)

What I've read about them says that tankless water heaters wear out faster than the traditional kind with a tank

LOL. I know its April 1st, but for those who don't get it, try to find a tank guaranteed by mfgr longer than 6 years or a tankless with a guarantee shorter than 20 years. The guy's humor is in stating the exact opposite of reality.

There is some truth that a decade or so ago when I got a tankless, tanks were for residential and were value engineered to fail rapidly to maximize profit via maximum lifetime cost, and tankless were for industrial apps (think laundromat or health club showers) so they were engineered to meet the business accounting goal of minimum lifetime cost. It may be that 2012 residential-grade tankless heaters are now value engineered and built in China such that they'll only operate for a couple years before requiring replacement... If they aren't, the retailers are missing out on a huge opportunity to screw their customers, and they never miss a chance to do that, at least not for long, so buyer beware. But at least in years past, tank = flood the basement twice per decade, and tankless = buy roughly once per human generation.

Another way I've heard it phrased is if you go tank, then you need to pick a basement floor covering that tolerates flooding multiple times before the floor material is replaced, but if you go tankless, then you will replace the basement floor covering a couple times before the heater is replaced. It has a big impact on decor... Pergo is legendary for being perhaps the least flooding tolerant floor covering, so you can really only go Pergo if you have a tankless, and/or if you have a tank you pretty much need tile to eliminate the water damage issue.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540725)

I do not know about the warranty on tankless, but having just replaced a gas water heater that was nine years old (mfg date on label), Home Depot sells GE gas water heaters (manufactured by Rheem in Mexico) that offer a six, nine, or twelve year warranty (the price delta is about 30% to go from the 6 year to the 12 year).

Tank life can be extended by draining the tank a few times each year and every five years or so,replacing the anode rod in the tank (hard part about that is obtaining a replacement).

As for flooding, putting a plastic drain pan underneath a replacement water heater and adding a moisture alarm that goes off when the tank starts to leak, pretty well eliminates the chance of a catastrophic failure that would destroy a floor.

Water heaters are also either located in the garage, or in a basement with a floor drain so the damage from flooding is minimal in those cases.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (2)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540435)

I put a tankless in for my mom a couple years ago, and it doesn't have any of those problems. It senses the water flow and adjusts (something) to make sure the water output is the right temperature. From handwashing to showering, the temperature is rock solid.

But yes, point of use is a neat idea in some cases- her house is configured such that the kitchen is a long way away from the bathrooms, and that's where the tankless is located. So it takes a while for the hot water to make its way through the pipe. A $200 point of use electric heater would be great for that, but she wasn't interested.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (2)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540785)

With a tank, you can just install a recirculating pump and valve (or valves) and have hot water quickly to all faucets. Doesn't work with tankless.

Tankless and hard water is also a pretty bad combination. With a gas tanked heater, the scale tends to mostly accumulate on the bottom, where you can just empty it out with a hose. With a tankless heater, the scale tends to clog up the heat exchanger.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (4, Insightful)

Tronster (25566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540511)

I had mine installed last year (4/13/2011) because my traditional water heater was cracking and had started a leak. The plumber recommended it; said while they are relatively new to (residential) US, they have been used for awhile in Europe. I did do-diligence with Google and had it put in. The brand is: Noritz ( http://www.noritz.com/ [noritz.com] )

So 1 year past its running well; if there is a follow up thread 4+ years down the road, I'll let you know how it's handling.

I haven't had a cold water sandwich effect. Only drawback is that it takes about 25 seconds for hot water to start coming out of the faucet (vs 10 seconds with the tank). Advantages:
- Mounted on wall (above washer/dryer) in basement; just gained about 3'x3' space back where my old huge tank was sitting
- I have seen a lower gas/electric bill since installed
- Should I choose; I can take a ridiculously long hot shower (of course always doing this would negate energy savings)

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540251)

Whole house tankless water heaters MAY save you money it depends on your usage, your location and the temperature of your incoming supply. The actual act of a tankless water heater heating the water is very inefficient and there is a lot of waste heat. The small under-counter electric are a little better but then you have to put one by every faucet, and the cheaper ones often don't have the capacity to handle a washing machine or dishwasher. If you(everyone in the house) are frequently gone for days at a time, tankless is great. Otherwise a well insulated powervent tank system may have a much cheaper lifetime total cost of ownership.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (2)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540493)

Not any more. With the direct vent or condensing burners they use now, the burner is just as efficient as a regular tank type heater.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540811)

Yes the burner is as efficient but the heat transfer is not. It takes massive BTUs to give reasonable temperature rises at high flow rates, that is why it has to be evaluated on a per installation basis. The biggest thing in assessing the total cost is the incoming temperature of the water supply, the second is the usage patterns. Anyone who makes sweeping generalizations either way should not be taken seriously.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540321)

Keep in mind that "used properly" is code for "has limitations". In particular, you have to use hot water slowly - no rapid filling of bathtubs or buckets, or hot water pressure wash.
You'll also likely be at the mercy of power outages - even short ones.

Another often recommended "upgrade" for homeowners are submersible well pumps. I strongly recommend against them, because the water pressure will vary with the water level (no more Kramer style showers), and when they break, they cost a boatload more money to fix. They're great - for those who sell them.

