I was in the same boat. I wanted something where I could warm up the house before I arrive, PA winters are brutal and I didn't want heat the whole house 24/7.
I have electric baseboard heating (common in PA vacation homes - cheap to install massively expensive to run, great for builders, sucks for the homeowner) I would keep the rooms with water lines at 50 and the rest of the house the heat was turned off which makes for a cold arrival especially when it's late at night and everyone just wants to hit the bed. I was going down the Nest path but with electric baseboards that's one Nest per room and that's super expensive. Also at the time Nest was a one-trick-pony (still is but it?s integrated with more systems now) In my head I thought of many other home automation uses I'd like to have for the vacation home and at the time Vera was pretty much the only worthwhile user installed game in town. I love DIY and hate paying subscription fees, Vera was the clear winner for me.
Major Challenge for baseboard heating: I had to figure out how to convert the 240v baseboard line down to a 24v to accommodate a nest or any other 24v stat. To my knowledge there are no 240v z-wave or wifi stats yet. After some searching I found a really well-made, smallish transformer made by Aube: http://www.amazon.com/Aube-RC840T-240-Switching-Electric-Transformer/dp/B0037MXM1C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433340966&sr=8-1&keywords=aube+rc840t-240
You can get a 240/24 at your big box store but those are massive and heavy and cannot be installed in-wall and I wanted it installed in the wall (not visible). The wiring was a bit tricky but once you figure out how your house is wired the rest is easy, I even stumped an electrician buddy of mine with this but I figured it out and it works flawlessly. I opted for the 2Gig stat: http://www.amazon.com/2gig-CT100-Z-Wave-Programmable-Thermostat/dp/B008CQ4V3Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433341055&sr=8-1&keywords=2gig+thermostat
and I am very happy with it. In my case each room with a stat had a total cost of ~$130 vs the Nest $249 + $ 45 for the relay = $300
I can control the temp via my iPhone, Computer (Vera UI) or the actual stat itself. As for programming you would have to set that up in the Vera UI as a schedule and make it active. The 2 Gig does not have an onboard programmable setting. I set up a program Vera UI and I enable the schedule only when I am at the house. My AC is separate and I haven?t found a reason to find a solution for it yet. In the summer my house is generally very cool especially when we first arrive and it only takes minutes for the A/C to cool down the house so I have not needed to pre-cool it after all these years.
I also added some security sensors: http://www.amazon.com/Schlage-RS100HC-SL-Window-Intelligence/dp/B008Q5CTBE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1433341423&sr=8-3&keywords=zwave+security+sensors
that tell me if a door or window was opened.
I added a fan controller: http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-VRF01-1LZ-Capable-Control-Almond/dp/B001HT4M48/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1433341500&sr=8-2&keywords=zwave+fan+control
since my fan is very high and unreachable without a ladder so it was set to one setting and it was either on or off. The z-wave fan switch allows me to control the speed from my phone or the wall switch itself. I only go into the UI to activate or deactivate schedules and to tweak winter / summer settings for my various scenes.
I replaced most of my light switches with zwave switches and dimmers ? take your pick of product and need.
I use these guys: http://www.amazon.com/GE-Wireless-Lighting-Control-Appliance/dp/B0013V58HU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1433341709&sr=8-3&keywords=zwave+plug
for lamps, heating blankets but you can use them for several other things.
I have a 4 way sensor: http://www.amazon.com/Aeon-Labs-Aeotec-Z-Wave-Multi-Sensor/dp/B008D5TYGU/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1433342254&sr=8-18&keywords=zwave
but the actual motion sensor is unreliable as it has too many false trips so I deactivated the motion sensor but I use it for humidity and light levels to trigger scenes.
My favorite is a basic scene I created to open the house.
As we arrive we hit the "open house" scene and all the lights go on including the outside lights and the sensors are disarmed. The kids love that feeling. My dropcam sends me a welcome message and it just feels good.
When we leave I hit ?close house? and all the lights dim off, the sensors are armed, the stats are set to appropriate setting and my dropcam wishes me well until the next time.
My next project is to create triggers so that if someone was to open a bedroom door and the sensor is disarmed and the light level is dark then turn on the hallway light at 25% for 3 minutes (that usually means someone is going to the bathroom). If the sensor is armed and gets tripped than all the house lights go on so my dropcam can get a clear video recording of who and what tripped the sensor. I also thought about getting a few Hue?s and if any sensor is tripped the outdoor lights would flash red and trigger an audible alarm.
Home automation is a Vacation Home essential.