In the first part of our home networking series I looked at the reasons why I decided to go with Ubiquiti for the LAN in the new house. The next step was to figure out exactly what I’d need to roll out this top-of-the-line home network.
Right now the area where our rack will eventually be installed still looks pretty rough. But hopefully over the next few months things will get a lot more interesting with this space on the garage wall.
Feeding our details into the UniFi Network Planner the recommendation was for 5 access points around our new build.
But with its slightly unusual layout (2 buildings side by side) and lots of WiFi killing foil backed insulation, and plenty of steel too, I decided to contact Ubiquiti about our project and run it by them.
After some discussion about our all-block construction, floor area and requirements for our network, I’m incredibly grateful to have received this hardware direct from Ubiquiti to power the Automated Home 2.0 network!
Let’s start with the switch, as pretty much everything else is going to connect to it. This is the 48 port 500 watt PoE (Power over Ethernet) model which will power all of our WAPs (Wireless Access Points) directly as well as our security cameras too. It’s a full managed rack mount, gigabit Ethernet switch and all 48 ports support 802.3at, 802.3af & 24V Passive PoE. In addition there are 2 SFP ports and 2 SFP+ ports for 10 gb links to other devices.
As a guide, wireless access points and cameras generally use around 6 Watts, so with 7 APs, perhaps up to a dozen cameras and the 13 Watt Cloud Key Controller, we’ll have a required PoE budget of around 130 Watts – so well within the capabilities of this switch (maximum PoE+ output for any individual port is 34 Watts).
If you don’t need so many ports then Ubiquiti’s PoE switch ranges starts with this little 8 port 60 Watt version. On the other hand if you require a layer 3 switch check out the new pro models in the Gen2 range.
The UniFi Security Gateway Pro is a rack mountable router that will manage our connection to the internet and provide our firewall. It handles DHCP, DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) to see what sites and services the devices on our LAN are using. In addition it features IDS (Intrusion Detection System) alerts for malware and vulnerabilities and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) which will actually block these threats. It’s also a VPN server allowing us to join our home LAN with a secure and encrypt private connection when away from home.
With 2 WAN ports there’s scope to add a 4G cellular connection for failover too, although that is something I need to look into in more detail in the future (the UniFi LTE looks ideal but is not available in the UK yet). The Pro has faster through put than the standard USG, which will be required for the FTTP connection that should become available to us in the not too distant future.
Cloud Key & CCTV Recorder
You do not need have a ‘Controller’ running for UniFi WiFi to work. However, it is a requirement for setting up the system, as well as providing all the cool monitoring and control features. So if you are going to the trouble of installing a proper UniFi setup then you should definitely plan to run one.
There are a couple of ways to provide the Controller, which is accessed through a web browser interface. If you have an always on PC, Mac, or Raspberry Pi already running 24/7 then you can download and install a software controller. You can even run the controller on your NAS and there are cloud services that will host this for you too if you prefer.
But a nice option is Ubiquiti’s own Cloud Key range. These are little computers that run stand alone and we’ve got the Gen2 Plus Cloud Key. This unit also provides the additional UniFi Protect software plus a built-in 1TB hard drive for security camera duties (the 2.5″ disk is user replaceable up to 5TB). There’s also a rack mount accessory for the Cloud Key Gen2 Plus which I intend to buy so this unit can be integrated into our rack setup too.
Wireless Access Points
Most garden-variety home WiFi systems out there just offer a single type of access point. But with Ubiquiti there are many SKUs to choose from, depending on the job in hand and where the unit is going to be located.
We’re using lots of 3rd Gen UniFi access points including a couple of the ‘flying saucers’ that Ubiquiti are famous for. The disk shaped nanoHD unit is an indoor AP that’s powered by 802.3af PoE and supports 4×4 MU-MIMO.
That gives a theoretical aggregated maximum throughput of 1,733 Mbps on 5 GHz and 300 Mpbs on 2.4 GHz. In practical terms these units are of course limited by the 1,000 Mbps of our Ethernet port on the wired side. They support 200+ concurrent users and are particularly well suited to the modern 5 GHz devices we’ll be using in the house.
Each wired unit can also provide a wireless link to another access point for expansion that doesn’t need more network cables. We won’t need this ‘Mesh’ setup though as each WAP will be fed from its own CAT6a cable run back to the switch. The UniFi AP Flex HD is another WAP form factor just arrived in the UK that’s worth checking out too.
Locations: 2 units, 1 x Kitchen Island, 1 x Living Area TV Unit
I’ve got 4 of the latest in-wall HD access points too. These are basically the same radios as the nanoHD above but in a different indoor form factor, with some cool extras.
They are perfect for our bedrooms as they provide a really neat WAP which attaches to the wall (so no need for anything on the ceilings), plus they have a little built-in switch to provide Ethernet too. So this single neat unit provides WiFi to the room – 3 regular Gigabit Ethernet sockets for PCs etc, and a 4th PoE Gigabit port for something like a security camera or a VoIP phone (802.3af PoE and 802.3at PoE+ input supported).
Location: 4 units – 1 x Master Bed, 1 x Snug, 1 x Bedroom 2, 1 x Bedroom 3
With a car that gets frequent over-the-air software updates, an access point in the garage is good practice too. For this I’ve chosen the indoor / outdoor rated AC Mesh that can be powered from 24V Passive PoE or 802.3af. It’s a 2×2 MIMO unit with support for up to 300 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps on 5 GHz. Plenty of performance for the car and, like with most UniFi WAPs, it has the ability to expand the network outside via a mesh setup in the future.
Part of the attraction of the UniFi system is the depth of its product range and, like with the Loxone setup we’ve chosen for our smart home system, their ability to all work together seamlessly.
That includes the security cameras and we’re lucky to have received one of these range topping G4 Pro’s to install. This is an indoor / outdoor (IP67) 4K camera (3840 x 2160) with a powered 3x optical zoom (4.24 mm – 12.66 mm, ƒ/1.53 – ƒ/3.3) which allows for adjustable framing.
There’s an on-board microphone, IR for night time illumination and an attention-grabbing animated ring around the lens that encourages people to look up at the camera.
I’m not sure exactly where this will go as our camera plans are still being finalised, but it will be definitely go up somewhere outside.
By contrast the little 11 cm x 5 cm G3 Flex is the least expensive camera in the current line up and it offers great value.
It’s an indoor / outdoor 1080p unit and has plenty of flexible mounting options including desktop, wall, pole and ceiling.
Despite being so affordable it doesn’t scrimp on features. It’s also PoE powered and includes IR LEDs for night mode and a built-in microphone.
Its lens (4mm / f2.0) has a horizontal viewing angle of 87.4° so relatively wide.
Location: 4 units – Locations Around the House TBC
If you are looking for something that costs less, is more compact, but still need the enterprise features of a UniFi system then check out the brand new UniFi Dream Machine (UDM). This unit combines a WAP, the Security Gateway, a Cloud Key controller and Gigabit Switch all in a one-box solution.
The new UniFi Dream Machine Pro (UDM-Pro) has just landed too, which is a 1U rackmount version that drops the WAP but adds the ‘UniFi Protect’ software to run the cameras as well as a 3.5″ hard drive bay for recordings.
The electricians are on site currently working on the first fix so in part 3 I’ll look at the cabling for the system as we work towards installing the WAPs around the house. For now though you can read all the blog posts on the Automated Home 2.0 and follow along on our Instagram.
Make sure to check out all parts in this review series…