Does your washing machine know when the wind will blow?

Sensemaking / Does your washing machine know when the wind will blow?

‘Smart grid-ready’ appliances could soon moderate their energy use based on availability.

26 Apr 2012

‘Smart grid-ready’ appliances could soon moderate their energy use based on availability.

You may look for the sun before hanging your sheets out to dry, but few of us have an eye on the weather when we turn the washer on. But what if it knew to power up just as the wind picks up, and when overall demand for electricity is low?

This is the vision for Samsung’s new WiFi-enabled washer, which won a 2012 Eco-Design award at the consumer electronics tradeshow CES in Las Vegas. It’s touted as ‘smart grid-ready’, by which Samsung means that it has the communications software in place to respond to signals from the grid, adapting its power consumption based on availability.

Hot on its heels (or, let’s hope, cold) was a smart grid-ready refrigerator by LG. You can monitor the thermostat from your smartphone, and it comes with a touchscreen embedded in the door, so that you can jot down your shopping list or leave a message for your housemates.

Nifty appliances, or gamechangers? Potentially the latter, but what these appliances are waiting for is the smart grid itself. The efficiency gains such a system promises are currently held back by the lack of a standardised way of sharing information or a common language, across the industry. HTML is the lingua franca of the internet, but there’s nothing similar for the electrical grid and the appliances that plug into it.

Fraser Winterbottom, Chief Operating Officer at the Energy Saving Trust, expects that “it will be increasingly important and valuable to make use of the data from smart appliances and their interaction with both the grid supply and householders” if we’re going to achieve the necessary carbon cuts.

Peak electricity is a waste problem. It means that for much of the time we’re generating energy that we don’t use and transmitting it inefficiently. Opening the lines of communication between the likes of Samsung and LG could lead to greater efficiency, according to a white paper from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

But until a common language is coined, it’s all talk. John Eischeid

Photo: istockphoto / Thinkstock

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

Please register or log in to comment.

Suggested