A heat pump, on the other hand, is usually a good investment. And gas-filled non-sliding windows.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540513)

The "has limitations" is the same for both. You choose a unit that has a burner that will provide the desired temperature water under the usage scenarios envisioned. A tankless just has one less variable. With a tank heater, you can fill that hot tub, as long as the hot tub is 1/2 the size of your hot water tank, but then you get no hot water until the tank has recovered. With a tankless, it will give you a temperature rise versus water flow. Just size it correctly and you are good to go.

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540669)

no rapid filling of bathtubs or buckets, or hot water pressure wash.

I call shenanigans on this one as I have seen no such effect and can't even imagine it happening in the marketplace for sound financial reasons.

Your plumber, operating on a sales commission, will try to figure out how much money he can extract from you, and then extract it. He was trying to convince me that I need to output water hot enough for instant 3rd degree burns, at full blast, simultaneously out both showers, the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, the dishwaster, the clothes washer, and the utility sink, all while the input water is at 33 degrees. There are not enough people in my household to operate all those valves at once. Um, no sorry, you're installing something a little more reasonable. Especially since the whole point of installing the tankless was to be able to turn the temperature down below scalding level while not running out of hot water in the shower. This has NOT been an issue in actual operation.

The scaling rate of price for BTU of heating seems to be somewhat quadratic, certainly not slightly sub-linear like you'd intuitively guess based on construction. So half the BTUs is a hell of a lot less than half the price. At least thats how it was years ago.

You'll also likely be at the mercy of power outages - even short ones.

Same problem for tank w/ direct vent. I suppose it depends where you live. Where I live the only reason the power ever goes out is near-tornado conditions... you're supposed to be cowering in the basement under the stairs then, not enjoying yourself in the shower. The power requirement is ridiculously low to run the electronics and fan, so for 7 years now I've been planning on buying a very large computer UPS, but the darn power never is out long enough to make the upfront expense worth it, not to mention having to replace the UPS batteries every 2 years or whatever. I do have a 50 foot (rather expensive) extension cord coiled up next to it that I can run over to the basement server UPS, but I've never had to try it.

Its kind of like arguing you shouldn't install a furnace or air conditioner because you'll be at the mercy of power outages...

Re:Nest & Tankless heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540643)

An alternate to a tankless water heater is one that is combined with a pre-heated reservoir tank. The water in that tank is warmed using a solar panel (pump powered by a small solar panel) raising the temperature from around 55degress(as supplied by the water main) to between 80 to 110 depending on your climate ( this would not work in winter in Minnesota, but works well in a warmer climate). Your tankless water heater then only has to do part of the work to raise the temp to 120 or so for bathing, reducing energy use and making it last longer.

This works if you have extra space for both an insulated tank and a roof with southern exposure for the panel.

do it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540181)

yourself.

Being the Envy of Your Friends 101 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540185)

Pay off at least part of the house before you add frivolous crap to it to impress your friends. I have always been more envious of people with a paid-off (or at least non-defaulted) mortgage than I have of those who have 5-year-old technology pointlessly glued to the walls. You get to choose which of those you have in 2017.

Re:Being the Envy of Your Friends 101 (3, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540327)

Going beyond that, just what value is there to making your friends envious of you? Will they like you better? The truth is that you'll be hosting your envious friends all of the time and they'll never reciprocate, because they'll think you'll look down on them for their general lack of materialist douchebaggery.

Re:Being the Envy of Your Friends 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540593)

Why? I'm sure your responsible friends are now subsiding the useless technology bought by the irresponsible ones.

Trick question? (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540189)

If, as you say, money is a problem and you're on a budget, you should obviously drop any wild plans. Look for quality instead of tech, because you're going to be stuck with the two money sinks for a long time.
Save the tech wishes for when money isn't a problem anymore.

Re:Trick question? (1)

RicktheBrick (588466) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540609)

I guess you think one should buy the cheaper poorly insulated house rather than purchase a more expensive but better insulated house. I guess you think one should buy a cheap car that gets poor mileage instead of one that get better mileage but is more expensive. There are devices that will save money over 5 years such as a programmable thermostat. CFL are now only a dollar at dollar tree so filling the house with those might save a buck or two. One can also purchase incandescent light bulbs at 4 for a dollar so one must look beyond the immediate costs. There are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that just might save money as well as one's life. Maybe if the energy cost of a building were included in the mortgage so that the total cost of ownership was known, than one could really choose which purchase is better.

Re:Trick question? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540721)

If, as you say, money is a problem and you're on a budget, you should obviously drop any wild plans. Look for quality instead of tech,

Or, if you assume, as most people do, that your life of freedom and fun is over once you get married and get a house, you'll probably have a lot more spare time, and a hell of a lot more space, so go ghetto and spend enormous amounts of time building it yourself out of cheap junk.

Priced as an "extra luxury item" a large digital picture frame is Very expensive. But an old used PC, and a low end multi-monitor video card, and a cheap desktop monitor with a wallmount, results in a cheap large digital picture frame.

Just like if you want automation, you can stick misterhouse on the existing fileserver for "free" and cable it to your X-10 or insteon bridge which costs damn near free, or you can pay $2500 for basically misterhouse installed in a turnkey appliance box. I'm sure I could buy an automation appliance that costs $3000 but instead I spent $29 on my insteon bridge years ago and plugged it into the existing file server.

Similar to the automation, I eased into mythtv by piggybacking on the fileserver. My first frontend was a plain old $50 desktop living in an adjacent closet. If you want, you can do something like mythtv by spending thousands, but I spent tens instead.

