3,000 Smart Fridges Hitting UK Homes


Photo via Meggito; Note: While cats aren't part of the smart fridge experiment, pictures of cats in fridges are way too hilarious to pass up.

The UK is about to test drive 3,000 smart refrigerators that will know when to adjust their power use to match the needs of the grid. The fridges could mean both a massive cost savings and a boost to alternative energy use.Refrigerators are big energy suckers and we’re always on the watch for more efficient models and tips on how to reduce their energy use. But if a fridge gets a brain, it can do all the adjusting needed to reduce its carbon footprint without us having to lift a finger.

The fridges, supplied by RLtec, are going to be given away by the UK government next year for a trial run to see how well the dynamic demand technology used in the fridges works.

Dynamic demand technology could help the grid ease off fossil fuels and onto renewable energy sources that typically are not as reliable and so more hesitantly used. By adjusting how much power is utilized by an appliance during various levels of demand on the grid, a more stable flow of energy can be maintained even with renewable energy sources. That’s the hope anyway.

Paul Lazarevic, a director at RLtec, which will supply the dyanmic demand technology, said: "The national grid is balanced at 50Hz and there are power stations on standby to kick in if it goes below that level, for example when everyone goes to boil a kettle for tea at half time of football match on television."

By reducing the amount of draw on the grid at peak times, those extra power stations won’t need to be utilized to keep the grid stable, allowing more opportunity to utilize alternative energy sources.

RLtec estimates that large numbers of appliances running with dynamic demand technology would create a "virtual power station" that could displace coal-fired generators. For example, fitting all the fridges in the UK with dynamic demand technology would allow the decommissioning of a 750-megawatt "back-up" power station.

Now that is some very good news. GE is rolling out a similar refrigerator model in 2009. Between the UK experiment and GE's model, we're excited to see what kind of shifts in energy demand these can create. With all the advances happening in smart home technology, it seems pretty likely that this technology will make at least some impact on switching off fossil fuel-run power plants.

Via the Guardian
More on Smart Appliances and Tech:
GE Reinvents the Fridge
Itron and Tendril Create Dialogue Between Smart Homes and Utilities
Nokia Entering Smart Home Scene with Mobile Phone Project

Tags: Electronics | Energy Efficiency | Renewable Energy