Whirlpool says by 2011 it will have “smart” appliances that can connect to smart meters and the smart grid.
Whirlpool representatives at the Alliance to Save Energy’s EE (Energy Efficiency) Global Forum in Washington, D.C. say the company will have its Energy Smart water heater, with an external hookup for connection to a smart meter, available by the end of 2010.
The company also says smart laundry appliances will be available in 2011.
Whirlpool has committed to making all its appliances “smart” by 2015. Smart appliances have the potential to save homeowners energy and money by receiving communications from local utilities and over the smart grid.
Part of the delay in manufacturing smart appliances, says Barry D. Wheeler, master technician of commercial home labs for Whirlpool, is making small enough “smart” hardware that communicates with a smart meter. Whirlpool appliances will likely have both Wi-Fi and ZigBee wireless technologies to connect to smart meters.
Wheeler says Whirlpool is looking to have on, off and delay modes so the appliance can turn on, off or delay a cycle depending on the information received from a utility. As part of smart grid programs, electric utilities may initiate demand response programs that turn off or turn down some home appliances during peak load periods to avoid brownouts - if the homeowner allows it and possibly for a discounted rate.
A smart clothes dryer, for example, could receive that information and delay its start to an off-peak time. It could also send an alert to the homeowner that a higher-tier pricing period is in effect - as a part of utilities going toward time-of-use or variable-rate pricing, in which electric rates would rise during peak usage periods like 3 pm to 8 pm.
Don’t look to get that info via LCD readouts on the appliances or the ability to program your preferences. Smart appliances won’t be that smart, and will likely require a separate processor or home control system to initiate, stop or delay a wash or dry cycle.
“Where do you put that intelligence?” asks Bill Hewa of American Water Heater Co., a partner of Whirlpool. “Part of what we’re working on is to communicate with home control and automation systems.”
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates