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When Mr. DePew arrives at his Annapolis, Md., home, he hits the “welcome” button on the touch pad near the front door. Result: lighting where he wants it, and possibly music, coffee or even the nightly news.

Having all the lighting accessible in one control panel is particularly useful in today’s larger homes, where having rows and rows of switches to operate could be time-consuming and inconvenient.

Going away? No problem for the smart-home owner. A few programmatic touches, and you can set an array of options and won’t have the same light on for the same amount of time every day of your vacation.

“All you have to do is press the ‘vacation’ button,” Mr. DePew says. “It will set back the thermostat and set various lighting scenarios that vary per night.”

Don’t like the idea of heating your home when no one’s in it, but do like the idea of coming home to cozy warmth rather than that icy end-of-the-day chill that envelopes you when you walk in the door? Programmable thermostats will turn themselves down when you leave for the day and power your system back up again in time for you to walk in.

If you have a larger home with several heating zones, an integrated home can cycle two or three units so they are not all running at the same time.

“It’s easy to do without affecting the actual comfort of people in the house,” Mr. DePew says.

If it’s entertainment you’re after, there is not better time to “get smart.” You can experience “whole-house audio,” controlling the volume in every room from one device. More luxurious spaces can feature massive screens with everything - sound, DVD, etc. - accessible on one remote. And with the next generation of televisions expected to be tech-savvy and Internet-ready, you’ll be able to watch your stored movie playlists on the big screen with ease.

And, at the risk of conjuring up images of Big Brother, smart-home technology will carry those old security systems into the 21st century.

Forget to set your system? You easily can reset things through your smart phone. If you want to check on your home-alone teenagers, an app will let you take a peek, using your pre-installed hidden cameras.

“Most of these types of security systems are fairly sophisticated,” Mr. DePew says. “It’s easy to get information about what is going on at home through a remote control.”

For many homeowners, though, smart-home technology is more than just added security or creature comforts. It’s what helps them save money and conserve energy. It’s all about the smart grid.

“We wanted to make our home as efficient as possible,” says Kara Gelinas, who with her husband, Todd Alexander, is participating in GE’s two-year pilot program on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., which links the appliances in their home to the smart grid.

The GE program is a partnership with the Vineyard Energy Project (VEP), an organization that received nearly $800,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Vineyard Power Co-op, to understand the role of smart-grid technologies.

So when Ms. Gelinas wants to put in a load of laundry before she sends her son off to school for the day, her smart home system often will tell her to “delay.”

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