I'm looking to automate my home but know nothing about HA. What are some good resources to learn both the beginner stuff and more advanced topics.
There's no definitive resource on the topic or at least I could not find one (and I spent couple of months heavily involved in HA during one of my projects).
Get started with the Wikipedia article on HA. This gives you overview of what is what and gives you a good starting point. Then proceed to familiarise yourself with technology out there like X10, UPB, Z-Wave, etc etc.
From there you will be able to start to judge the prices of different technologies as well as find resources on specific tech/protocol/brand which seems to be a little more common than broad scope resources. In terms of sourcing the components, eBay as always is a good starting point. I ordered a few things from New Zealand because availability here is shocking. Though always be aware of country differences (voltages, frequencies, etc.)
I hope this helps you to get started. And I will definitely keep an eye on answers here - maybe I have missed something too.
There is no single way of automation any task. We do live in a technology boom era and we have hundreds of solutions and thousands of ways of doing things. This is usually called prototyping. That term is fairly accurate as you are trying to create solutions based on several products. Luckily we have access to various development kits.
There are many tools out there that help us build things using modular style but also allow us to use custom built modules or completely non standard solutions. It all depends on the experience of the builder and the target audience.
This community answer should help you decide on what platforms and tools you would like to use. There is a range of easy to professional products listed here so it is really up to you to do the research into what is involved for each platform. I would like to think that every next similar question can be marked as duplicate and this community entry can be updated as time goes on
Popular "standardised" home automation solutions for non power users.
MCU Platforms that are code specific but not full CPU's
Easy for fairly experienced users
Advanced and really for power programmers only
CPU (x86/ARM) Based platforms
These solutions usually allow you to select specific operating systems. Most likely Linux or Unix. But you can find Windows, Java VM or other proprietary operating systems.
You can then code in anything you want Perl, PHP, Mono, Ruby, C/C++, etc.
Where to buy fairly cheap modules, gadgets, PCB fabrication and trinkets.
Seems so expensive?
Yes, unfortunately using standardised solutions you might have to fork out a substantial amount of money. But that usually means you will have things done allot quicker.
The cheapest MCU are Atmel's or PIC MCU - Amongst the cheapest and smallest is an Atmel aTiny 861 for a few dollars and the Atmel atMega range allows for more inputs and outputs - but still can be found under 10 dollars (chip only) - Atmega also do wireless solution that are much cheaper than xbee for example. You have to understand C though and there can be a lot of tinkering involved.
Platforms like the Raspberry Pi can be used as a "cheap" central computer that can run a database like mysql, connect to to the internet via Wifi/LAN, act as a web server, communicate with MCU's via UART over RF (433mhz/800mhz/1Ghz/2.4Ghz) and allow for a multitude of prototyping while using a Long Term Supported operating systems like Rasbpian (Debian) and standardised hardware like USB Webcams, Bluetooth and anything else that has a driver for it. The Raspberry is special because it also has a powerful GPU and full HD HDMI output. So you could power it behind your TV and output HD video content if you knew how to.
This same type of question was asked last week. There were not many answers. I suggested looking at the Lutron.com site, as I have used this brand. This is an emerging technology and last week on TOH they featured a system (forgot the brand) in a custom high end home, very big bucks. If you check the tag for home-automation, you will see previous related questions and a few links. I would love to see some good links, looks like an internet research project. The Lutron system looks DIY friendly, but others I have seen require professional installation and programming.
I think the Open-source ideal fits very well with the DIY-type-of-user, so I recommend you to have a look at this type of projects: