recently inked a deal with Pure Energies to more directly compete with one of its resellers, Vivint, in selling rooftopsolar

The deal with is Pure Energies’ first partnership in the home security space, and likely won’t be the last. Although it also has its eyes on telecoms and HVAC dealers, home security is the big channel in 2014 for pushing home energy offerings, whether smart thermostats or solar. Vivint Solar is the second largest solar installer in the U.S. behind SolarCity.

A recent survey from iControl backs that up. The survey found that family security overwhelmingly tops the list of most important features of a smart home. Two-thirds of respondents said family security was the number-one reason to invest in a smart home system, and 100 percent said that a home automation system without some sort of security capability was unacceptable.

It appears that far more people want to protect their children, pets and material objects than want to geek out on energy use.

But iControl knows what moves the market. It is the underlying platform for many of the biggest service providers’ smart home systems in North America, including ADT, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Rogers. Here's what the rest of the survey found. 

Sneaking in energy services

Security dealers are selling what America wants: safety and convenience. They’re also already in the living room, having a conversation with homeowners that most utilities either don’t really want to have or don’t know how to have.

While they’re in there selling comfort and convenience, energy services can be an easy upsell. The most basic product, a smart thermostat, is as much about control as it is about saving energy and money.

Closing the sale is even easier among first-time homebuyers. Eighty percent of 35-44 year olds said they were interested in heating and cooling management. There’s also a cool factor to controlling stuff in your home from your phone.

“The user experience around devices like smart thermostats and smoke detectors are much more compelling when tied to a whole home system that benefits from not only the environmental data but also valuable occupancy, weather and historical usage data,” said Letha McLaren, VP of product management at iControl Networks, in the report.

Telecoms have learned from security dealers, and made the security portion of their smart home offerings central to the sales pitch, with the convenience of controlling HVAC and lights a secondary offering.

But once the security piece is sold, controls that may also happen to cut energy use are the next wave. Energy efficiency isn't the inherent selling point of the smart home, but it will reap the benefits as smart home offerings proliferate. The image below, taken from the survey, shows what respondents would want their home to do if it could detect when they were on their way back to the residence.

It’s not just thermostats and lights that people are interested in being able to control remotely. More than 40 percent of respondents think it will be just one to two years before they can command their home appliances from their phone. Two-thirds think that capability is coming in less than five years.

For utilities with energy efficiency dollars to spend in the residential sphere, the time could be ripe to tap into the market of consumers looking for controllable appliances. (After all, they might experience sticker shock when they see how much their Wi-Fi appliances will cost.)

In its recent time-of-use pilot, SMUD found that more than 70 percent of participants shifted the period when they chose to do laundry when they were on the new rate plan. Just think of how much easier that could be if all of those appliances were wirelessly connected. Someday many of them will be, and it’s starting now.