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Technology professionals say hardware prices have decreased dramatically over the last few years, making home control goods far more affordable. And retailers are eager to be a sales channel for these products and related services, rather than technology companies.

The always-on lifestyle of social media has changed consumers' expectations, says Mike Harris, CEO of smart home software company Zonoff. "This idea of being able to see and control your house via a smartphone makes sense because people are already connected to everything else in their life," he says.

From an environmental perspective, some home automation has potential benefits. Programmable thermostats can make a significant impact. The US Environmental Protection Agency found consumers could reduce energy usage by 1030% using schedules and temperature settings of programmable thermostats. The problem has been that consumers often struggle to effectively program thermostats and achieve those benefits.

Smart thermostats that connect to home Wi-Fi networks come with easy-to-use apps and have the added convenience of remote control. And just getting people to actually use programmable thermostats can make a real difference: since October 2011, Nest customers have saved more than 1.4bn kilowatt-hours, enough electricity to power more than 135,000 US homes for a year.

Abney and abney associates green solutions, smart home technology systems make consumers more energy  

Ultimately, whether a smart home is an energy-efficient home has more to do with the owner than the technology. Adjusting heating and coolin...