I’m not sure if anyone out there has given much thought to shopping for big ticket holiday gift items such as home appliances quite yet given that it’s still October. However, if you have given it some thought and a, ummm, super-efficient 50-gallon water heater is on your holiday shopping list, you should probably get thee to a Sears store near you.

Last week, GE announced that the company’s first Brillion-enabled home appliance, the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, is now available to consumers at over 100 Sears locations across the Northeast. The GeoSpring Hybrid, which offers energy savings of around 62 percent compared to traditional electric water heaters with a payback of around $325 annually, will be joined at Sears by the GE programmable thermostat and the GE Get Connected Starter Kit.

I first mentioned all of this Brillion business — an innovative technology that “enables cooperative communication between networked devices and the smart grid" — back in January 2011 when GE launched the GE Nucleus Home Manager, a tiny little gizmo that allows homeowners to manage their household usage and remotely control compatible appliances via a PC or iPhone, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

CNET explains the Nucleus in a nutshell (avert your eyes, anti-smart meter activists):

With Nucleus, people can see their energy usage in real time through a PC or a smartphone application. Studies have shown people reduce electricity use by about 10 percent with more detailed and regular information. The device, which connects into an Internet broadband router with an Ethernet cable, will be able to store up to three years' worth of energy data; future models will have a removable data storage option.

By communicating with a smart meter, Nucleus will let people program appliances to take advantage of off-peak pricing plans offered by utilities that have time-of-use electricity plans. GE is making a line of networked appliances that can go into energy-saving mode when a utility sends a request to lower usage. The peak-time modes can be manually overridden.

The aforementioned GE Get Connected Starter Kit includes the GE Nucleus. Aside from the software and the device itself, I’m not sure what else is included — a grinning, bearded husband to discuss your monthly energy savings with while guzzling Pinot Gris (as pictured above) is sold separately, I'm guessing. At the moment, the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is the first, and for now, only appliance that’s compatible with the kit. The sticker price is between $1,199 and $1,299 but when factoring in annual savings and any available tax credits and rebates, it's quite the steal. 

As for the programmable thermostat with Brillion technology, GE says that the device “offers greater convenience and energy control with programmable scheduling functionality from your desktop computer and remote access from an iPhone.” Essentially, it’s a smart thermostat a la the Nest Learning Thermostat but, from what I understand, the Get Connected Starter Kit/Nucleus is required to operate it.

Other Brillion-enabled appliances that are in the works from GE include a dishwasher, a front-loading washer/dryer combo, a refrigerator, and a double-oven range. It's unclear when they'll be released and if Sears will be the exclusive retailer, although it's looking that way.

According to GE, the company's suite of Brillion-enabled Connected Home Solution appliances will eventually allow consumers to control over 60 percent of their household energy use.

Says Steven Haber, president of appliances at Sears: “Sears can now offer shoppers in these markets unprecedented insight into and control over their home energy use by getting connected with GE Brillion products. This makes it easy and compelling for our customers to save money on their energy bills and is an excellent example of how Sears is committed to offering products to our customers that improve their lifestyle and help them save money in the process.”

For more smart appliance goodness, head on over to the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater and GE Nucleus Energy Manager websites. And because I couldn't resist ... 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

GE and Sears 'connect' for smart appliance line
Sears is the first — and for now, only — retailer to carry the GE Nucleus Home Manager along with the device's first compatible appliance: The super-efficie