If you live in an apartment, and you do electronics, and you determine you need an oscilloscope, for storage reasons a kilobuck handheld digital scope might be your only reasonable choice. If you have an empty basement, a filing cabinet sized old tektronix that weighs 150 pounds is A-OK and only costs $50 at a ham radio fest.

If you're not planning on putting it in your pocket, and if the guts can be hidden in the basement or a closet, who cares what it looks like or how big it is.

Flood wire early on. (4, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540191)

If you have to rip apart walls - or even just skim them before you paint or paper - take the time to run in plenty of cabling. You can get audio and video baluns for running over CAT5 these days fairly cheaply, although the hifi purists will throw their hands up in horror.

CAT6 is cheap enough, might as well start ahead of the curve.

Re:Flood wire early on. (1)

sensationull (889870) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540269)

+1 wire, the basis for most of the cool stuff you can add.

Re:Flood wire early on. (2)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540275)

Exactly my thought. Lots of cat 6 feeding into a large Gigabit router located in a central closet. That way you can easily pay as you go and upgrade as needed, knowing that Cat6 will take you far into the future.

Re:Flood wire early on. (2)

Richard_J_N (631241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540419)

Having done basically this, I suggest you use Cat6-S (the shielded version). More expensive, unnecessary for networking, but it does reduce the general amount of RFI present. Likewise, if you have fancy computerised dimmers. We have both, and our electrically operated curtains(*) now occasionally act like we have a poultergeist!

(*) We're not that lazy, but these ones are inaccessible.

Re:Flood wire early on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540501)

We have both, and our electrically operated curtains(*) now occasionally act like we have a poultergeist!

You live with Ian Poulter? [golfdigest.com]

Raceways, even! (2)

ancarett (221103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540443)

Yup, you'll appreciate having room for growth built into the system. Unobtrusive raceways (many can be worked right into the molding either above or at ground level) allows you to upgrade or update your wiring and cable options. Make sure you're not overloading circuits while you're at it. Even some more recent builds are shockingly undersupplied for power needs. Getting a licensed electrician whenever you mess with your wiring is only smart, too. Your house is a big investment. Do it right!

If your guests bring their own tech, make sure you have robust internet access that's easy for them to use. One room in our house remained a frustrating slow spot so we ran a wired connection to the router for that desktop PC. Otherwise, we can offer good Wifi. I keep cards with guest access info so new visitors can add themselves to the network.

Re:Flood wire early on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540469)

If you're going to do it then invest in the infrastructure rather than the toys. Toys will come and go, but the infrastructre will make or break you.

Lay the best you can afford - look at SFTP Cat6a rather than UTP. SFTP is shielded, foil-wrapped twisted pair - so each pair is wrapped in foil, and then a second layer of foil is wrapped round the 4 bundles. This protects you from outside interference and will future-proof yourself up to when 10GB ethernet on copper becomes affordable.

Remember that your maximum length will be 90m (that allows for a patch lead at either end). So plan where your switch will be and work out from there. If you're hiring contractors to install it for you ask for a report on each terminated cable (a fluke tester will produce this as part of the testing). If you're doing it yourself then remember to keep your bend radius over 8cm or so behind the walls. If you can run in flexible hose then remember to stick in a piece of string / rope along the length - that way if you need more with later you can do it a lot more easily.

Wireless has it's place, but the speed, security and distance limitations mean that you're going to reap the rewards for investing in good cabling up front.

The only other important points are velcro and labelling. Velcro is your friend, nail small strips to the back of your desk as a cable tidy / routing, do similar things with evrey other piece of tech / home theatre equipment. Get obsessive about labelling too - label each plug before you plug it in, label each cable so you know where it goes. The benefits down the line are massively worth it.

Disclaimer - I run a HW installation team in a blue-chip datacentre dealing with everything from pizza-box servers to mainframes

not break the bank? go bonk. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540197)

re-use equipment you can get for free. if you're just displaying weather or some shit like that on the kitchen wall, who gives a fuck if it's a re-purposed htc pocketpc phone doing it?

however, envy of your friends? dunno about that. you probably wouldn't get that with even walls laden with ipads because they make no sense. how the fuck do you install a home theater in the wall? a home theater screen yeah sure, but the theater needs some place to sit in too.

hdtv's are cheap, decent soundsystems are cheap. old wifi enabled pda's/phones are cheap. imagination isn't.

Cover the basics First (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540201)

Make sure the electrical installation is up to spec.
Install as many cable ducts as you can afford before moving in any furniture.
Designate a closet as server room; many of the ducts should connect to it.
This will make any later installations much more painless.

Buy a home theater projector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540211)

The projector screen is a DIY job. For the audio a sub $500 setup is sufficient (don't listen to the audiophiles). Home theater furniture can be picked up second hand.

Yep, for 2500 you can have a pretty kick ass setup.

Re:Buy a home theater projector (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540335)

I'm not an "audiophile" but I object to any claim you can get five (or six) decent speakers and an amplifier for under $500.

Re:Buy a home theater projector (1)

deimtee (762122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540541)

You can get acceptable quality for that, but it won't shake the the neighbours house. Reasonably Cheap, Good, Loud - pick two.

Re:Buy a home theater projector (3, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540597)

I'm not an "audiophile" but I object to any claim you can get five (or six) decent speakers and an amplifier for under $500.

