As a vacation rental owner, I’ve come across some pretty awesome high-tech gadgets to help manage my property remotely. In some cases I’m spending a little extra for the peace of mind, but in others I save in the long run.

More importantly, I’m chipping away at that distracting “what if they forgot/what if I forgot” feeling. And in a lot of ways it’s making things easier for my renters.

Lockitron Smart Lock

Here are some things I either use, can’t wait to try, or have heard about from other vacation rental owners:

Keyless Entry With Cell Phone

Cool, no? Lockitron lets your guests lock and unlock the door with their cell phones. You can add or revoke access instantly, so it’s great for a multi-user situation like vacation rentals. Another advantage is that it’s not just limited to smartphones — it works with older cell phones, too. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to lock/unlock your door from anywhere in the world. The system also sends out a low-battery alert. They’re taking preorders for the next batch now.

Remote Thermostat Management

Algorithms in the Nest Learning Thermostat collect data like how well sealed your house is and what your living habits are to create a “thermal profile.” Pretty fancy…. For my purposes, though, the great thing is that I can control the temperature from anywhere. I like being able to make sure I’m not wasting money on my energy bill. It also has an Auto-Away feature that detects when no one’s there and shifts the temperature to an energy-efficient level.

Programmable Lights

Setting lights to a timer is perfect for making your rental property look lived in when no one’s there. Look for products with Z-Wave wireless controls. They use radio waves, so no big setup is needed and they’re fairly cost-efficient. You can also control other electronics and appliances and sync them up with each other, then control them from wherever you are. ZigBee certified products have similar functionality.

Security Cameras

I just started using a motion/sound-activated Dropcam and I really like it. The video’s crisp, good night vision, I can monitor it from the web or my phone; it also has a neat intercom feature. It’s not weatherproof, though, so some owners haven’t been happy with it. Since it records audio, positioning it from inside infringes on guests’ privacy, but I’ve come up with a workable solution. I explicitly let renters know I have a camera and instruct them to unplug it when they arrive and plug it back in when they depart. Travelers have not had any issues thus far.

Rick the Vacation Rental Helper recommends the Logitech Alert 750. In addition to his parking lot, he uses a camera in an indoor pool area and finds that, with disclosure and visibility, renters are ok with it and the camera hasn’t had moisture issues.

Lights, Camera, Access?

I’m intrigued by Nexia Home Intelligence. It’s sort of an all-of-the-above package. They’ve created product you can bundle together however you choose and control remotely via your smartphone, tablet or computer. The products use the Z-Wave technology I just mentioned, and they have a list of compatible products from other brands. Say you’re already controlling your lights and thermostat with Z-Wave enabled products; you could add Nexia’s security camera, keyless locks and motion sensor and control them all.