Smart Appliances From GE Save Energy and Money

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.

Pilot participants Mark and Dana Brian say they use the monitor (pictured) to track energy use of their GE Demand Response appliances, which work with a "smart" utility meter to help them better manage their energy use and cost during peak pricing periods

“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.”

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