You're not trying hard enough. Hint: it doesn't have to be new. With all your friends upgrading to the latest and greatest bleeding edge stuff, you can find great stuff as hand-me-downs. I now have a Technics amp pumping beautiful stereo sound from my TV/DVD player through a couple of good but inexpensive Paradigm speakers. The only part of any of that I paid for was the speakers, probably a decade ago.

You'd be surprised what you can find used (or discarded) that's still going to work well for a long time if you want it to.

The whole point of high tech is (1)

Igarden2 (916096) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540217)

The whole point of high tech is to make something look easy that is hard for most people to understand . Else why do it? That almost always brings with it a high price unless you're MacGyver. I think the OP is barking mad if s/he thinks it can be done on the cheap.

Money's not the only problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540227)

Other than budget, you'll have the wife problem. Mine made me physically remove (not just shut off) my voice controlled doors...

Shortcuts To A... (1)

rrkaiser (676130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540229)

C'mon. Do you think /. can read your mind? ...need to have some kind of idea about... What's the budget? Does high-tech mean "off the grid"? Does high-tech world's glitziest kitchen? Bathroom? Lighting? and on and on...

Re:Shortcuts To A... (1)

phaedrus9779 (773475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540265)

I think that all interesting tech projects would be neat to learn about. If i can't afford it now, i can plan it for the future.

Re:Shortcuts To A... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540751)

If he could list all the things he is considering he probably would have already googled them, sounds like he is looking for some creative ideas that people have tried or seen.

Obviously some infrastructure to give you a good base, CAT6 and/or coax throughout the house. Make sure you have decent electrical service.

Start with home entertainment areas and offices and try to hide as many cables as you can. Then but a nice universal remote (high end pronto's and the like can be $2k+ but there are some pretty cool and useful logitech's for a little over $100). The real work is getting everything setup in a coherent fashion so the wife and guests can easily use it. RF remotes are also useful if you are hiding all of your components.

Also once you buy a house(unless you are building new) there will be things you'll want to change. As you do projects, see if you can spend just a little extra to make it a little techy.

I recommend replacing all the locks in the house when you move in, make sure all exterior doors have deadbolts (vertical deadbolts if you want to be really secure). Maybe splurge a little bit and get a fingerprint lock for your main entry door.

My basement room that I use as a server room / lab area has conductive paint (think faraday cage) just don't plan on using your cell phone in there ;-)

There was recently a /. article (http://ask.slashdot.org/story/12/03/30/216258/ask-slashdot-a-cheap-diy-home-security-and-surveillance-system) about home security cameras. Been on my list of todo's for a while.

A lot of kitchen appliances can have high-tech options such as built in LCDs and network connections (I've never gone this route because the markup seems to be too high for me). Our under-counter kitchen PC is actually pretty useful. You can have a recipe up on it when you're cooking and watch TV from the media server. We've tried keeping grocery lists on it but that was kind of inconvenient. Ours is a window's box because the wife has a crapload of recipes and cookbooks in MasterCook software, but I know people who just use evernote.

Motion activated lights are still pretty cool, I put a couple in the basement. The one in the laundry room is really nice since a lot of time you are carrying a basket when you walk in there. I disassembled some clearance sale outdoor lights to make mine so I could put the motion sensor closer to the door so the light turns on before you are actually line of site.

If you are a little handy, you might be able to upgrade your kitchen cabinets to have soft-close drawers and doors. A little more high tech, Blum (best drawer slides in my opinion) also has "servo-drive" where you can just touch the drawer to open it.

First house, you may need to buy a lawn mower, weed trimmer, etc. Robotic mowers look awesome but were still kind of pricey when I last checked. Rechargeable walk-behind mowers have come down in price and would be fine if you don't have a small lawn (less than 1/3 acre). Plus then you can mow at odd times in the day (or night) without pissing off the neighbors. A couple companies also make remote controlled mowers, but seems like building one out of a rechargeable walk-behind would be more fun.

If all your friends are techies, they'll think some of these things are cool but won't be all that jealous. If you really wanna make them jealous, you need big expensive toys. Buy that John Deere riding mower for your 1/4 acre lawn and a Bobcat to clear snow off your driveway. You'll probably get more of your initial investment back from buying a used Bobcat skidsteer and selling it 10 years later than you ever will adding some techy feature to a house.

A few easy things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540255)

1.) Install USB wall outlets at key locations. This is the cheapest way to impress.
2.) Get a home automation system with android/iPhone support. (Typically X10 related hardware.) This is the most obvious (show-off) way to impress.
3.) Hide your equipment. Nothing is sexier than a large TV complimented by a recessed media cabinet that is out of view. Don't let the people see a single wire. This is the subtlest, yet most impactful, way to impress.

Re:A few easy things (4, Interesting)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540537)

I agree with #3 100%. I was at a party at a "rich guy's" house recently, and the house wasn't ostentatious, but it had the little things. Like for example, your recessed media cabinet. The dude actually bumped out an exterior wall so all the media stuff would be flush with the interior wall.

Head down to Guitar Center (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540285)

Buy an entry-level Stratocaster (about $150) and a tiny amp (about a 18 inches cubed) and learn to play a few things from youtube.

Then get 'faced and crank the volume to 11 at 3 a.m. That'll get your neighbor's attention real quick.

