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Smart Grid in Your Home
Manage energy use to control utility bills
Imagine a home where your heat pump, water heater, pool pump, dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, washer, and dryer all work together to lower your energy bill; and where family members can see the real-time effects that a 30-minute shower or left-on light bulb can have on peak energy usage and the utility bill. The expansion of the nation's Smart Grid will reach all the way into the home, with “smart” appliances able to communicate with the Grid — and you — to help control and lower energy usage.
Some of these new products can help you save money now. For example, you could set up a program based on your schedule to program your water heater to turn off automatically when no one's home, cutting usage and increasing your savings. Once peak-demand pricing is adopted, that water heater could result in more savings by powering down during expensive peak pricing periods. Your utility will benefit by not having to power up expensive standby generation plants.
Other products now in development, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and dryers, will benefit you when demand-based or peak pricing is adopted. For example, your refrigerator's 20-minute automatic defrost cycle, which consumes about 10 times more energy than during the rest of the day, kicks on now any time. A Smart Grid refrigerator will wait to defrost until utility rates are low. A Smart Grid dishwasher will automatically delay its run cycle until rates go down, although you will be able to override the delay feature if you like.
Using the Web to Control Appliances
James and Cynthia Wilson of Fayetteville, NC, participated in a pilot program with the Fayetteville Public Works Commission and technology company Consert Inc. The program allowed the Wilsons and the utility to manage three aspects of home energy use — a four-zone HVAC system, a water heater, and a swimming pool pump — by taking about 15 minutes to fill out an online form with the family’s schedule and preferences.
At a web portal, James Wilson answered a series of questions about the family's energy use and habits. He also specified what temperature the couple preferred in each zone, and for what hours, as well as how much the utility could adjust that temperature during times of peak demand. Now the Wilsons don't have to remember to adjust the thermostat when they leave for the day.
“You can't remember all the time,” Wilson says. “You don't have time to go to every thermostat. The power company also has the ability to raise our cooling temperature up to 78 degrees instead of 74. You can see the impact that could have across an entire service region.”
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