regarding the home automation - X10 is the cheapest way to go (CM11A interfaces are easy to find on ebay for about $15, light switches and outlets are about $6 each, plugin modules and screw-in lamp modules are about as cheap) Its cheaper by at least a factor of 7, maybe more.
There are come caveats though:
- It is older technology, so it reacts slower (about a 1 second delay)
- It is reportedly less reliable (though in my extensive X10 setup, I would say I have at least 98% reliability). The big thing here is to spend a whopping $19 on a phase coupler/repeater. This eliminates almost all reliability problems
- Less devices supported (max of 256 devices controllable). Though, thats plenty in most cases
- The CM11A interface module does have some harware design flaws. Because of this, I do have to reset the interface from time to time (about every month or so). This just means unplugging it for 15 seonds then plugging it back in. But, this is in a house with over 100 X10 devices that are used all the time.
- Devices can't be polled for their state
- On/Off devices have an audible click sound. Some people hate it, others don't
The good parts:
-Reliable if installed right
-Enormous selection of switches, outlets, modules, sensors etc
-Protocol is completely documented
-Security sensors and modules available
-has some limited climate control items
-Dimming modules are silent
-Has On/Off switches available that work with Compact Fluorescent lights and ceiling fans
-Have special inductive dimmers for motor control
I can't argue that ZWave and Insteon aren't better - they are better. They are faster to respond, and have some newer features (such as device polling). But when you compare a $6 switch that works fine, to a $50 switch thats just a bit fancier - in my mind X10 is a better deal. Sure, they aren't as nice, but in the end you get the same experience for a lot less money. Hell, if I had money to piss away, I would have bought a pluto system from an authorized dealer instead of building a LMCE system myself.
If I were you, let your budget dictate which way to go. In the end, they are all viable options that have the same end result.