Do Household Tasks While Asleep To Save Energy

inside dishwasher photo

Off-peak dishwashing. Photo by Kevin Dooley

Want to do a load of "green" laundry at 3 a.m. to ease pressure on the power grid and save money? If you live in Canada that could happen sooner than you think. Canadian broadcasters, CBC Radio and Quebec's Radio-Canada, are partnering with E-Radio Inc., a wireless network, on developing technology that could significantly decrease power usage during heavy times by scheduling home appliances to turn on while you're asleep. Just load the dishwasher after dinner and walk away...
Waken in the morning to clean dishes for breakfast. With new FM radio-activated technology hooked up to the energy supply, the system searches for the best time to adjust a thermostat or turn on washing machines during off-peak hours to save energy and cut electricity bills. Smart grid technology adjusts electricity usage, managing consumption efficiently to reduce the energy footprint.


Let your radio pick off-peak power grid usage. Photo by Jefferson Davis

"Our electrical generation and distribution system has a certain capacity and the peak capacity is like rush hour," said Jackson Wang, president and chief executive of e-Radio, which developed the technology. In January, e-Radio tested its technology at a residence. "We were able to activate electrical appliances throughout the greater Toronto area. Things like fridges and thermostats were all receiving the CBC signal and doing smart things with it."

CBC radio and Radio-Canada frequencies reaches 98-99 percent of the population and the transmitters have no effect on the radio signals. There are skeptics, however. Some consumers are hesitant to delegate "tasks in my private life to a state company." Whether state-run or private, that objection could apply. The question is whether these same people use energy-efficient appliances and take a pro-active approach or do they just throw on the dishwasher after dinner with everyone else.

Currently the system only works with so-called "Smart Grid Appliances" equipped with computer chips that send signals to household appliances via the FM radio frequency for off-peak scheduling. So it requires the installation of new appliances. Hopefully at some point this could allow retrofitted newer existing energy-saver equipment to plug in to the technology.

Utility companies like Toronto Hydro are also introducing new time-of-use rates to persuade consumers to use less electricity at peak times of day. A worthwhile alternative that shows the savings (or not) while raising awareness, in the event they object to it being done automatically by the utility -- just one of the practical ways to conserve energy consumption.

Source: Agence France-Presse

More on smart grid energy-efficiency:
Smarter Grids, Appliances, and Consumers
Does Turning Down My Water Heater Really Make a Difference?
"Plan B" - Efficiency and Conservation Measures Can Drop Energy Demand by 2020

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