Newbie questions on starting home automation...

We just bought a new house and are upgrading the electrical. As part of this project, I am considering some simple home automation.

First step would be to control lights in some of the key rooms (both chandeliers and plug-in lamps). Over time, I would imagine adding more lights and potentially moving on to thermostats and some appliances or security features.

However, I am a bit confused by the broad range of technologies, so here are my questions:

  1. Is it best to go with the tried-and-true (and relatively cheap) X10 technology or should I be looking at newer stuff like Z-wave?

  1. How useful are two-way vs. one-way switches? Is there really much practical use for the "other" way?

  2. What brand switches offer the best quality/value tradeoff? Levitons seem high priced but are a "name" brand. The X10-brand switches are much cheaper but how is the quality (both physical look-and-feel and electrical reliability) Should I spend the extra $$$ for Leviton?

  1. The X10 ActiveHome Professional system with CM15a controler is cheap and received top rating from PC Magazine. - Is that a good starter system or would you recommend starting with something else? - Is it compatible with Leviton extended commands? - How expandable and flexible is the system?

  2. Assuming I connect this to my PC, how hard is it to program? (i.e. will my "wife" or "mother-in-law" be able to use it) How many controllers does one need to have for the benefits of X10 outweigh the complexities relative to using discrete Intermatic-like light timers.

  1. Which vendors would you recommend?

If these questions have been asked and answered elsewhere, please give me a pointer (NB, I had trouble accessing the site with the supposed faq).

Thanks, Jeff

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Jeffrey J. Kosowsky
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