Where, exactly, do you find these home automation devices? Prices haven't come down to the point where they can be found on the shelf at Walmart, but many of the components are actually quite affordable. There are a great number of online stores that sell home automation products, some exclusively, and some alongside security offerings. You can even find them at Home Depot's online store, although the company says these products are available online-only.
Before you go shopping for HA devices, you should consider other possible expenses for which you might not have yet accounted. Is the wiring in your home sufficient for your protocol of choice, or will you have to have it re-wired? Do you need (or even want) an electrician to come out and take care of the light switches and power outlet wiring if they need to be modified? What kind of control will you want over the system (will it be by hand-held remote, in-wall controllers, a PC interface, or do you want some or all of it to be automated)?
I spent several days looking through the products available online and browsing forums to see what options were available out-of-the-box for a tech-savvy enthusiast. Two of the most complete and informative Web stores I found were smarthome.com and homecontrols.com. Many of the searches for further guidance landed me at cocoontech.com, and reading other people's guides and questions helped me through the process.
Once you start looking through the e-tail catalogs and reading about what other people have done in the home automation-centered forums, it's easy to get carried away. Incidentally, don't be surprised if your resulting ideas turn out to be more grandiose than your budget.
Pulling The Trigger
When it came to buying I went back to smarthome.com for their Insteon products. You can get Insteon-based hardware at a number of other online vendors, such as homedepot.com, amazon.com, and crutchfield.com, but you'll probably find better deals and more help at sites specializing specifically in home automation.
Of course, I wanted to do more than I could afford, so I had to start small and I plan to add on later. Lighting was at the top of my list, so I ordered a starter kit that included a few dimmer switches, a tabletop controller, and a pair of access points to strengthen the Insteon network. To achieve more granular control of the system, I picked up a Smartlinc controller that allows program and control access from any computer and many smartphones. A wireless motion sensor was thrown in to play with responsive triggers and an input/output controller to activate my garage door. After making the purchase, I sat patiently, waiting for the package's arrival.