A recent announcement by GE has brought the reality of smart grid in the home a step closer to everyday life. The launch of Home Energy Management, which is both a business unit and a product, sends a clear signal that GE is prepared to move aggressively into the space that lies at the intersection of smart grid, smart appliances, plug-in electric vehicles and renewable energy systems. Indeed it is the logic that manages the interaction between these systems that provides the greatest opportunity, both for energy savings and for sales. That is the daunting job being given to GE’s new Nucleus Home Energy Manager.
This device, which is about the size of a cell phone charger, serves as a central hub, collecting and saving energy usage data and providing users a convenient display to help them better understand and manage their usage patterns. It does this by interconnecting wirelessly to smart appliances, smart meters and to the user through mobile phone apps or computers. So if you can imagine this somewhat Jetsonesque scenario where you have a smart meter, like a stock ticker, updating the system on the latest real time utility rates, a bunch of smart appliances, say a clothes dryer and a dishwasher waiting for a price signal to turn themselves on, a central thermostat, a small wind turbine in the backyard with a variable output rate and a plug-in vehicle in the garage that can either put energy into the system or take it out as it charges up, you can imagine the opportunity to save money, provided the right things are switched on and off and the most optimal times. But who has time to worry about all that, not to mention the brain capacity to keep track of it all. That’s where a Home Energy Management system could make a lot of sense. The system features GE’s proprietary Brillion™ technology, which allows household devices to communicate directly with the smart grid.
According to the company website, the system will allow consumers to uncover and track energy usage trends, monitor and manage usage by individual appliances, all with respect to the time-varying electricity rates through a convenient interface. The system will allow users to set automatic operation of appliances in response to price signals. It will also provide override capability so that devices can be controlled manually.
Research conducted by the DOE shows that smart meters can enable consumer electricity price reductions of 10% on average or 15% during peak periods. According to GE Home Energy Management General Manager Dave McCalpin, “Knowing what is consuming electricity, and how much electricity appliances are consuming, can be very empowering. People will be able to make smarter choices if they have information. The once-a-month electrical bill provides no insight into your usage habits. We intend to change that.”
Thirty-seven percent of the nation’s electricity is consumed by the residential sector, more than eighty percent of which goes to appliances, lighting and HVAC.
GE’s line of smart appliances includes dishwashers, refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, the new GeoSpring hybrid water heater, as well as ranges and microwaves.
A number of these systems are going to be installed for free in a number of randomly selected homes in California and Arizona, as part of a DOE-sponsored test to see if the systems can actually live up to claims that they can save as much as 70% or $850 per year.
It will be interesting to see the results.
RP Siegel is co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails.
Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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