Multipurpose - Alarm System / Home automation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540305)

Think of things that you will get anyways for your house. Then see if you can get more functionality out of it. I had to get an alarm system so I looked around for a system that will also allow you to do Home automation. There are many systems out there that will allow you to do home automation with Zwave - no wiring required. Now I have an alarm system that will also adjust the thermostats when I leave the house and turn on lights when I come home or turn them off when I go to bed. For me this is already fairly close to a "High Tech Home".
If you are not interested in an Alarm system. You can get a low cost start with systems like MiCasa Verde in home automation because you do not need wiring for it.

What style? Shiny Apple/Bose, or industrial look? (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540309)

Industrial might be cheap -- paint all the walls white, have exposed cabling everywhere, but neatly ordered and stapled to the wall, have exposed cable-run trays suspended from the ceiling. If the wife likes industrial style it could be cheap enough.

Wall Street (1)

DrProton (79239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540315)

Get a job on Wall Street and steal money from old retirees. You'll have enough for your dream house in no time.

Define high-tech (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540325)

To me, high tech would be: a house that incorporates all modern technologies reducing your environmental footprint. Best of all, you wouldn't need to replace it every 3 years. So, you'd
* Use rain water to flush the toilet and for your washing machine (as bonus: you'll use less washing powder, too, as the water will be low on calcium)
* Have solar panels on the roof to provide most of your electricity
* Have solar collectors on the roof to provide most of your hot water
* Your house would be excellent insulated
* You'd use heat exchangers to supply yourself on a fair amount of fresh air, yet still not wasting heat
Any gadget you'd use in house would be primarly selected on low electricity usage. So yes, you posses and use a TV, computer, however, they use little electricity. You have a car which you choose not to drive most of the time because you prefer a bike.
If you do it smart, none of the above will cost you a cent but actually only save you money. Which means that you can shorten your working carreer by at least a 10 to 15 years, to retire early and have 100% of your time available for the things you really want to do. Because, you do not want to work simply to pay for the loans you made to impress your friends.

A telephone in every room! (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540329)

Find some little voice coil speakers: Yard sales, computer store dungeons, your kids toys, etc...

Get some wire: Same as above, also rail stations, baseball fields, transformer substations, etc..

Run a pair of wires into every room. On one end all the wires meet and are spliced to the tip/ring of your phone jack. On the other end, solder the tip to a speaker. To dial, tap the other wire to the speaker using Loop Disconnect Dialing [wikipedia.org]

Then hold that wire on there. Fun fact, the speaker is also your microphone!

IDEA 2 (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540353)

Get a bunch of X-10 crap on ebay and setup motion-detect lights all over inside and out.
Get a X-10 usb transmitter and make all the lights go wonky. Then add voice recognition using Perlbox [sourceforge.net] .

I actually did this once:
"Computer Illuminate" (turns on lights)
"Computer Climate Control" (turns on fan)

Married Slashdotter? (1, Funny)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540363)

This is obviously a fake story. It's April 1st, guys!

Set The Foundation (1)

Frightened_Turtle (592418) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540365)

For a most awesome lair! THIS HOUSE [scoutingny.com] is available for sale! It even comes with its own runway!

cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540371)

Slippery slope. You will always be upgrading to stay ahead of the cool curve to keep impressing your friends.
Change friends who don't care how cool or uncool you are. Or find friends that are easily impressed.

rsync your entire house to a safe, remote location (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540373)

. . . then you can just go live there if a catastrophic event destroys your original house. You'll be all set, right down to the stuff in your fridge from the night before. You can even switch living between the two houses, if you like.

The difficult part of this solution, is convincing your wife that the other woman in the other house, is just a copy of her . . . and not another woman in your life.

Every Slashdot technical solution must include rsync. And SSH tunnels.

Home Automation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540377)

Check out the Insteon products from SmartHome. You can control lights, thermostat, sprinklers, etc. from a PC, tablet, or smartphone. It's a cheaper alternative to the traditional home automation needing control wires, and it works well.

Pi Time! (1)

connor4312 (2608277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540385)

This would actually be the ideal situation to use a minicomputer such as Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/). If you want to get really cool, you could use E-Ink displays. Then, one Raspberry could run as many displays as you want because it would not have to update the displays constantly. Save energy too. I would load it up with a little Linux kernel and some programming in order that they could all be controlled over the network (even remotely!).

Best shortcut, and the cheapest! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540403)

Just paint it on the walls. Need to switch apps? Repaint it.

It is the Apple way. Just make sure to notify Apple if you intend selling your house. They need to pay for expensive wines remember.

Buy Used (2)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540421)

Buy used equipment. 1 or 2 generation-old stuff is dirt cheap. Craigslist is your friend, there. Yard sales. Look for going-out-of-business sales (see recent stories on Best Buy closing stores). Buy refurbs.

Lots of people will tell you to put in wires in the walls. Wireless APs are so good now that this is just a waste of money in nearly every case. Buy good wireless APs (see "buy refurbs" above). This is one exception to the previous-generation rule of thumb above (I've just put in Netgear WNDR3700, bought from advice given in responses to someone else's Ask Slashdot question, and couldn't be happier ... highly flexible, plenty of signal, fast assocation, dual band, and all of the interference problems from neighbors, etc., have disappeared).

