Home energy assessments are a practical, straightforward way to improve the overall efficiency of your home. Learning how to better manage home energy use can lead to significant cost savings. You may have enlisted the help of a professional auditor to perform the evaluation or relied on an annual, do-it-yourself review—but what if you could monitor your home's energy use on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis?

That's exactly what Smart Grid technology offers—providing both consumers and utilities with the information to better manage electricity use, in real time.

Smart Grid technology is often referred to as 'modernizing the electric grid' and when you think about how your monthly energy bill is determined, it all starts to make sense. Consider the typical process: a reader comes out to record today's index on your meter and subtracts that amount from the index of the previous visit—this calculation can only determine how much energy has been used since the last reading. A smart meter modernizes this process—allowing utilities, and you, to become more aware of how energy is being used, not just by the last utility reading but hour by hour.

The more aware you are of home energy use, the more control you have over your electricity consumption and your budget: you may be more inclined to run the dishwasher during "off-peak" hours when power is cheapest or have the extra motivation to lower the thermostat or unplug appliances not in use.

Small adjustments like these can lead to huge energy savings. A modernized Smart Grid is expected to save consumers $20 billion over the next decade on their utility bills. There are about 8 million smart meters on the market today and installation is ramping-up across the country—a total of 40 million meters are expected to be installed by 2015.

As efforts to use modern technology to improve the effectiveness of the electric grid continue, consumers will not only have more choices when it comes to managing electricity but more opportunities to reap significant savings in the long run.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at this primer on Smart Grid technology.

Erin Pierce works at the Department of Energy as part of the corporate communications team for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energ.