GE “Smart” Appliances Empower Users to Save Money, Reduce Need for Additional Energy Generation
LG&E, GE and Participants Learning From Smart Meter/Appliances Pilot Program
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Six months into the GE Consumer & Industrial and Louisville Gas & Electric Company (LG&E), pilot program that uses smart meters, smart or demand response appliances, and a tiered-pricing program — results reveal participants are choosing money-saving options. The program tests the use of “smart” appliances to help offset energy costs when higher prices are implemented during peak usage times– generally 3-8 p.m.
“We believe with our Demand Response appliances, GE will help consumers significantly decrease power usage during peak demand periods, which will help the utilities reduce the need for more power generation and help consumers save on their energy bills,” notes Kevin Nolan, Vice President of Technology for GE Consumer & Industrial. “GE can provide consumers a solution that will give them control over their energy usage with little to no disruption to their lifestyles. “
Pilot participants were a select group of GE employees living in the LG&E Louisville market. They were provided with a suite of GE “smart” appliances — or Demand Response appliances — to replace their standard appliances. In most cases, this included a refrigerator, range, microwave, dishwasher and laundry pair. In addition, LG&E installed a programmable HVAC thermostat in the participants’ homes, as well as a “smart” utility meter.
GE’s “smart appliances” receive a signal from the utility company’s smart meter which alerts the appliances, and the participants, when peak electrical usage and rates are in effect. In the pilot program, the signal word “eco” comes up on the display screen. The appliances are programmed to avoid energy usage during that time or operate on a lower wattage; however, participants could choose to override the program.
“We will be conducting pilots like the one in Louisville all over the U.S. because we believe it is highly likely utility companies will offer tiered-pricing structures trying to affect when consumers use energy. Appliances contribute to about 85% of the energy use in a home,“ Nolan said.
Residential energy use continues to increase. Consumers have more electronic devices — including TVs, computers, DVD players, iPods, and cell phone chargers — than ever before. During peak times, consumers are cooking, doing laundry, taking showers, using their computer, or watching TV. Looking to the future, when they come home from work, they may also plug in their hybrid car. Experts agree the growing demand cannot be satisfied without more power generation. However, to lessen the need for more, which is costly to produce and would add more carbon into the environment, we need to learn to use the power we have more wisely.
“This pilot program gives us the opportunity to incorporate our customers’ feedback on how to manage the very critical issue of peak energy demand and supply. Obviously, we want to find solutions that lessen the need for more power generation during peak demand periods and aren’t disruptive to our customers’ lifestyles, “ says Chris Hermann, Senior Vice President, Energy Delivery, LG&E. “We believe we are learning a lot from this pilot about how to accomplish our objectives. This will result in managing our energy better and reducing the need to construct more power generation facilities -- which is better for us, our customers and the environment.”
Test Pilot Participants Speak Out –
While results of energy savings varied among pilot participants and their individual household usage patterns, most liked the control and choice of using their appliances when and how they needed, but they also liked the automatic features that help them save money. Being able to override a delay was key to avoid major lifestyle interruptions.
Martha Callahan says she has become much more aware of when her family uses energy. “I want to save money and energy and am willing to slightly alter my routine to do that,” she explained. She allows her dishwasher to delay start until after 10 p.m. Martha has only overridden the signal once and that was to wash extra silverware for a dinner party.
Dana and Mark Brian have chosen to make lifestyle adjustments. “We try to fix dinner before 6:00 p.m. and we do laundry mainly on weekends,” notes Dana. “It’s helped me get more organized. I now unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning and then fill it throughout the day. After dinner, I set it to run and the smart programming delays it until after 10 p.m.” Mark reports a 20% reduction of total electrical consumption in the months he has participated in the program. “As part of the LG&E pilot, I have an in-home energy monitor. We have it on the kitchen counter and watch it every day. It lets me know the rate I am paying and the instantaneous electrical consumption. Watching that meter has driven behavior changes in my house that have resulted in reduced energy consumption. That explains a portion of the 20% reduction. In addition, I switched several of my light bulbs to CFLs.” While the family’s total energy consumption was down with all of the changes they made during the pilot program, the harsh winter required the family to run a space heater during peak hours, but their energy bill remained about the same. Mark anticipates that, with more temperate weather and continued energy efficiency, he will see a cost reduction.
Dan and Angela Renz have noticed no difference in the way they utilize their microwave oven, range and refrigerator under the program. As with most of the participants, their biggest challenge was avoiding using the dishwasher and laundry pair during peak hours. “We are both committed to this program because we want to save energy.”
“Most pilot program participants liked the control of using their appliances how and when needed and noted little need to change their behavior when using their refrigerators, microwave ovens or ranges. That is understandable,” explains Nolan, “the only noticeable change in using the range is a longer pre-heat time, typically an increase of 5 minutes. For the microwave oven, the wattage used is decreased about 10% during peak hours.
Other examples of savings are:
- •The refrigerator delays the defrost cycle from occurring during peak hours and goes into energy saving mode. One participant’s energy efficiency efforts with refrigerator usage over 10 weekdays showed over a 20% reduction of energy usage during peak hours.
• Microwave ovens power down slightly by reducing wattage used when operated during peak hours. Martha Callahan mentioned that her two sons (ages 11 and 13) have had no trouble adjusting to the varying power levels as they heat up snacks.
• The ”smart” dishwasher can delay starting the cycle to off peak times.
• Choosing to delay laundry to off peak time can help consumers meet their own energy efficiency targets. Understandably, interaction with the dishwasher and laundry appliances was noted as the most challenging by the participants.
To view a video about “smart,” demand response appliances, click here.
E.ON U.S. LLC, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a subsidiary of E.ON A.G., the world's largest investor-owned energy services provider. E.ON U.S. is a diversified energy services company that owns and operates Louisville Gas and Electric Company, a regulated utility that serves 314,000 natural gas and 389,000 electric customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties, and Kentucky Utilities Company, a regulated electric utility in Lexington, Ky., that serves 538,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties and five counties in Virginia.
GE Consumer & Industrial spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliances, lighting and integrated industrial equipment, systems and services. Providing solutions for commercial, industrial and residential use in more than 100 countries, GE Consumer & Industrial uses innovative technologies and ecomaginationSM, a GE initiative to aggressively bring to market new technologies that help customers and consumers meet pressing environmental challenges, to deliver comfort, convenience and electrical protection and control. General Electric (NYSE: GE), imagination at work, sells products under the Monogram®, Profile™, GE®, Hotpoint®, SmartWater™, Reveal® and Energy Smart® consumer brands, and Entellisys®, Tetra®, Vio™ and Immersion® commercial brands. For more information, consumers may visit www.ge.com.
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