Big wide-screen LCD / plasma TVs are great, but a ceiling-mounted projector does nearly as well, can create a much bigger image, and often can be had for much less. Used stereo components (assuming you want such) are available on eBay by the dozen. Same for gaming consoles, etc. See Craigslist, too. Buying tech on Black Friday or Cyber Monday can save a ton. Since you don't have money, then you'll have to spend something else: namely, time.

In short, you'll need to compromise, either on buying the latest-greatest, or on buying new, or on the exact technology. You won't end up being the envy of your tech friends, but you'll have fun.

Finally, a word of advice: if the tech stuff is going to be appreciated more by you than your spouse, then make sure you're finding ways to improve the home that will be appreciated more by your spouse than by you. Domestic harmony is more important than any gadget.

Why for your friends, and not for you? (3, Informative)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540437)

I guess it depends on what your friends like, and why you want to impress them. I enjoy tinkering, and have been gradually adding bits and pieces, but nothing designed to impress anyone other than me.

Playing on the Wii — four player Mario Kart, in particular — with the image projected across the lounge, is something which people seem to enjoy, though; pretty cheap (a bog standard, non-HD projector cost me about £220 about five years ago), and great fun. Just find some games which are easy enough to pick up and play, and get everyone involved, and you're off... I wouldn't put that together just to impress others, though, but it is quite good fun all the same.

The bought-broken-on-eBay-but-fixed-with-a-screwdriver Roomba is quite cool, but doesn't get as much use as I'd like, as my girlfriend is not a great fan of it. It doesn't save me much time either, to be honest, as, when I run it, I tend to stand marveling at it...

Personally, the things I find the coolest are music streamed into which ever room I want, controllable via my phone (AirTunes... nothing fancy here), and being able to select any movie and have it streamed through the projector (Apple TV and iTunes on server currently, although previously via a PS3 and a share on the server). Again, neither is fancy, but they both work a treat.

The remotely-controlled lighting was relatively inexpensive, but my setup is not free of bugs yet — I'm using HomeEasy switches, and a small RF dongle (TellStick) plugged in the back of a Linux machine, and, whilst it means I can easily control the lighting from a web browser, and easily automate when I'm away from home, I have not yet managed to get one transmission controlling just one light. Switching off the lounge lighting via the console / interface switches off the light in the kitchen and so on. A real nuisance, and one which I need to spend more time trying to resolve.

(Cameras around the house were the only things that raised objections, although agreeing on placement solved that problem.)

Re:Why for your friends, and not for you? (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540471)

Perhaps worth adding — I have not had the walls up, and don't want cables everywhere, so everything is wireless. DVDs (not Blu-Ray) get ripped to around 1.2GB each, and stream over the Wi-Fi system. I haven't had a problem with this, and so would see whether a wireless solution would suit your needs.

Why use an Ipad ? (-1, Troll)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540453)

If cost is an issue, then use Android based tablets, they are much cheaper than the Apple equivalents that can do the same job. Unless poser value is more important to you than functionality.

Get a life (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540457)

You should grow up. There are much more important things that the stuff you're thinking about.

I know you think that stuff is important, but your wife and kids will appreciate it if you grow as a person.

Re:Get a life (1, Funny)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540561)

You should grow up. There are much more important things that the stuff you're thinking about.

I know you think that stuff is important, but your wife and kids will appreciate it if you grow as a person.

I get the vibe you're jealous.

Have fun (1)

euxle (127207) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540463)

Put at least two fully patched ethernet outlets in any room. Create an infrastructure star with a centralized "server room".
Make sure to have enough power outlets in each room. Check wire quality and fuses.
For sensors you want to look into 1-wire technology. This is the cheapest way to measure temperature or count usage of e.g. water, natural gas and power.
Think a lot about energy and consumption like heating support with solar thermal water heating or insulating the whole house.
Also check tubes and water outlets.
Consider the need of security elements like sensors and cameras. Power over ethernet might come handy.
Look into combined house automation technologies like Konnex/EIB or EnOcean or z-wave. But be aware, this stuff gets expensive.

Welcome to a never ending playground.

I suggest you start implementing stuff that saves you money, like optimizing your energy consumption and monitoring that.

Main Considerations (5, Informative)

az1324 (458137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540479)

If you DIY you can probably accomplish a lot for under $10k and the pros would probably charge you 10x that for similar functionality. The following categories should represent the major considerations:

Infrastructure - How are you going to connect everything?
- WiFi Everywhere
- Server box for storage & to run some home automation software & scripts (small embedded linux or more powerful)
- Main equipment location & as much distributed wiring as you can do cheaply & easily yourself

Entertainment - From where will your source content & how will you present it?
- LCD/Plasma Monitors
- Multiroom audio
- Rokus or other cheap streaming boxes?
- Whole House DVR systems from cable/satellite? (Dish Hopper/Joey, etc...)
- HDHomeRun or other DVR capture cards?
- A/V matrix switches & distribution? (monoprice)
- Programmable remotes (ipads, cheap android tablets, logitech harmony, etc...)

Comfort & Convenience
- Lighting (X10, Z-Wave, Insteon, UPB, etc..)
- HVAC (thermostats)
- In-house communications (intercoms, pbx)
- Misc automation (window shading, garage doors, locks, etc...)
- Weather/Environmental sensors (oregon scientific, lacrosse)
- Programmable remotes (ipads, cheap android tablets, logitech harmony, etc...)

