What is a Smart Grid?

Discover what makes a smart grid, and find out if integrating with one could help your home automation system function more efficiently.


Garage Exterior of the HGTV Green Home 2012 located in Serenbe, GA

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry

By: Sean McEvoy

As the world's energy suppliers begin to modernize the technology used to provide consumers with energy, the term "smart grid" has become more commonplace. But what is a smart grid? In short, a smart grid employs digital technology to allow for two-way communication between energy providers and their customers. This way, the supplier can obtain important information about usage patterns for different areas they service, and consumers can gain insight into their own energy use, allowing them to adjust if necessary to increase both the efficiency and cost effectiveness of their heating, cooling and electrical systems.

Installing Solar Panels

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Energy utilities using smart grid technology—or that are in the process of implementing it—point to several factors that make a smart system particularly attractive. In general, the energy grid infrastructure in first-world nations was first deployed around 100 years ago. It's currently aging and—as anyone who's lost power during a heat wave or big storm can attest—can be unreliable. The failure of energy grids is extremely costly to energy companies, consumers (think of all the lost productivity—not to mention the spoiled groceries) and the government. So modernizing the distribution of energy and ensuring that the grid can provide real-time, two-way communication to utilities and consumers is job one for local and national energy providers right now.

One of the potential benefits of a smart grid is more efficient transmission of electricity. For example, based on usage patterns, it might be possible for power companies to raise or lower the amount of electricity they deliver to certain areas at certain times. This way, an "always on" flow of the peak electricity is avoided, reducing costs for the company and the consumer alike. Additionally, a smart grid can provide the benefit of real-time monitoring of the energy grid, down to the individual home (particularly if the home is equipped with a modern smart meter), so that energy companies can respond more quickly and efficiently to power outages or other problems.

An important benefit of new smart grid technologies is that they are often configured to work with new large-scale renewable energy delivery systems like solar, wind or geothermal power.

Finally, the smart grid is seen as more secure—the threat of a terrorist attack on the aging energy grid or its means of energy distribution (particularly in the form of nuclear power plants) is increased if the grid in question isn't "self aware" enough to detect security breaches—either physical or digital—and report them immediately to avoid or mitigate further damage.

Small Steps in Solar Power

See All Videos
Keep Reading

Next Up

Smart Design Details at HGTV Smart Home 2015

Discover which home control design features and responsible building practices went into the construction of HGTV Smart Home 2015.

Controlling Temperature and Humidity

Learn how to find the comfort zone with programmable control systems.

The Smart House

Control lighting, security and all your other systems with a single interface.

Smart Appliances

Get all the info you'll need on smart appliances, and get ready to install efficient, economic appliances that can communicate with your home's automation system.

11 Smart Apps for Your Home

From security to lights to climate to entertainment, there is an app for all things home automation, allowing you to control your house, whether at home or away, in real time.

HGTV Smart Home 2015: High-Tech Highlights

From entertainment systems to home automation, learn about high-tech features that makes life easier.

First Look: Technology in HGTV Smart Home 2014

From lighting and temperature control to security and media room must-haves, learn about the cool high-tech features in HGTV Smart Home 2014.

Climate Control Systems: Comfortable and Convenient

Integrated climate-control technology is efficient and easy to install in your home.

Home Energy Monitoring and Management

Get all the info you'll need on home energy monitoring and management, so you can keep a close eye on your energy use and implement an automated management system.

Smart Meters for Your Home

Gather info on smart meters for your home, and decide if sending and receiving information about energy use is right for your home automation system.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.