Power company helps 'smart' houses save money

While my first reaction to power company-sponsored efficiency initiatives is always, isn't there an inherent conflict of interest here? I still admire what Xcel is doing in Boulder, Colorado. The utility company is investing $100 million upgrading Boulder's power infrastructure, a project they're calling "SmartGridCity." The first house, owned by the University of Colorado's chancellor, Bud Peterson, was unveiled this summer (it was the day before Sarah Palin's selection, so it's no surprise the news was met with stunning silence). Chief among the features: the ability to program heating and cooling into individual rooms, instead of the whole house; and feedback ("two-way communication") from the Xcel to tell them when power is readily available and, therefore, cheaper (or, for instance, when the wind is especially strong so their power will be drawn from that renewable source rather than a, well, dirtier option).

The Petersons' "deluxe" edition smart house comes with a "command console" to manage programming the power use in their house (check out the video from NBC after the jump). It's a big investment (and comes with solar panels from which the Petersons' electric car often gets its charge), making the whole project somewhat utopian. What can you do to save money before your power company develops a smart grid?