Security
- Alarm system (2gig, honeywell, etc..)
- Cameras & DVR

The wow factor usually comes from complex actions resulting from simple inputs (scripting) so plan ahead for how everything is going to work together & communicate (sticking to fewer protocols will be easier, though maybe not always cheaper). Have a controller/server you can program yourself and don't get locked in to a proprietary system.

IMHO, a bunch of ipads plastered into the walls really aren't that useful or impressive so skip that.

Plan for a short sale now (1, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540499)

about to take on the next big adventure: home ownership

Bad time to buy. Run like hell.

1) Multi-generational low interest rates mean they'll inevitably increase. Increasing rates = declining home prices. My parents bought the equivalent of a mcmansion for only $80K (not 8M, not 800K) during the peak of the 70s-80s stagflation when I was a kid, 20% interest rates and all. Needless to say the price exploded as rates dropped to normal. You'll be experiencing the reverse effect as rates increase... home price implodes. If you're planning to live there for the entire mortgage, then you'll merely get a legendarily bad deal, but if you have to move you'll probably be underwater, welcome to foreclosure and bankruptcy.

2) The % of the population employed has been steadily and permanently dropping. The odds of your being able to make a mortgage payment, every month, for 25 years, is about the same as the odds of having the same job at the same company for 25 years. On a "tech board" like this we know all about ageism... after 40 no one is ever going to hire you to do tech, so you either need to contract or greet at walmart or retrain into ... something.

3) For at least 40 years the median inflation adjusted income has been dropping. That means the median person's housing budget has been dropping. That means that aside from govt intervention, etc, the price of median real estate must drop. Essentially you're buying an asset whos value is guaranteed to drop over time.

4) Kids are much cheaper than houses, the payments are generally much more flexible and predictable, and the "contract" theoretically ends at 18 instead of 25 or 30 years. You skipped a step on the plan. Ease into a commitment toward debt slavery. Actually you probably skipped two steps... start with a pet, like a housecat, see if she's all bonkers maternal instinct on the cat, then if its all good squirt out some kids, then do the landed estate thing.

5) Everyone who gets married thinks their relationship is "special" and "forever" but half of them end up divorced anyway. The odds are actually better than you'll be divorced than you'll be married forever. A house just complicates things, a "high tech" house complicates further.

Arguments for:

1) A commissioned salesperson thinks today is a great time to buy. For a good laugh ask your barber how often to get a haircut.

2) People used to make lots of money buying and selling real estate. Well, they made a lot of money selling horse carriages, and working on industrial assembly lines, and being travel agents. Would not advise entering real estate in 2012 anymore than I'd advise becoming a travel agent.

So here's the deal. In the long run the price of the house is going to drop. I don't think a fancy thermostat and/or sound system is going to offset that. At some point when you own the house you'll be unemployed and minimizing your expenses (electrical bill, credit card bill, monthly subscriptions) is the key to survival. In the future, even during good times, you'll have less money, either lower bottom line income, inflation, etc. Needless to say, when I bought my house, I was not paying $5/gallon for gas... The majority outcome in the medium term is you'll be trying to figure out what to do with the house at a divorce proceeding.

Theoretical plan based on the above: Only invest in fixed non-removable stuff that save you money every month. Fancy insulation, triple pane windows, high efficiency appliances. Do not put something "unmovable" into the house, because you'll be removing it a heck of a lot sooner than you think, so forget whole house audio etc. Plug in X10/Insteon stuff, OK. Wired in X10/Insteon, not OK. Ethernet patch cable thru hole in floor OK, permanent house wiring that'll just get ripped out by the next owner, not OK. Never install or purchase anything with a monthly subscription or increased monthly cost because you'll probably not be able to afford it in the future. Have a plan for how to explain to the female divorce judge why the credit card balance is so high, why the house is full of weird technology that makes it harder to sell to the average moron, etc. And/or a tech prenup kind of thing where you'll be stuck with the misterhouse install when/if the wife leaves. The last thing you want as a part of divorce proceedings is a $10K bill at the end for complete rewiring of the house tacked onto your bills at the end because you did some of your own wiring, or the wife and her new boyfriend can't figure out how to remove in-wall cat-5.

Re:Plan for a short sale now (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540711)

You remind me of an old lady I used to know. She used candles and eat cold food and didn't heat her house rather than pay for electricity. Everyone presumed she was dirt poor.
After she died they found her mattress was stuffed with literally millions of dollars.

Get a good sound calibration system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540539)

Get a receiver with Audyssey MultiEQ calibration and calibrate your room. This is the most impressive thing you can do to improve sound in your room short of installing sound absorbing panels anywhere. They're also not that expensive these days. I got a low-end Dennon that had it and the Okyno ones are also quite good.

Make it wife-friendly (5, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540649)

Make sure whatever you do, it's wife-friendly (unless your wife is an uber-geek).

If your wife is typical, when she wants to watch TV she wants to press "ON" on a remote, then select the channel that's running Glee. She doesn't want to boot a Linux box, mount a fileshare and browse a bunch of torrents. Similarly, if the house is cold she wants to bump up the thermostat, not telnet into the furnace from a PC that doesn't have a case that lives in the garage.

Achievable More Today than Ever in History (2)

Praxiteles (696743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540693)

Given Moore's Law and the "Innovator's Dilemma", commoditization, industry liquidation, and the trend of "half the price and smaller" every 18-24 months (even faster for genomics technology), more technology is reaching the price point you need at a faster pace than ever.

