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Smart Homes, Solar Energy Products Showcased at CES

For over four decades, tech junkies from everywhere have descended upon Las Vegas, Nevada at the beginning of the new year for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) -- the largest consumer technology trade show in the world.

The show attracts some of the top product manufacturers in the world, as it gives them a chance to showcase some hot new products for the new year. And if there's one thing that came out of 2011's show, it's that energy efficiency is now the name of the game.

Several companies used the 2011 CES to unveil entire home energy management systems designed to help homeowners both cut consumption and monitor their use. Panasonic's offering, for example, includes solar panels (of course), home fuel cells, an electric vehicle (EV) charging station and energy storage units. The company began developing the system in March 2010 in tandem with SEAS-NVE, Denmark's largest consumer-owned utility company. In October of 2010, Panasonic's system received the European Utility Award in Customer Service.

General Electric (GE), on the other hand, took a slightly different approach to home energy management. Its system is sort a center base that talks to your utility company and all of your home's smart appliances and smart plugs in an effort to cut your home's energy consumption and save you money each month on your utility bill. Appropriately, the system is called Nucleus.

Not to be outdone, LG was in the building showing off its LG Thinq, a system that the company says allows homeowners to manage all smart home appliances in a convenient way. With LG thinq, you can monitor your home's energy use from mobile devices like smart phones and laptops. So even when you're not home, you still know everything that's happening between your walls... from an energy standpoint, at least, -- the rest is up to you.

So which of the three energy management systems is the best? Tough to say. It most likely varies from homeowner to homeowner based on number and type of appliances, and energy needs. What is clear is that, together, all three of these systems are leading us closer to a point where efficient energy consumption is the norm.

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