Hi, I think that there is little question that X-10 is your best bet
and you are already leaning that way so I will concentrate on that
There is much more to home automation systems than light control, for
example, if you have a telephone line to the vacation home you can
also add sensors to report temperature, water leaks, break-ins, fire,
and other features.
Alternative systems, Zigbee and Zwave are both radio frequency (RF)
based and are similar single-band wireless networks which require a
network controller. Neither is compatible with any inexpensive X-10
Zwave controls each have a repeater to improve range and increase
reliability but don?t use the power lines.
I recommend against both for this application.
X-10 operates via powerline control, that is, it runs through the property wiring.
But you can also add RF X-10 controls and components which operate
through the electrical wiring and wirelessly.
X-10 has a vast number of options available including the ability to
connect to phone lines and even computers if you desire, but for a
remote property you don?t need to use either and the system can rely
entirely on hardware programming so extended power outages are no
problem except that when the power returns it may turn on some
X-10 offers two basic kinds of controls ? lights and appliances. The
major benefit of this is that you can have all-on/all-off commands
which only affect the lights.
In addition to controllers which can be operated and polled (checked
for condition) remotely by telephone, there are inexpensive
wall-switch replacements which can manage multiple devices with
different buttons. There are also combination remotes which can
control TV, stereos, VCRs, etc. as well as X-10. These universal
remotes can even turn X-10 remotes on or off based on time periods ?
e.g. you can have a light turn off in 15 minutes.
Many fixed controls also let you program lights and appliance modules.
You can even use remote sensors to turn lights on and off based on
daylight, and others on for timed periods if triggered by motion.
If you add a single RF controller you can also add small programmable
battery powered sensors anyplace. I use them to turn on fountains and
some lights just for specific areas.
I use Smarthome Pro for the more sophisticated components and I
strongly suggest you check out their online catalog to see just what
This is a good source of the commercial-grade X-10 components from Levitron.
Especially for cameras, but also to get started with some really
amazing sale prices at times, you should check out www.X-10.com and
even sign up for their weekly sale bulletins.
You can sometimes save up to 80 percent on package deals, although
these seldom if ever include wall switches, just the plug-in modules.
This is a perfect time to install a system because of the
recently-introduced Insteon which is more reliable than X-10 but is
backward compatible with X-10.
The major problem with X-10 is that there is usually no way for the
system itself to confirm that a command was received and acted upon.
Where this is important you need a system which verifies that the
action took place and resends a command if it doesn?t.
Insteon will do that for other Insteon components ? since this is
usually not a problem for most X-10 components you can use a
combination of the two.
There are many benefits to Insteon and it is only a bit more expensive
than X-10 so you could go with an all Insteon system if you don?t need
any of the special equipment only available for X-10 at this time (new
Insteon applications are being developed).
If reliability is a concern in this vacation home, I would recommend
buying a basic Insteon system for critical control points and adding
less-expensive but compatible X-10 components for other applications
in the same location.
A basic Insteon network consisting of a controller, two switches and
two combination switches/relays, lists for about $100.
If you have as big and complex a home automation system as I do, then
the fact that Insteon controllers can be programmed to have different
buttons control different X-10 channels (A,B,C, etc.) as well as
different number codes within each channel.
Just so you know the basis for my comments, I have fixed remote
wireless cameras in barns to monitor animals at birthing time ? the
range is about 300 ft.; remote X-10 signal smoke sensors; an X-10
compatible alarm system for intrusion, water leak, and other sensors;
internal and floodlight X-10 controls, many with dimmer features;
external and internal sensors which turn lights on for timed periods;
and four remote-control (X-10) pan and tilt color video cameras.
Just so you know, I am not in a high crime area, these are for
convenience, power savings, and to help monitor the activities of more
than 100 animals. The same sensor which detects a burglar moving
through the front yard or gate will also react to a horse or flock of
sheep so I have the sensor turn on a light in the office to alert me
and also turn on a cheap portable TV which picks up a camera view from
Although there is a vast additional amount of information on home
automation, I think this covers the basics and it would be much easier
to answer any additional specific questions as a clarification since I
don?t know much about your specific situation and needs.
I will be happy to provide more information but suggest you check out
the smarthomepro.com site first ? that will answer most questions and
may provoke other questions which I have direct experience with.
If you have a specific problem to address I can probably give you the
names of specific components to solve the problem.