While "smart" homes remain a vision more than a reality, new smart products and services continue to flow into the market.

Refrigerators that alert you when you've run out of milk or stoves that text you when the roast is done have gotten a lot of media attention. Along with their "wow" factor, they offer a certain level of convenience and control, although at a price beyond the reach of most consumers.

The most practical and promising applications of smart technologies have been in the area of sustainability. Combining functionality with ease of use, these products improve the quality of the indoor living environment while helping homeowners meet their energy and water conservation goals (and budgets).

America wastes more energy than any other country on earth, according to a study released in 2013. One of the reasons is all the gadgets and systems that are sucking power even when they're not in use.

A number of recently introduced smart technologies are designed to make it easier for homeowners to control the amount of energy and water their homes are using. These include smart thermostats, water heater monitors and programmable blinds, as well as remote-controlled power strips and dimmable LED light bulbs. Affordable and easy to adopt in any home, these green solutions will more than pay for themselves over time in energy savings.

The recent announcement of two new research initiatives being undertaken at the National University of Singapore demonstrates how quickly smart and green are evolving together. Undertaken to "develop sustainable solutions for urban living in tropical climates," the initiatives include the construction of a 100-square-meter Smart Green Home on the campus for testing, evaluating and piloting smart household innovations, and a Tropical Technologies Laboratory, focused on materials and solutions for the exterior.

The Smart Green Home project will explore ways smart technologies can be employed to enhance comfort and quality of life for residents. Among others, the researchers will investigate technologies for adaptive climate control design such as heat-conductive beddings and anti-solar nano-coated windows.

Excessive sun and heat are major considerations for building façade design, construction and operation, given Singapore’s climatic conditions. Experiments planned for the Tropical Technologies Laboratory include the study of incorporating sun-shading shutters with solar membranes and panels on rooftops or vertical wall surfaces. The lab will also implement an integrated engineering system aimed at reducing electrical usage.

Of course, smart technologies utilize wireless networks, servers and mobile devices, which themselves consume substantial amounts of energy. Companies already are working on this problem as well.

One such company, GreenPeak Technologies, recently announced it was working with People Power, a provider of smart home technologies for home security and energy monitoring, to provide consumers with reliable, secure, energy efficient home network systems. Advances such as this will help prevent energy-saving solutions from turning into energy-consuming devices, thus substantially reducing their benefit.

Today's homeowners and those who will be buying homes in the near future — millennials in particular are looking for ways to save on energy and water costs, as well as to protect the environment. Since most of them already own the devices that run the apps that control smart green products, demand will continue to increase, and the technologies will continue to evolve to encompass more and more of every part of the home.