Smart Appliances are Coming: Whirlpool to Produce 1 Million Grid Connected "Smart" Clothes Dryers in 2011Having a smart grid is great in good part because it allows you to more easily implement time-of-use electricity rates (power costs more at peak demand time, less at night and on weekends...). But to get the most out of it, smart appliances that can talk to the grid and "smartly" adjust their operation to reduce their power demand when electricity is expensive are required. This is why it's good news that Whirlpool is announcing that it will produce 1 million "smart" clothes dryer in 2011. If one million dryers went into power saving mode during peak time, that would reduce demand by the equivalent of about 6 coal power plants!
Smart appliances can be controlled remotely by a power company to go into energy-saving mode or shut off during times when there is high demand for electricity. Consumers could override the feature but likely will pay more for power during these periods.
Over time, wide use of smart appliances could save consumers money and cut the number of power plants needed to satisfy electricity demand, reducing power-industry pollution. The appliances aren't expected to be priced much higher than regular EnergyStar products.
So the goal is to take the responsibility of time-shifting energy intensive tasks from people directly to the appliances themselves.
Just for the dryers,Whirlpool predicts that its customers could save between $20-40 per year. That's just for one appliance. If all your appliances were "smart", this would certainly save more energy, and thus money. Here's how it would work:
In one energy-saving mode that might be used when electricity demand is high, the heat will turn on and off during an extended drying cycle but the spinning will continue to prevent wrinkles.
An electric dryer that tumbles clothes without heat uses only about 200 watts of electricity, while one that's set on maximum heat may use as much as 6,500 watts. Multiply that by one million dryers and the difference is equivalent, at a moment in time, to the output of half-a-dozen big coal-fired power plants.
But money directly saved on power bills isn't the only benefit. By shaving peaks in energy demand, fewer power plants might need to be built. Some of those costs are often passed on to people through higher electricity rates or taxes.
Smart appliances can also help us take advantage of intermittent sources of renewable energy such as wind. On a day that the wind is blowing strongly, appliances could get a message from the smart grid that a lot of clean, cheap power is available, so more of them would run at that time.
Whirlpool has also announced that by 2015 all of the company's "electronically controlled appliances it produces - everywhere in the world - will be capable of receiving and responding to signals from the smart grid." Nice.
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