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What is a Smart Appliance?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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A smart appliance is principally a concept of how appliances could use power in the future to save electricity and money. There are a few early models of the smart appliance introduced by companies like GE®, but they cannot be fully "smart" or in communication with power plants until electrical grids, called smart grids, and smart meters are built. When these grids are developed and on-line, the smart appliance will have means of communicating with the grids so that they’ll reduce power consumption during peak hours and operate during those hours when lowest power demand exists. There are some countries that are advanced in this field and others that are in development stages.

The ideal home of the future might have all appliances with this communicative ability. The reason for this is that appliances could then communicate with each other and the power grid. If it’s necessary to use the electric stove during peak power hours, the other smart appliances in the home, like the refrigerator, might consume lower levels of power, which could keep energy use at a reduced and acceptable rate. If enough homes had smart appliances, it might lower the growing need for more power plants and reduce problems that exist in some areas with power brownouts.

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This does not mean that people won’t have any control over when they can operate a smart appliance. It’s expected that most of these will be programmable by the homeowner. The sudden need to do laundry during peak hours can still be met, or those really interested in saving power will likely be able to instruct appliances to not exceed a certain amount of power use per month.

Different strategies may be employed for this programming, and people might either program at the appliance site or use the Internet to control power usage. One of the goals of smart appliance use is also to educate people about their power usage so that people become more sensitive to when they are using the most power and spending the most. With different pricing during peak hours and the consumer’s ability to see that more conservative habits save money, it’s hoped these appliances automatically become methods by which people conserve energy.

Even in places like the US, the smart appliance and supporting infrastructure is in varying stages of development for practical usage. This is changing rapidly with supportive government funding for smart grids and smart meters. Some of the difficulties anticipated beyond building fully communicative systems include willingness for customers to invest in smart appliances, especially more than one at a time. It is expected that many countries will have some form of discount or rebate programs, but smart appliances are still likely to be more expensive than ones that aren’t communicative. Those in support of these machines say that when consumers comprehend the obvious savings in energy costs, they may be more interested in investing in smart appliances.

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