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How are we to know which products will work and which will leave us (and our wallets) feeling robbed? Image Source: Juan Vasquez

There are a lot of trendy home automation gadgets on the market; while some are worth buying, others seem like a waste of our hard-earned dollars. When it comes to keeping our families and possessions safe, how are we to know which products will work and which will leave us (and our wallets) feeling robbed?

Many home automation systems go beyond gimmicks. Here are those must-have products worth the money to keep your family safe and your home secure.

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Security cameras, along with good exterior lighting, can greatly detract would-be intruders. Image Source: Project Designs

Home Security Cameras

If you want to invest in only one home automation device, then we suggest a security or surveillance camera system. The moment potential intruders see security cameras on every corner of your roof, they will quickly decide your home is not the one on their hit list. Outdoor surveillance systems are often easily viewed by would-be burglars, acting as quick deterrents.

Cameras are not exactly a new, modern technology, so you can rest assured that most of the glitches have been worked out of this technology. That said, there are a few things you should watch out for when it comes to choosing the right system for your home.

This Infoworld article covers a lot of ground when purchasing your security system, including one of the most notable things to consider: hacking. There is no guarantee against your cameras being hacked by a virtual intruder. We suggest that you stick to an outdoor system and avoid cameras inside your home to protect your privacy. And always remember to change your passwords.

The article also notes that it’s best to invest a bit more money on higher-end HD cameras with visibility that extends to 100 feet (and includes night vision). After all, the police cannot capture a criminal if the image is not clear. Also consider adding features such as motion detection, text-messaging alerts, a DVR and the ability to save images externally.

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Keys are going extinct, so look into the increased safety of keyless entry systems. Image Source: Design Guild Homes

Keyless Entry Systems

keyless entry system initially might seem scary: all those entry codes you have given out, worrying if you lost track of one. True, most keyless entry systems require you to keep a log of codes and code recipients. But you can purchase a system that allows a minimal number of codes to keep things less complicated, or even buy a code-free system.

Once your keys are lost, the only way to ensure your that home is secure is to go through the bother and expense of changing the locks. With a keyless system, you choose who has access via an assigned code. If you don’t want a person to have access anymore, simply change the code.

If a code system seems too complicated, then consider one of the newer keyless entry systems on the market (see How to Choose the Best Keyless Entry System for Your Home). Many work wirelessly through your phone; when you (and your phone) are near the door, it automatically unlocks (and then locks behind you).

This system also allows you to give other people virtual “keys” through your phone, allowing them limited access — and easily taking away that access whenever you choose.

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The kitchen is a common source of fire; smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can help ensure your safety. Image Source: David Howell Design

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

On average, 170 people die every year in the U.S. from carbon monoxide poisoning, and seven people die every day in a house fire. These sad statistics are easily preventable with the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

We all know we often forget to check the batteries in these devices; sometimes, they simply stop working properly. This is where home automation comes in: If your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are synced with a smart home automation app, you will be alerted the moment something happens.

Whether a fire has started on the stove, your CO levels are too high or a battery just needs to be replaced, the home-automation system will alert you immediately, possibly saving your life and the lives of those you love. And that’s definitely worth the money.

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Did you leave the water running or the lights on? A home-automation system will let you know. Image Source: Control4

Whole Home Automation

With a home automation system, you’ll never have to wonder whether the kids have locked the doors, or whether you left the stove or the lights on. Companies that offer complete home automation (and access via one device/app) include Control4 (which topped Freshome’s list for whole home automation), SmartThings and Smarthome.

Of course, these systems come with a cost — and the higher the technology, the higher the price. In the end, it is up to you to decide whether you want to install one smart security device, such as a keyless entry system, or automate your entire home, giving you full control.

You might want to start with one system that you feel best suits your needs, and then add on as time and money allow. Whatever you decide, you’ll rest easier — both at home and when you’re away — after you’ve added home automation.