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Home Automation - The Next Trend in Home Security

There's nothing worse than the feeling that you may - or may not - have left the iron on as you rushed off to work that morning.

In days gone by, that nagging feeling often meant a return trip home at the expense of being late for work or another appointment. After all, leaving an appliance such as an iron or a hot curling iron plugged in all day is a major fire hazard. Being late is preferable to risking a fire in your home.

Now, thanks to advances in technology, leaving the house without turning off the appliances is a situation that can be checked - and remedied - without the hassle of returning to your home.

Some home security companies now offer more than just home security capabilities. Most of the major home security companies now are offering home automation services as part of their wireless plans.

So what, exactly, does this mean? Home automation systems, sometimes called "Smart Homes," allow customers to use their Smartphones or a remote control device to perform tasks such as adjusting their thermostats or turning lights on or off. That coffee pot that you can't remember turning off? With a home automation feature, it's as simple as grabbing your Smartphone and making a few clicks.

Home automation, in conjunction with home security systems, is expected to be one of the hottest trends for home security in 2013. With 53 percent of all home security companies offering some form of home automation service, use of this technology within single-family homes is expected to continue to grow.

So which areas of the home can be controlled with an automated system such as this? The most common include lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances and electronic door locks. Software connects these devices through a central control area, such as a computer or a device resembling your furnace control system, which can then be remotely accessed by the customer. Want to turn on the outside lights because you'll be returning home later than planned? An automated system could do that for you.

But is it affordable?

The answer is yes, and no.

Basic home automation systems start at around $60 a month for operational costs, but go as high as $300. For every appliance or electrical system added to the package, the cost will increase with most providers. This price includes only monthly operation of the automated system. The cost of the central automated control device that will need to be installed in your home, as well as labor costs for installation, can cost more than $1,000 combined. Cost also depends on the square footage of your home. The larger the home, the costlier this option will be to maintain.

Customers who are handy can save money by purchasing and installing home automation systems and software in their own home - then having those systems connected to an existing security company's service plan. Home improvement stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot sell these systems and often can provide a bit of guidance on which will best serve your home. However, self-installation is not for everyone, so if money is not an issue, it is best to have the professionals handle the selection and installation of a home automated system.

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