We've posted a few home automation options out there, noting the majority of products are still expensive. But if you've got the DIY-geek-tinkerer spirit, drop by Fry's, the local hardware store and online sources, you could save a bit of money by creating your own home automation system like Alan Graham shared over at Boing Boing. His geek-tastic setup uses the iPad as the central control unit for his whole home with a customized interface...
Most notable is how Alan created a safe place to store and house his iPad for everyday use:
First I found some metal framing material at Lowes and built a mount for the wall. Then I embedded a rare earth magnet in the wall and spackled it in place so you couldn't see it. I cut a strip of tin, flattened it, and mounted it to the back of the iPad behind some velvet. This way when you place the iPad in the mount, it clicks and sticks to the wall (no velcro for me). With that done I moved on to a new UI.
Not for the feint of heart, but Alan's setup allows him to control the lighting throughout the home, his Sonos music system, the Ecobee thermostat and even his coffee machine setup! The interface is even colour-coded in a logical manner Alan describes in detail:
The commands on the left are all grouped as they are because they are rarely used, so they aren't intended to stick out. The living room lights are all designed to look like gradients and are in the same color family because they reinforce the fact that they represent brightening or dimming of lights. There are macros which are grouped by color. The Ecobee icon is white because I don't have a transparent icon to work with so I made the button match the screen shot. You know something is active because it recesses when pushed. Again...there are limitations to how "cool" I can make it because I can't just makes this some animated HTML5 CSS screen of awesomeness. I can't make coo sliders or Flash buttons and animations."
Alan is in the process of writing a whole book about the process so would-be iPad makers will follow his footsteps, giving birth to the hopes we might be able to integrate our iPad in similar fashion. More details over at Boing Boing to get your started (or at least planning).