GE Distributes First Smart Appliance
General Electric this month began distributing a hot water heater that can link into the so-called “smart” electric meters being distributed nationwide, according to a post Wednesday on The New York Times’ Green Inc. blog. Industry experts believe that GE’s water heater is the first “smart appliance” to be made commercially available in the US.
The water heater has a port resembling an Ethernet port that can theoretically plug into a converter box that, in turn, connects to the utility’s meter. The consumer or utility will be able to switch to an electricity-saving mode at times of high electricity use, such as the late afternoon.
Unfortunately, smart meters are not currently installed in many households, although millions are on their way. In addition, the way that electricity is priced will have to change in order for the smart meters and smart appliances to be truly useful.
Most American homeowners basically pay the same hour-after-hour price for electricity, whether it is a time of peak electricity use or low use. So, no monetary incentive exists to program the water heater to go into energy-saving mode during peak use hours, and the appliance’s “smartness” serves no immediate purpose.
On October 27, President Obama named 100 utility projects that will share $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to hasten implementation of a smart electric grid, Carol Sonenklar wrote on heatingoil.com.
One target of the grant money is smart meters, said Sonenklar. The funds will pay for about 18 million meters, about 13 percent of all meters in the US. The Obama administration hopes to distribute approximately 40 million smart meters over the next several years.
The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, and translate to a saving of $20.4 billion for U.S. businesses and consumers.