Smart house?: Consumers still not embracing advanced energy systems

Home monitoring systems originally consisted of a third-party service provider protecting a house from break-ins by responding to any alert that might come through while the homeowners is asleep or away from the property. Today, those types of home monitoring programs still exist, although homeowners themselves have been given more control over the process and new purposes, such as home energy efficiency, now exist.

One of the most popular products currently on the market are "smart" thermostats that gradually learn a homeowner's indoor temperature preferences so that it is eventually able to adjust conditions accordingly. This way, if a homeowner forgets to alter the temperature before going to bed or taking a vacation, energy will not be needlessly wasted. Considering that home heating costs can climb to nearly 30 percent of a homeowner's monthly utility bills, these products could be extremely valuable.

Other similar systems are able to tell a homeowner – in real-time – which appliances are the biggest draw on the home's electricity at any given time. With this information, homeowners can see immediate benefits in their utility bill.

"Having this information in real time, rather than once a month in a billing statement, helps you quickly identify which appliances are the biggest hogs so you can turn them down or off," Jim Witkin writes for The New York Times' blog Green. "Knowing the price you are paying at that moment allows you to use less when prices are highest, based on your rate plan with the utility."

Unfortunately, consumers have not yet responded to these types of products in earnest. Part of the explanation could be related to the fact that some may not think they know enough about energy efficiency to justify purchasing these products. This is where a Washington, D.C. home inspector can play a vital role, as he or she can conduct an energy audit on a home and explain to the consumer where savings might exist.