Over the past few years we have waited for GE's ecomagination to change from pretty pictures to reality, and now we are beginning to see the results. In 2009 they are rolling out "Smart" Energy Management Enabled Appliances that can talk to the electric utility to manage loads and reduce peak power demand. VP Kevin Nolan explains:
''Peak hour energy demand is growing faster than total energy demand. It is imperative that we begin to shift some of the energy load from peak hours to other parts of the day -- helping to avoid the need to build new power plants to meet the demand."
Which is impressive, considering that GE also builds power plants.
''At GE, we believe that peak load reduction is the next opportunity in energy saving appliances. We believe that smart, energy management enabled appliances will be the next phase of innovation,'' explained Nolan. ''It's not enough to simply use less power, as Energy Star encourages today, we now need to consume our power more intelligently.''
For example, the automatic defrost feature uses more electricity. If the refrigerator can delay the defrost cycle from occurring during peak energy usage hours, consumers will save money by paying for the same amount of energy, later in the day and at a lower rate.
Washers, dryers dishwashers and ranges will also get smart, with displays that notify users of rate changes and critical peak pricing, and will be programmed to avoid energy use at those times. ("sorry dear, dinner is late because the stove won't turn on") -no, customers will be able to over-ride it and pay through the nose for their kilowatt-hours. GE Press Release
In another move, GE is getting rid of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) based refrigerants, replacing them with isobutane. This is used in Europe and Asia now to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from HCFCs, but does not have EPA approval in the States, perhaps because it is highly flammable. VP Kevin Nolan says they are dealing with that:
"Our goal is to deliver a new GE Monogram refrigerator that will be ENERGY STAR qualified, and that will conform to GE and third-party safety standards for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants, including specifically the standards that address any flammability risks associated with the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants."
the NRDC likes the idea:
"The fridge for the 21st century must use less energy and run on refrigerants that don't add to global warming, while meeting all safety standards," said David Doniger, climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The companies that win will be those that bring these smarter, cleaner, and safer products to market, and build them here in America. GE is taking an important first step to making the use of efficient, low-GWP refrigerants a reality."
More on appliances and fridges in TreeHugger
TreeHugger Tip: Tomm Stanley on Refrigerator Efficiency
Man Retrofits Freezer to Make an Ultra-Efficient Fridge