Analysts say energy management will be key to the growth of home control systems in coming years but note that the category still has room to grow. In the meantime, manufacturers expect to roll out additional capabilities. Several companies are building intelligent recommendation engines that can offer energy-saving advice based on the home’s energy usage. Some brands already offer sensors that measure particulate matter or carbon dioxide in the air, though a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy says more research is needed to know how to monitor air quality the best.

The largest growth opportunity for energy management may come from utilities. Several already are installing “smart meters” that provide two-way communication between the home and electric provider. The meters will enable load-management efforts, where the utility can shut off certain appliances at critical energy peaks, and targeted variable pricing programs that charge different rates based on the time of day.

Energy management system providers are riding the smart-meter boom, licensing products and software to utilities, which can offer them to residents as part of an energy-efficiency program. Greenbox, for example, offers a Web-based service through utilities that lets users monitor energy use by time of day, cost, or carbon footprint, and plans to furnish real-time monitoring and control capabilities as upgrades.

Utilities allow consumers access to the technology with a lower barrier to entry because the electric company installs the device for free, says Matt Smith, vice president of marketing for Greenbox. “Because the infrastructure is put in place [by the utility], it’s something homeowners can leverage going forward,” he says.

But by combining other products with its baseline offering, smart-meter programs also give builders an opportunity to offer those utility customers a customized energy management solution with better service than the utility can provide. The smart-grid initiative “is definitely going to be an absolute plus for integrators,” says Michael Tangora, president of Menands, N.Y.–based integration firm Tangora Technologies. “It’s just getting us further involved with consumer awareness.”

Jeffrey Lee is a freelance writer in Washington.

Blueline Innovations. The PowerCost Monitor is a wireless energy monitor that displays how much electricity the user’s home consumes from moment to moment and in total. A countertop display unit can present total electricity costs in dollars and cents and in kilowatt hours, and users can see their peak energy cost within the last 24 hours. A sensor unit attaches to the outside of a home’s electric utility meter and wirelessly transmits use information to the Power Monitor. 866.607.2583.