As times continue to be tough, and gas prices begin to rise with the summer sun, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t trying to put a few extra dollars in their pocket. By equipping homes with smart technology, consumers can decrease their overall energy usage, and by extension their energy bill.

A recently announced collaboration between the Ford Motor Co., www.ford.com, Dearborn, Mich., and KB Home, www.kbhome.com, Los Angeles, Calif., is a prime example. KB’s ZeroHouse 2.0, which incorporates energy efficient technology, has joined forces with Ford’s MyEnergi Lifestyle initiative. With help from companies like Whirlpool, www.whirlpool.com, Benton Harbor, Mich., Sunpower, www.sunpowercorp.com, San Jose, Calif., and Eaton, www.eaton.com, Cleveland, Ohio, MyEnergi allows plug-in hybrid vehicles to communicate with in-house appliances to help conserve electricity. Via MyEnergi, the vehicle only charges during non-peak energy usage hours. This amounts to both reduced energy use and cost.

ZeroHouse gives homeowners the option of nearly eliminating their electric bill altogether with extra insulation, upgraded HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, dual-pane and low-emission windows, as well as roof-mounted solar panels. Naturally, this greatly reduces expenses, particularly when coupled with Ford’s MyEnergi technology.

Jeff Mezger, president and CEO of KB Home, says the ZeroHouse 2.0’s collaboration with Ford is meant to be a model for the energy efficient and sustainable lifestyles that more and more consumers are looking for.

Another partnership that aims to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint is that of VELOCIPEDE, www.velocipede.net, Seattle, Wash., and Hammer & Hand, www.hammerandhand.com, Portland, Ore. Their collaboration has produced the Ballard Passive House, which was featured recently in the Northwest Eco Building Guild’s annual Northwest Green Home Tour.

Designed by VELOCIPEDE, the house is currently under construction by Hammer & Hand, and will be completed in late May. The single-family residence combines traditional home-building techniques with energy-saving technology. The goals during the Passive House’s development were to provide high quality insulation, eliminate “thermal bridges,” create air-tight construction, enact energy recovery through mechanical ventilation, construct good windows and doors, and optimize solar and heat gains.

If you look at the evidence, it’s quite clear in the near future smart homes will be beneficial for consumers, electric companies, and even the planet itself. The only downside is M2M can’t clean your house for you … yet.