Consider just one option: -iPod/iPhone Light Switches: Though you may not be able to put iPads in every room, I just checked eBay and first, second, and third generation iPods and iPhones are selling for $50-$100. With a little programming, a lot of potential becomes possible. Your light switches could control not only your lights but your sound system as well. Every light switch could show the time, the weather for the day, your favorite stocks, and the latest post from your FaceBook Wall or Tweet. The latest iOS Framework supports face tracking which is trivial to implement. Add that to some of the facial image recognition libraries and a well placed iPhone camera in your foyer could cue your favorite music the moment you arrive home. Add photos of your friends to the system and now whenever a guest looks at a light switch, the system could recognize their face and show their favorite stocks or posts from their FB wall.

A single technology pervasively applied could create a compelling impression yet at a budget price.

Just don't be surprised if you find your guests at parties clustered around your light switches playing Angry Birds.

CocoonTech (2)

xplosiv (129880) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540709)

Check out CocoonTech.com [cocoontech.com] , a site dedicated to home automation, home security, and all the other fun stuff, DIY style (but plenty of professionals hang out there as well). That said, I hope you aren't doing it for your friends, you need to enjoy the home yourself ;)

There is also the Wiring Your New House [cocoontech.com] guide in case you have access to the walls and want to future proof your home.

Tech grows old fast - so make it detachable.... (3, Insightful)

aurizon (122550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540731)

and updateable. Nothing looks worse than a tired high-tech house. How soon the latest 1,200 baud modems become scrap, same with flat screens etc. Once I have built it in, how soon before I must rip it out and update because a high tech troll dissed my dated designcraft...

I would think that 2 inch plastic pipe hidden in the walls would allow you to remove and wire up with better fiber etc. It will also allow seamless mousehole-to-mousehole traffic, so get a cat or three - they never go out of date!!!

do some engineering analysis first!! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540737)

You'll get plenty of suggestions as to what will ostensibly save money down the road. Carefully analyze it FOR YOUR SITUATION. Sometimes, the comparison in the literature is today's whiz-bang gadget against "the average widget" in the entire US. Look at your energy and resource costs and environmental conditions in your area (Im in SoCal is different than coastal Maine or Minnesota) Examples from a house built in 1997-1998

Cases in point:
Tankless hot water. - Right now, natural gas is *cheap* and it is likely to stay that way for at least 10 years. If you have (or are going to have) children, you consume a lot of hot water, all at one time (yes, 2 teenage daughters, etc.). Tankless is great for one person at a time showers, not so hot for laundry+2 showers+ dishwasher, unless you radically scale up. And conventional tanked hot water heaters these days (with insulating blanket and modern ignitors) don't burn that much gas "keeping the tank hot". (and you could always put a timer on the burner to shut down during the middle of the day). Ditto, solar panels. Today, gas is so cheap that the payback period for solar panels is decades And the maintenance for the panel system is bigger. If I had to make hot water with oil or coal or (god forbid) electricity... it would be different.

Electrical power - in my house, in the winter, the two big loads are: refrigerator, lighting. But lighting is only when people are home in the evening. I had all sorts of plans for automatic timers, etc. But a bit of measurement (Kill-A-Watt on the refrigerator, TV, etc.) showed that lighting was less than 20% of the total load, and fancy switching might reduce that to 15%. Summer, the big load is AC. But that's mostly determined by factors beyond my control (e.g. the outside temperature). A higher SEER AC might help, but running the statistics showed, not really, for our area.

Appliances - Front load washing machine is *a lot* better than top load in both water and electrical consumption. But, how long is the payback period on a $1000 purchase? Refrigerator.. same sort of thing. If your refrigerator was bought in the last 10 years, the new ones aren't *that* much more efficient. If you're using an avocado colored beast you got from your parents 30 years ago... yeah, a new refrigerator might not be a bad idea. But again, you're talking $1000

Insulation - i wanted to aircondition my garage to make it comfortable in the summer to work out there. So I immediately assumed I'd need to go on a insulation frenzy. But a big of calculation showed that running the airconditioner the few hours longer to make up for the poor insulation would cost something like $20-50/year (it's just not that big a space 20x20 ft, and the number of days/hours when the outside air temp is above 80 isn't all that many). Am I willing to invest several thousand dollars worth of time to go through the process of insulating.. nope.

Moral of the story.. don't take the "conventional wisdom" as the analysis. Your situation, and your power rates and climate, will be different.

Get a NEST... (1)

D-OveRMinD (1517467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540769)

Seriously...now that you're married, possibly have a family later, etc, start thinking about cool gadgets that are more than cool. Gadgets that will save you money, help monitor your home, etc. Practical gadgets. The very first thing I would add would be a NEST Thermostat. It is so unbelievably cool looking, will mesmerize your friends, and will keep you comfortable year round while saving piles of money on heating and cooling bills. Plus it's always cool to be able to track and make changes to stuff like this from your web browser or phone from anywhere. It's a real conversation piece. Read about it and watch the videos here: http://www.nest.com/ [nest.com]

Just buy boxes (1)

Boawk (525582) | more than 2 years ago | (#39540777)

of miscellaneous technical gear, then host an IETF conference [slashdot.org] at your house.

microcontrollers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540801)

arduinos, msps, and even the raspberry pi now that it's sort of here ... ... cheap ways to replace thermostats, home security systems, and sprinkler systems with something that you can fine tune and save some $$

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