This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


Smart Appliances – Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Christine Hertzog's picture
Principal Technical Leader, Cyber Security Strategic Initiative Electric Power Research Institute

Christine Hertzog is a Principal Technical Leader focused on OT Cyber Security research at EPRI.  She conducts research on new technologies suitable for OT environments and informs industry...

  • Member since 2010
  • 286 items added with 128,271 views
  • Jan 10, 2011

Your access to Member Features is limited.

The recent spate of announcements about smart appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) shows that we still have much to learn about the really important enhancements that matter for intelligent energy use. Enabling selected devices to be “grid-aware”, that is, capable of receiving price signals from utilities, has some value in areas where dynamic pricing is in use. Enabling all devices that use electricity to communicate data about their status – in other words, connect them to the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) will have value to consumers regardless of electricity price structures. But while smart appliances generated a lot of buzz at CES, from an energy intensity perspective, we still get the most energy savings from improving residential and commercial building envelopes.

I live in an area that has flat electricity rate tiers, and my utility isn’t sending price signals down the wire. Smart appliances won’t have much appeal for me from an energy savings perspective, and it’s easy to control the operations of my dumb appliances (including turning off the ice maker) on peak demand days.

Device connectivity in an IoT scenario holds more interest for consumers like me. When my refrigerator’s compressor failed, it was costly to replace spoiled food. Grid awareness is nice, but a smart refrigerator would alert me to a malfunction and proactively contact my preferred appliance repair service with diagnostic details so I can schedule a once and done repair visit. This Internet connectivity has value to me, but not in energy savings.

My dishwasher can easily be scheduled to run outside of set peak demand times, and grid-awareness is irrelevant when listening for non-existent price signals. I can manage its operations on the few peak demand days where it financially counts. What would make this a smart dishwasher? Performance diagnostics. Telling me that something is failing, and verifying that the failing component is still under warranty would be welcome information.

The microwave oven can be programmed to record voice memos to serve as reminders for future appointments. In 10 years of ownership, this feature has never been used. A calendar timer supports this capability. If I power down my microwave during periods of non-use, I have to re-program in time, am/pm, and month, day and year just to boil water. This feature forces the 24 X 7 consumption of electricity to avoid the annoyance of constant re-programming for a device that gets daily but occasional use. How dumb is that, and how did this get an Energy Star rating?

However, installing smart appliances in homes with single pane windows, inadequate insulation, and dark roof surfaces is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Smart appliances can make small contributions to reducing electricity, but only in areas with the right pricing structures. From a Smart Grid perspective, we’d do much better to construct and retrofit residential and commercial building stock that reduces the energy intensity of HVAC requirements, and then focus on calibrating energy use in appliances and receiving meaningful performance diagnostics data.


Christine Hertzog's picture
Thank Christine for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Osha Davidson's picture
Osha Davidson on Jan 11, 2011

This is fascinating, Christine. Hmmm, and maybe we should turn off that ice-maker, too.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »