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Consumers May Find Smart Appliances a Dumb Idea

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the will-you-please-just-cook-my-carrots-now dept.

Power 347

theodp writes "As GE readies appliances that communicate with smart meters in the hope of taking advantage of cheaper electricity rates, CNet asks a big question: Are consumers ready for the smart grid? Right now, most utilities only offer a flat rate, not time-of-use pricing, so the example of a drier that reacts to a 'price signal' about peak rates by keeping one's clothes wet until a more affordable time is pretty much a fantasy. And longer-term, a big question is whether consumers will want to deal with the hassle of optimizing household appliance energy usage themselves, or be willing to relinquish monitoring and control to utility companies — with a concomitant loss of privacy. After all, losing one's copy of 1984 is one thing — losing one's lights and refrigerator is another thing altogether."

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How long will peak rates be around for? (5, Interesting)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745135)

As a single guy (rare for Slashdot, I know..) I don't use much energy at home during the day because surprise surprise I'm out at work. On the other hand, I'm sure there are many people who have families where one adult is home part of the day and probably takes care of cleaning, laundry, etc. during that time, probably watches TV and/or uses the computer, has kids to entertain, needs air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, etc. It doesn't seem like smart electronics are going to substantially change these behaviors. Great, the dryer wants to wait until off-peak to dry my clothes, but I have 3 loads of laundry to get done..

What may change things is something that we've discussed here several times: Electric cars that have the ability to return electricity to the grid during times of high demand. Hopefully this or other means of localized power storage will reduce the need for "peak" pricing in future. Hopefully devices will also consume less power in future. For example, if you're spending time online with your notebook you aren't drawing anywhere near the 100-200w you would if you were using a desktop system (my Eee 1000HE netbook draws 9-12 watts).

I would rather see us find ways to better match power availability to demand instead of a short-lived period of doing the inverse. Electric cars are a great way to do so because it's a natural leverage of developments in our lives that are already taking place with widespread support.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745211)

I agree with you... The biggest energy users in a typical home are items that pretty much need to stay on consistently day and night, anyway. My water heater is like that. No point having it if I only get hot water on demand *some* of the times I want it. The refrigerator will spoil all the food if it shuts down to save energy during "peak hours" of the day. And I already have a programmable thermostat for the A/C and furnace, but I've never seen any real cost savings by setting it up to run less often during the day when nobody's home. (Once the walls and floors and ceilings warm up (or cool down in the winter) to a certain point, then the A/C or furnace has to work a lot harder to move the temperature back to the comfort zone for your return home.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (5, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745257)

Tankless water heaters only heat the water when you need it.

Your refrigerator could apply a colder temperature before peak usage period, to reduce the amount of cooling that should be needed during the peak time, or apply other measures "in anticipation" of approaching peak usage period..

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745299)

Australia has had off-peak rates at night for decades, most people use it for their hot-water service.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745517)

Australia has had off-peak rates at night for decades, most people use it for their hot-water service.

Don't forget torrenting with our off-peak downloads, running on off-peak electricity!

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745533)

some parts of Australia

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745565)

Here in Japan, some places have remote water heater controllers, to shut off the water heater when it isn't used.

I discovered that the hard way, when I tried to take a shower without telling the people who's house I was staying in.

(The control panel looked like this [ipernity.com] )

Japanese building used to be built without double-pane windows, insufficient insulation and a few other issues that make the water heater a minor concern relative to the ecological impact of making the building comfortable.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745641)

    For water heaters, there are better ones that monitor their own usage and attempt to predict utilization. I had one like this, which worked very well. I'm not 100% sure on the timing, but it went something like this. It was able to recognize there is hot water usage for a 4 hour window around 7am and 5pm. If it saw water wasn't being consumed, it would then reconfigure itself. For example, if you went on vacation and forgot to tell it, it would use less power. There was also an manual switch so you could tell it you were going on vacation. That would be useful for the winter, so the water heater wouldn't freeze, but I wouldn't be wasting money heating it much above freezing. :)

    You can actually have some flex room with a fridge too. If the power is cheaper, and the usage lower (like, less opening and closing), you could let the cycles run less frequently. Say you're running 38F to 42F degrees normally, you could run 36F to 44F through peak time.

    I don't like the whole idea though. I see subsidized appliances. Buy a new refrigerator for $1 and pay their easy $20/mo ez-payment plan for the next 10 years. Failure to pay for service will result in termination of the service immediately. What good is a fridge that won't run. I'm the DMCA or some future law will be used to prevent the reverse engineering of any components. Circumventing the remote control parts to make it "just work" would be a criminal offense.

    There are good reasons for the whole smart power grid to go into effect. I'm not just worried, I'm positive, that it will be abused by corporations.

    Just wait until the hacks come though. Just imagine a gas stove turning on with it's pilot light off, and then the pilot igniting. How about an electric stove and oven going to full power for no reason. I hope nothing was left on top of it. If every dumb item in a house could be controlled, I'm sure there would be plenty of bad things that could happen.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Informative)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745889)

The problem is that cooling your food down too far can damage it. eg. freezing milk or cheese.

Re: You're wrong, and doing something wrong (1)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745863)

"And I already have a programmable thermostat for the A/C and furnace, but I've never seen any real cost savings by setting it up to run less often during the day when nobody's home. "

I live in Dallas and have a setback thermostat. It goes to 99dF from 8am to 4pm. When I use it in July and August, I use about 1,000 kw a month. When I don't use the thermostat I use about 1,400 kw a month. That is over 25% savings.

"(Once the walls and floors and ceilings warm up (or cool down in the winter) to a certain point, then the A/C or furnace has to work a lot harder to move the temperature back to the comfort zone for your return home."

This is untrue. First most A/C units have one speed. So they don't work harder to cool the house down when it is very hot, they just run longer. Second, they don't run longer to move the temp back down when it is allowed to heat up than if the house was kept at a constant temperature. In fact in toto they run less, the time running is just deferred and compressed together. Otherwise the system would violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Air conditioners are also more efficient with a large temperature delta (hot house) than they are with a small temperature delta (cool house).

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745261)

> Electric cars that have the ability to return electricity to the grid during times of high demand

This gets really complicated to do in practice.

How many people plan for when exactly they will drive?
The two main times your car connects to the grid is when demand will be highest, namely when you get to work (as most office workers get to the office at the same time, and will need to charge their cars then), and when you get home from work (same as everybody else coming from the office, and this early-mid evening, when overall demand is highest).
And will you take your car for lunch or a co-workers (ie, can your car be trickle charged over the whole day, or must it be charged in time for lunch)?
And if your car gets charged in the morning and you don't use it for lunch, do you want your car possibly drained because of 'demand' in the afternoon, so you may not be able to get home?
Will you go out for dinner (may need to wait for a power charge, right at the worst time of the day for the grid)?

Personally, I can't believe the huge push to switch to electric vehicles when right now there are periodic brownouts and blackouts (particularly in California). Electric-only vehicles will be a huge drain on the power grid.

I know I will select a hybrid car (gas generator with electric drive) for two reasons: range and not having to rely on having a power outlet everywhere I go.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (3, Informative)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745365)

"Electric-only vehicles will be a huge drain on the power grid. "

This meme always pops up, and is untrue as the existing infrastructure is perfectly capable of handling millions of electric vehicles.

"Since utilities have built enough power plants to provide electricity when people are operating their air conditioners at full blast, they have excess generating capacity during off-peak hours. As a result, according to an upcoming report from the Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL), a Department of Energy lab, there is enough excess generating capacity during the night and morning to allow more than 80 percent of today's vehicles to make the average daily commute solely using this electricity. If plug-in-hybrid or all-electric-car owners charge their vehicles at these times, the power needed for about 180 million cars could be provided simply by running these plants at full capacity."

http://www.evpowersystems.com/PHEVs%20Save%20Grid.htm [evpowersystems.com] [evpowersystems.com]

Note when you read this that it INCLUDES California.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745481)

there is enough excess generating capacity during the night and morning to allow more than 80 percent of today's vehicles to make the average daily commute solely using this electricity...

Note when you read this that it INCLUDES California.

Note that when you read this it assumes that people will only charge their vehicles at these off peak hours. Good luck convincing a significant percentage of car owners to only charge when it's convenient (for the grid and not necessarily for them). We can't even convince a significant amount of car owners that fuel efficiency is important. I'm not against electric vehicles but it's not as simple as it seems. The only feasible way I see of significant numbers of electric vehicles is some form of grid intelligence to regulate the amount of power that those vehicles can pull at times other than off peak.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745553)

No convincing necessary. They just use on-peak, off-peak pricing. If you want to pay $1/mile, go right ahead, but others may want to fuel up when the prices are $0.05/mile (for their particular car, for example).

That's when the "dumb idea" of variable pricing becomes a good idea.

Supply-demand people. Supply-demand.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28746007)

Ummm... reread for comprehension and you'll note that peak/off-peak pricing plays a major part, as (and as you mention) does tying the chargers into the grid in such a way that all of them aren't vying for power all at the same time.

Besides, a car tends to be in the garage with its charger only at night, as most people seem to take 'em out and drive 'em around in the daytime. Amazing how well that works.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (2, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745389)

How many people plan for when exactly they will drive?

Look at it another way: I'm at home during the day and I have an electric car. I have two choices: use my appliances at peak rate or tell my car to serve up some of the power it stored last night off-peak. Which do I do? It *always* makes economical sense to take that power back from my car before dipping into the grid. Doing so means there is less on-peak demand for everyone else, so prices should come down. If it saves lots of money people will find a nice way to do it, and car manufacturers will sell high-capacity cars boasting their money saving capabilities for your home. It could be as simple as a display in my home that says "Your car has 100 miles worth of energy stored, select how many miles to spend on peak power saving instead". If you foolishly use too much energy and suddenly need to use the car you buy it back at peak rate and learn your lesson for next time.

I know I will select a hybrid car (gas generator with electric drive) for two reasons: range and not having to rely on having a power outlet everywhere I go.

Sure, and hybrids will be around for a long time for those reasons. But a plus is that this could cause power points wherever you go to become a reality.

This gets really complicated to do in practice.

Agreed based on current battery technology, but if we see a big rise in capacity and reduced charge time that could change. It also depends if you serve your own home, in which case the financial benefits are clear, or the grid generally, in which case they are more muddy.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745895)

> I have two choices: use my appliances at peak rate or tell my car to serve up some of the power it stored last night off-peak.

First, no known electric vehicles have this feature. There aren't even prototypes that have this. And this significantly increases the cost for the electronics in the car, in the socket for the car, and where the power from the grid enters your main fuse box.
Second, it isn't that efficient to convert a/c to chemical storage and then back.

> If you foolishly use too much energy and suddenly need to use the car you buy it back at peak rate and learn your lesson for next time.

Um, no. You go shit. I can't go right now, because my car doesn't have enough power. I need to call a cab so I can leave now.

> but if we see a big rise in capacity

This has also been argued on Slashdot, that increasing capacity isn't that easy to do anymore. NIMBY affects everything, including wind, water, coal, oil and nuclear generation. Environmental reviews for all of these also aren't easy to pass. Even stupid things screw it up, like in Texas I believe [this was for a desalinization plant I think], a river was temporarily diverted for construction, then when the construction was completed, when they wanted to 'undivert' it, environmentalists stopped it by claiming it had re-created some ancient wetlands/breeding grounds/whatever that must now be preserved.

nano nano (4, Insightful)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745281)

I don't welcome greater government oversight in my private life but I do welcome a more refined two way grid because it may facilitate a "nano" economics and the necessary infrastructure. I just made up the term nano economics and may I rot in hell if it catches on as yet another catch phrase but the idea of individuals and small groups having the means necessary to incorporate into larger entities and supply small quantities of resources for exchange over a grid or in a larger project has many attractive features. Recently /. ran a story on music indies being under fire from large corporations trying to corner markets. A sort of nano economics could have positive benefits from small business startups to undermining unconscionable copyright laws. One of the things missing is a government interface such as might develop from managing power grids at the micro level and burgeoning into a nests set of systems that would allow for a broader array of nano economic possibilities. Some developing countries have experimented with micro banking wherein community members pool small sums of monies to help startups get going. I think a nano economic revolution is available via the current technology but will require the necessary government infrastructure and a shift in thinking and practise on the part of the public. Perhaps mature, industrial countries with the requisite resources and an educated working class could bootstrap such a micro revolution.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745339)

Guess what: the largest users of electricity are industrial. For example, aluminum is basically refined with electricity. Lots of it. Given a laborforce mostly working 9-5 to apply that electricty, there's still a peak use time.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

genericpoweruser (1223032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745557)

There's a simple fix to that (that I'm quite sure is already in place): Simply charge for peak hour usage for industrial uses. Then the aluminum refinement will take place from 9pm-5am.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745653)

There's a simple fix to that (that I'm quite sure is already in place): Simply charge for peak hour usage for industrial uses. Then the aluminum refinement will take place from 9pm-5am.

The aluminum plant where most of my family worked (where Google now has a facility) ran 24 hours/day. It would be too costly to heat things up then let them cool off during the day just to heat them back up again.

Most of these plants are located very close to electricity production (this one is within eye-sight of a hydro-power dam) and most likely use sophisticated financial models to determine the price they end up paying for power.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745527)

As a single guy (rare for Slashdot, I know..) I don't use much energy at home during the day because surprise surprise I'm out at work.

Sure. No energy. Like the nice A/C at work that keeps the temp at a nice 77 degrees day and night, the lights, the telephones, the factory machines, lathes... you might be interested to know that it's at work that the most progress has been made in efficiency, simply because you use so much energy at work...

What may change things is something that we've discussed here several times: Electric cars that have the ability to return electricity to the grid during times of high demand.

Now you are starting to hit it. It's the HIGH USE devices that will make the most dent in the energy usage in the near future. Devices like your air conditioner and your refrigerator, your electric car.

Your dryer is probably gas anyway, (if you weren't a dumb-ass, at least in California) so its electricity use is minor, anyway.

In my case, approximately 2/3 of my energy bill consists of about 1/4 of my energy usage - the peak amount. If I could somehow slough off this last bit and still keep my house comfortable, I would in a heartbeat, even if it meant that my house was 85 for a few hours/day.

We need you, smart grid!

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (3, Informative)

awetech (1600949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745623)

The Tesla elctric cars are an awesome vehicle, with the new model S having a range of 300 miles and a top speed of 120mph, 0-60 in under 6 seconds. Not bad for a totally electric car

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745697)

I know hearing from friends that have visited London that they do take special care not to use anything taxing during the day. The house my friends stayed at while there actually scolded them for drying clothes during prime time. I don't know if that's the norm for the UK or not, but they may be targeting a more global appeal with this type of technology.

Any comments from our neighbors across the pond?

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745715)

That's a much better critique than the CNET article (and unlike the summary, you spelled dryer correctly). Privacy and lazy consumers aren't the problem. Peak hours are peak hours for a reason, it's when businesses and consumers need energy. I agree with you, local storage would revolutionize the way we use energy. If homes and buildings had energy "reservoirs" the delivery of power could be distributed better and reduce stress on the grid during peak times. It would also make supplemental sources of energy (sun, wind, geothermal, etc) more practical.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745831)

I see your point, but I am not sure if you see the point of the article. One issue, as I understand it, preventing the use of renewable energy is their lack of ability to supply energy at peak times. Right now, apparently, we have infracture that is mostly not used, except at certain peak times. This is a social problem, not an engineering problem. Takes roads for example. We can build roads so that people can get to work at peak times, but that does not provide a long term solution. The long term solution is social.

Localized energy storage is not going to provide the 100% guaranteed power we require in the US. There is simply no tolerance for unreliability. Localized power returned to the grid is useful if the grid can store the power, so that the power is not wasted, otherwise it is simply an incentive for people to generate power, just like the peak power rates.

Such a policy of peak pricing may be temporary, but it may last long enough to change behavior. There are many tasks that can be done overnight if the automation is put in place. This will require investment, and one way to spur the investment is to make energy expensive.

Also, such pricing does have an effect on conservative users. When I was younger, I went to great length to keep my power usage below a threshold, because below that threshold I was changed very little. As soon I crossed the threshold I was charged a lot more. It encouraged me to watch my usage.

The reason people dislike this kind of plan is because they don't want to give anything up. They want to have low fuel consumption, but they want it in a military transport. They want low electric bills buy they want a big screen TV. They want to save money, but can't because they spend it on bottled water and energy drinks. The reality is that we need better management of power. It has to visible, not hidden so that people think there are no negative consequences. If that means lowering the energy cost for those that even out their power usage and increasing costs for those who don't, well that is one tool we have in the free market.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (0)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745881)

Cars that return energy to the grid seem to me like an amazingly stupid idea. How much storage does one of those cars actually have and how much impact will it actually have? Even assuming that it's significant, there's still the issue of me waking up late and trying to go to work only to find that the electric car that I've left "charging" all night is dead because it returned all its energy to the grid when everyone woke up and started using more power. Then there's the issue of batteries degrading over time. Even if my car only returns energy to the grid once during the night while "charging" and once during the day (due to driving), then this "smart grid" has already cut my battery life in half, not to mention the fact that it will start to loose capacity much sooner that it would have otherwise.

Re:How long will peak rates be around for? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28746005)

Smart charging of electric cars is indeed one of the uses of this technology. Customers with displays in their homes have said they've found them useful, even elderly people not quite so up on techie stuff. Many times it's just a matter of knowing to wait an extra hour before turning something on. The newer meters will also let the power companies know give different rates at different times, no more just asking people to wait until off peak, they can give cheaper electricity then.

It COULD be a good idea, though. (2)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745167)

I was very close to someone who, in all intents and purposes, had a "smart" house. Practically every key component of the house, including lighting, air conditioning, and heating, was controlled by a computer running some Microsoft product. (I forgot the name of it, but it runs great!) Considering that most of the family was blind, this network made their lives a lot easier.

However, I can see the benefits of "smart" houses being useful for everyone. Massive living room speakerphone connected to Skype and POTS could come in handy. Morever, appliances now a days are already "smart" to some capacity when compared with their predecessors. We see this on timers in air conditioners and refridgerators as well as cooking thermometers on ovens and stove-tops, for instance.

Adjustment might take a while, but if it serves a good use, people will appreciate it. Remember, ultimate convenience is the goal!

Re:It COULD be a good idea, though. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745259)

Considering that most of the family was blind

They shouldn't be allowed to breed. How did they get enough money to afford a smarthouse?

Back on topic, remember that many "public" utilities are businesses. They are going to maximize profit whenever possible and so the "peak hours" concept is rendered moot. They'd probably even charge people more to use electricity in off-hours (special needs == more profit) even though its actually better for the grid.

Re:It COULD be a good idea, though. (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745311)

I'd be very surprised if they start charging more for off hours than for peak hours(that said, I'd be very unsurprised by any attempt to raise rates across the board). Electricity is quite hard to store(at best, with convenient natural features, as with hydro pumping stations, it is merely inefficient. At worst it is wildly uneconomic) and ramping up or down the output of a generating plant takes a nonzero amount of time. Unfortunately, the cheapest plants to run(coal, optimist's projection of nuclear) don't respond all that quickly to demand changes, so utilities try to run them 24/7 to match "base load" and reserve the pricier, but more dynamic, options like gas turbines for fluctuations above base load.

Charging more for off peak would merely increase the delta between base and peak load, and mean that more electricity was being sourced from expensive plants, and less from cheap ones. It would piss people off and fail to be profitable. Basic rate increases, on the other hand, would merely piss people off, and are to be expected.

Re:It COULD be a good idea, though. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745547)

Charging less for off peak -- fix that for you... What you said make NO SENSE at all.

Meeting the peak demands is the toughest while there is excess generating capacity during the off peak hours. Why would they want to encourage the consumers to move more loads to the peaks?

Re:It COULD be a good idea, though. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745657)

I think you misread. Ethanol-fueled said:

"They'd probably even charge people more to use electricity in off-hours (special needs == more profit) even though its actually better for the grid."

I disagreed, and said that that would be uneconomic.

You said that what I said made no sense, and then made the same point.

I, for one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745173)

...welcome our, um -- ah, screw it.

Dumb (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745183)

Smart appliances are a truly dumb idea. What things in your home consume the most power?

Tier 1
Refrigerator.
Stove/Oven/Microwave.
Heating/Cooling.
Dishwasher.
Dryer.

Tier 2
Lighting
Entertainment system.
Hair dryer etc.

Can you wait for off-peak power for any of those? Of those things, what can really be delayed?

The fridge? Not if you dont want you food to spoil.
Stove/Oven. Not if you want to have dinner.
Heating/Cooling. Not if you want to be in your house while you are awake.
Dishwasher. Yes. That one.
Dryer. Maybe, if you are okay with wet clothes sitting around (mold). Not if you have more than one load.
Lighting Not if you want to be in your house while you are awake.
Entertainment system. Not if you want to actually use it.
Hair dryer? No, that's not how it works.

So there was what? Just the dishwasher?

This whole idea sounds like some dumb-ass' PhD topic. Fascinating in theory, doesn't work in reality.

Re:Dumb (3, Informative)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745265)

The fridge? Not if you dont want you food to spoil.

The fridge consumes a lot of power in a home, but in a rather "distributed" way, does not really peak too much. Moreover, it would be possible to have the fridge relax a bit the thermostat requirement for a couple of hours if peak conditions are detected. It will not spoil your food to have it frozen at -17C vs. -18C for a few hours!

Stove/Oven. Not if you want to have dinner.

100% in agreement, that cannot be delayed!

Heating/Cooling. Not if you want to be in your house while you are awake.

Again, it could be set that a \pm 1 C extra is allowed during peak demand. In my community they give you 5% discount on electricity if you agree to have your AC controlled by the city (they may delay your ac 20' at peak times). I did not agree to that for such meager savings, I must say...

Dishwasher. Yes. That one.

Can wait. No problem there.

Dryer. Maybe, if you are okay with wet clothes sitting around (mold).

MOLD? For waiting a couple of hours? You've read too many crazy articles out there "MOLD IS COMING TO KILL US ALL!". :-)

Lighting Not if you want to be in your house while you are awake.

Not that much consumption if using CFL's. No need to regulate.

Entertainment system. Not if you want to actually use it.

What is your entertainment system, you know they do not consume THAT much...

Hair dryer? No, that's not how it works.

Who needs that? :-)

Re:Dumb (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745421)

...they may delay your ac 20' at peak times

How long will your AC 'be allowed' to run after that 20 minute delay? Right now in Austin the temps are 102+ during peak times. A 20 minute delay at peak hours means a rise of a couple of degrees F, after which the AC runs longer trying to return the target temp. If not allowed to run long enough the cumulative rise would get bad quick.

Either you are going to be uncomfortable with a steadily rising temperature or you are not going to save much. People with the means will choose comfort over minor savings.

Re:Dumb (4, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745285)

My dishwasher has a delay button, so when it's full we just hit that button and it doesn't start until after 9pm.

We do most of the laundry on the weekends when we can throw a load in, do things around the house, and then come back to it later. Between my wife and I, we do 4-5 average loads a weekend.

We tend to take showers early morning or late evening, so that puts the hot water usage off a little bit. Sharing the shower doesn't help since we tend to run it longer when we do.

My pool pumps are on timers and only run from midnight to 4am. I've found the 6 and 12 hour for winter/summer recommendations for most pools are wrong for me, I just kept cutting mine back further and further until I found out I only need 4 hours a night, no matter whether it was summer or winter. Oh .. I live in Phoenix.

Maybe we don't need smart appliances .. maybe we need smart users of dumb appliances.

Oh .. but then the government couldn't control it. I see where this administration is going with it....

Re:Dumb (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745387)

Most people I know naturally run the dishwasher in off-peak times anyway.

Re:Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745449)

Tier 1

Refrigerator

Coming up to peak power time? Cool down a few degrees so you won't have to run as much during peak times.

Heating/Cooling

We already have 'smart' thermostats - they are VERY popular. Again - coming up to peak time? Maybe cool down a bit extra. Coming up to non-peak time? Let it get a degree or two warmer.

Dishwasher

Mine has a timer - I set the timer to come on during non-peak times. It would be easier (but not much) if it decided that itself.

Dryer

See dishwasher...

Re:Dumb (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745581)

I have a large family, and we run our dishwasher 4-5 times a day, so scratch that one too. :)

Re:Dumb (2, Informative)

clueless_penguin (514639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745661)

Insightful my ass. My utility has a time of use plan and I save quite a bit with it. The two biggest power consumers are ac/heating and the hot water heater. The water heater only runs during off peak times. I get plenty of hot water in the morning because it shuts off just before I wake up. If I do need it during peak hours I can press a button and have hot water within a few minutes. As for the ac, peak hours are mostly when I'm not there. So the temp is set to something uncomfortable. By the time I need it, it is comfortable. During the summer peaks I save $50 - $60 per month, less in the winter. So no, it is not a theory, it works just fine in reality.

Re:Dumb (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745917)

Can you wait for off-peak power for any of those?

You can if you can store the power - the heat or the cold - until it is needed.

It's become economical for large buildings to freeze a tank of "water" at night and use it to cut the cost of air conditioning during the day.

The idea isn't new or unfamiliar - sailboats and inboards were using similiar systens for refrigeration and freezing decades back. You'd be drawing significant power off the main engine - but only for an hour or two.

There was someone who thought Smart Appliances... (1)

GoldMace (315606) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745197)

There was someone who thought Smart Appliances were a smart idea? They've only been talking about this for over a decade...it's just now people are figuring out it's a dumb idea? Why would anyone want to subject their appliances, of all things, to omething that's completely unnecessary, and will cost a lot of money to fix when it glitches, which it most likely will, like they did with their cars? I'm sure anyone who's had to pay for an expensive repair for a car problem, due to a computer problem, will never buy one of these appliances, that is until, like cars, they are the only models offered...

Re:There was someone who thought Smart Appliances. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745301)

At first I thought it was an awesome idea. But the more I think about it it is a bad solution looking for a problem.

Why would I want to let some remote computer somewhere decide 'your house is too cool' and I need few extra mega watts that some other company is willing to pay more for. That is when it hit me the idea is really about 2 things. Not building better infrastructure and keep using the same that power companies have in place right now. As guess what its expensive to add more better lines and more better power plants. Then having the ability to shunt power to people who are willing to pay more.

They are trying to sell us on the idea that it will 'save us money' when in reality it is about optimizing the profit per KW. Then charge you for the ability to do it. It is an amazingly brilliant MBA's wet dream.

Maybe I am being conspiratorial today, but raise your hand if you could easily see it happening. Monopolies are always looking for ways to monetize the thing that wasnt before and create more sources of revenue then lock you into it.

The sales pitch is 'you can save power if you just know how much you use'. I can figure that already fairly easily. Not sure why I would drop 30k to do it. And do you REALLY REALLY REALLY trust the power company to do the right thing?

I bet power companies think it is an awesome idea. The people who buy power? Not so much. We just do not use power that way.

Re:There was someone who thought Smart Appliances. (2, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745651)

Yes, repair is going to be an issue. If appliance manufacturers continue to use the current level of quality in their 'smart' appliances, I don't see these working well or for long. Our two year old Westinghouse moderately high end oven with just a fancy clock and glass top has had two failures. One in warranty and one out.

The 'tech' could do nothing but unplug the likely offending module and get another one. And charge almost $200 for what appeared to be about $10 in poorly made Chinese parts. No going to the local hardware store and getting another burner and plugging it in. Good luck fixing a 6 year old machine when the company only stocks three years worth of parts. Sure, I could spend hours trying to reverse engineer the part and replace the likely failed (cheapass) SCR, but I really have better things to do with my time and most folks don't have a relatively complete electronics workbench in their basement.

All the downsides of complexity with little of the benefits. I'll pass, thanks. Off the lawn, please.

While I am all for green energy, save the Planet (4, Interesting)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745219)

etc, I don't want it done via taking away rights and freedoms and forcing people to not use electronic devices until off-peak hours. I also don't want it done in a way, like cap and trade, that makes energy use so expensive that it costs jobs and forces poor people to go without electricity.

This "Smart Grid" has a way of spying on a home owners (or renters) privacy as well as shutting off devices so that they cannot use them until off-peak hours. Can you imagine your washing and drier being shut off, and you need to get three loads of clothes done, and you are forced to wear dirty clothes until the washer and drier can be turned back on. Not only that but sweating it out during the summer when the A/C is turned off by the grid and possibly dying of heat stroke and freezing to death in the winter when the heater is forced off until it turns back on during non-peak hours. I got a feeling there will be a lot of death by the smart grid lawsuits if this thing passes.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745233)

I got a feeling there will be a lot of death by the smart grid lawsuits if this thing passes.

My guess is no. They've almost certainly had lawyers, lobbyists, and campaign contributors focusing on the liability issue for a while.

We, the public, generally cannot afford such luxuries.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (2, Insightful)

horatio (127595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745267)

This "Smart Grid" has a way of spying on a home owners (or renters) privacy as well as shutting off devices so that they cannot use them until off-peak hours.

Exactly. I don't want the power company, or the government, controlling when and how I use appliances in my house. MY house, MY appliances. STAY OUT. Smart-meter my ass.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (1)

guppysap13 (1225926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745359)

Ahh, wonderful. They can use the methane during peak hours to generate additional electricity.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (2, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745385)

Especially since you know there is going to be a "crackdown", the "War On Electricity", originally, there might have been 2 hours a day when you were restricted, then 3, then 4... then that, plus all of Sunday from 9am to 5pm, then section X of City Y. Forcing people into some form of extra tax on electricity because you can't avoid the "limited" hours. Giving more money to the electric companies, so they can what, reduce the electricity output even more?

Then you get some weird prohibition, people selling electrical equipment on some black market, devices to by-pass the restrictions, throw some people in jail, that'l teach them, require people to get some form of Electrical Consumption Identification, Enter Your ECI To Run Your Stove...

What? Slippery Slope? It's fucking hot out, and I can't use my air-conditioner, leave me alone!

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (2, Insightful)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745723)

No slippery slope.
We were always at war with Eastasia.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745587)

I wouldn't trust you either.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745615)

I'm always interested by the "Government has too much power" meme - its an effective mask for the rise in (multi/trans national) corporate power. I wonder who has the greater influence over government these days? Those that vote, or those that "pay" contributions? Artificial barriers to entry (e.g. copyright extension) that do not improve the common good are a case in point.

Re:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (4, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745769)

Good luck with that. In Ontario, they've already mandated smart meters by law. Here come higher hydro rates too, we're about to get screwed and they said that it will net us lower rates. They did the same in Quebec, rates jumped by 15-35%. Big shock, there is such a glut in raw hydro here, that they're actually shutting down one of our nuclear reactors for several weeks because of excess power.

Annoying as all piss. There was no input on this, bloody statists.

A better way to do it (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745727)

I think that the best way to do this would be some kind of battery bank / fuel cell / energy storage. The customer charges it at night, and it reduces the load during the day.
While this would be expensive, it would complement a house with solar power well, since they typically already have a battery bank. The other advantage is that because you simply draw the power at night into a reservoir, there is no way to monitor usage.

Why do the appliances need to be smart? (2, Insightful)

ecarlson (325598) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745239)

My house is on a peak/off-peak schedule, with the peak rate being based on highest demand during the peak hours, which are at specific hours of the day, with a set summer and a set winter (rest of the year) schedule. We have a demand control computer that limits the peak demand during on-peak hours. It monitors the rate of consumption, and it has direct control of the water heater, and X-10 control of the heating and air-conditioning to limit the peak amount used, but only during on-peak periods. We do our own time-based control of the rest of the appliances, like we don't do laundry or run the dishwasher during peak hours, etc. It doesn't require smart appliances.

Re:Why do the appliances need to be smart? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745941)

We have a peak load controller that my power company can use to shut down our air conditioner for 20 minutes out of every hour during times of peak energy usage. Their program is called Cycled Air, and for this inconvenience, I get all my air-conditioning electricity run through a separate meter, and I pay a discounted rate for all of it (not just when it's cycled.)

Smart Appliances might try to give me the same benefit as Cycled Air, but the problem with a Smart Appliance is that I could cheat. The reason I can't cheat with my air conditioner is that it's hard-wired into the separate metered circuit. I can't just plug it into a regular outlet. There is also no outlet on that metered circuit that would let me use my "cheap electricity" to temporarily run other equipment.

Smart Appliances will move that problem into the domain of hackers, where they will be hacked. A hacker could take a smart appliance and lobotomize the smarts to make an extra-powerful device that wastes electricity, or could repurpose the "Smart" circuitry to falsely report "I'm being energy efficient, give me a discount" to the power company.

It is a dumb idea (2, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745269)

I kind of like the idea of peak rates. But the idea of "smart" appliances talking to the power company over the Internet is just dumb.

If you publish a schedule of prices, and I can save money by modifying my behavior, I'll do it. With the appliances I have.

Example: Puget Sound Energy experimented with giving us peak rates, so we began doing laundry later in the evening. We used the delay timer on our dishwasher to make it start itself at about 4am. At no point did we wish we had Internet 3.0 appliances.

By the way, PSE found that most people disliked the peak rates program. The discounts for modifying your behavior were not generous enough to make it worth the hassle for most people. I live in the suburbs near Seattle, so we have relatively cheap (mostly hydro) power anyway.

So, for success, make up a simple table of rates vs. times; make sure the discounts for off-peak power are sufficient to adequately reward the people who modify their behavior; done. You can do this now, and no one needs new appliances.

P.S. I did actually RTFA, and there is a bit more to their ideas than just Internet 3.0 appliances. One actually good idea is to have an energy manager in your home, and be able to tell your home that you are going on vacation. Your hot water heater can chill down and take a break, and your air conditioner can work less hard (keep the house at 76 degrees F, say, instead of 70 (24 Celsius instead of 21). But I really don't need my dishwasher to talk to the power company.

steveha

Re:It is a dumb idea (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745307)

One thing you omitted which is probably important is that PSE was doing that mainly so that they could sell the electricity to those living in CA for a profit and to try and keep the building of new generation sources to a minimum. Not saying that it's bad, but it is important to realize that there wasn't really any power being saved in that fashion. The majority of power in this part of the country is hydroelectric and dirt cheap, it's not exactly an accident that so many tech companies are coming from here.

Personally, I think the idea of controlling things from somewhere off site to be a bad idea. With all the things that have been cracked in recent years, I'm not sure how adding more devices to play with is such a good idea. I would however be fully in favor of a scheme that used a standards compliant web interface to download instructions to some sort of fob that one could use to program the devices manually to power up and down at various times. A nice web interface with information about pricing and the ability to make a decision based upon ones life and the cost of providing the service.

Re:It is a dumb idea (5, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745427)

"able to tell your home that you are going on vacation. Your hot water heater can chill down and take a break, and your air conditioner can work less hard (keep the house at 76 degrees F, say, instead of 70 (24 Celsius instead of 21)."

When I was a kid and we were going to go on vacation my mother would turn down the thermostat (you had to leave the furnace on in the winter so the pipes didn't freeze. In the summer the furnace was off anyway, pilot light out), and unplug the TV etc. so a surge couldn't hurt anything. Dad would turn off the hot water heater (which meant when you got home you had to wait for hot water). No need for an "energy manager." Have people gotten that lazy?

PS: why do you need your air conditioner on at all when you're on vacation?

Re:It is a dumb idea (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745499)

why do you need your air conditioner on at all when you're on vacation?

To keep your home's server rack cool. This is /. isn't it?

Re:It is a dumb idea (1)

jtgreg (786548) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745589)

We participated in a peak rate program a few years back in the Bay Area. You got a slight break for non-peak usage in exchange for a large penalty for peak usage. One or two incidences of use during peak hours would wipe out a months worth of careful avoidance. Definitely not worth the hassle.

Re:It is a dumb idea (2, Interesting)

muridae (966931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745673)

75F instead of 70? I'll admit to turning my AC down to 70 if I know I'll be outside most of the afternoon and want to come back to a nicely cool room, but most days it stays set at 76. If I were leaving, it gets turned off. Completely. Yes, the heat stays on, set at around 48 or so. Like one of the sibling posts, when I was younger my family just turned everything off for a summer vacation. Even if it was just a two day vacation, everything electrical was unplugged. Furnace would get the pilot turns off if we were going to be gone for a week or more, no clue if the temperature got reset other times.

For my self, I would like Internet 3.0 appliances. I don't work stable hours, so being able to text the AC to start cooling the place because I'll be home in an hour would be wonderful. Having the fridge only keep things super cold when I'm at home, and saving a little power when I am not would be good too, since I can't open the door to let the cold air out if I am not there. And paying 10$ extra for those features, which is what GE seems to say in the article, would be well in the price increase I would expect. I mean, the price of converting every lightbulb in a house to CFL or LED is more than 10$.

Re:It is a dumb idea (2, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745857)

No shit. Forget this 'smart appliance' crap, and work on actually charging less for power at night, which, you know, is sorta a requirement for this to even exist at all.

Once you do that, publish a schedule, and people will start using non-peak hours for that, manually.

Then, and only then, do you invent a way to send said schedule over the power lines, both in a complicated 'rate by every hour' version and a simple-to-understand 'we are now a lower rate/hour warning for that ending/it ended' signal that can be parsed with a two dollar IC. (And while we're at it, why don't we send the current time, too, so appliances that parse the schedule actually understand it.)

And in addition to 'one hour delay' button, dishwashers and dryers will start including a 'until non-peak hour' button, and then the complicated energy saving can start, which fridges, water heater, and other things using excess energy before peak. And while we're talking to appliances, we should be able to locally talk to them, like you said, and say 'We're on vacation. Stop doing everything you can.' and have water heaters cut off and fridges operate on the assumption that no one will open the door and stuff like that.

...but the very first damn thing is for power companies to start charging us different amounts for different times, because until there's some actual savings on the part of the consumers by implementing this, this is all mental masturbation on the part of electric companies, who'd really like us to use power at non-peak times but can't actually be bothered to, you know, give us any incentive at all to do that.

Re:It is a dumb idea (2, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745989)

In the Netherlands at least, and I think many parts of Europe, we have had two tier pricing for very long. Lower cost of electricity at night. And we didn't need smart appliances, just a timer clock here or there!

Clothes washing: just switch it on when you go to sleep. Not many families have more than one load a day. And if you must well then that second load during the day, can't have it all.

Dishwasher: meh. Don't need.

Water heater for shower: get one with a 70-90l reservoir, and have it heat up to 90 C or so overnight. A properly isolated one and you have piping hot water all day long at night-rate electricity.

It was as simple as that. No need for Internet connection or so, just a double meter in the closet downstairs and some common sense.

Too much smart, not enough appliance. (3, Insightful)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745323)

I think the biggest problem is that all these devices are advertised as smart first, appliances second. They focus so much on the benefits of being able to access the "smart grid" or whatever, they don't do enough to tell the consumer that the appliances are good in their own right. I think if they make quality appliances with these features, market them as quality that also has "smart capabilities," they would probably sell better.

I mean, sure, it's awesome that when my local power company rolls out peak and off-peak rates that my appliances can tell me when it's more expensive to use them, but I want them to be good appliances first. I want them to be efficient in the first place so I don't have to manage my usage by the hour. I already do enough to keep my appliance usage to a minimum to save money; I don't want to also manage when that minimum occurs.

FUD (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745371)

No one is talking about taking away your lights - this is the exact opposite. By having people spread out their electricity usage, you guarantee that there is enough capacity for everyone. The grid is big enough that everyone can use as much electricity as they want; the grid is small enough that we can't all use it at the same time. These "smart" appliances are a stab at an optimization problem.

Most of these appliances will have an override mode anyway, so its not that big a deal.

And consider this - you shower twice a day (hopefully). After every shower, the water heater kicks on and heats up enough water for your next shower plus a little extra to compensate for the fact that its going to sit their idle for 12 hours cooling off. A smart water heater learns when you use hot water and waits until just before you get in the shower to start heating water, significantly reducing the heat loss due to cooling.

Even better scenario: the smart dish washer and smart washing machine signal the smart hot water heater 30 minutes before they start so that they are guaranteed hot water.

This was an easy guess! (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745375)

As a guy who clearly remembers the "smart" cars, with computers doing more and more voluntary things I wish they wouldn't (ever try to be quite and polite, coming home at 3AM in a sleepy, crowded apartment complex? CLICK! CLACK! Lights on! Lights off! Wake the neigbors!) This is precisely as expected.

And can anyone point out the radio-thief that doesn't STEAL your radio, so much as listen to it without permission, so as to require the key in the ignition to be able to listen? I spent three years as a security guard (it's a small town...) it was so annoying. Try a factory-installed radio with a die-hard battery. It takes MONTHS to run that battery down, with constant use.

Back to the pseudo-brains in appliances- this is like another release of Windows:

1. New release- great things!

2. No one will buy this new version...everyone will wait.

3. New release! Great things, but many want to keep the old!

4. Repeat, except never defeat viruses nor mature the code.

Re:This was an easy guess! (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745939)

I've never understood the whole 'key in the ignition' crap. Yes, you want a lot of stuff to turn off when you turn the car off, and we used to do that simply by cutting all power to them...

But, seriously, this is 2009. I don't think it's too much to ask the car to send a signal to the radio saying 'turn off' when the ignition switches off, but continues to power the radio so that someone can turn it back on. This isn't rocket surgery, people.

We manage to already do that with headlights, with a timer in there that keeps them on for another minute, it clearly wouldn't be hard to do it without a timer. (Although keeping the radio on as people got out of the car would not really be a bad thing.) We have buttons on the steering wheel that can turn the damn radio off and on, surely we can make the key turn it off and on but additionally leave where it can be turned on anyway.

No, someone, somewhere, because they were raised on cars that did it, got the idea that there's some actual logical reason to have the radio non-operational without the key. My guess, like yours, is they think it runs down the batteries, despite the fact it would actually take a damn long time to do that, and a safety feature that turns the radio off automatically after six hours with no button press so would stop that easily.

The real interesting fact there is that if the key is in the ignition, often, legally, you are 'operating the motor vehicle'. Hence it can be, for example, illegal to get out of the vehicle. Think about that the next time you leave people in the car listening to the radio while you pump gas.

That's actually as good reason to redesign how cars function so that the engine will operate without the key, and the key unlocks shifting into gear. So people could run AC and whatnot without it. (I'm sorry, if bad people have gotten into your car interior, they have better ways to cost you money than sit there and waste your gas. Like, oh, opening your gas tank and pouring sugar in, and waiting for you to start the car.)

But I understand why car companies don't do that, that would require a lot of work, and people are very used to the physical turning of the key starting the engine. But they still should go halfway and let people use electrical parts of the car without the key.

Ugh! (2, Interesting)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745377)

My mother in law had off-peak rates at the family home, and you couldn't get a damned shower unless you could shower at noon. Mornings and evenings were both out. You also couldn't wash the dishes after dinner (she didn't have a dishwasher). That led to all kinds of idiocies like warming up water for the dishes on the gas stove--a real savings!

Utility companies aren't out to conserve energy, and they're not out to help you save money on your bill. They're out to make money for their investors. If you want an example of utility monitoring, look no further than the elderly man in Michigan who froze to death in his home this past winter because there was some kind of governor on his electric meter. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/04/freezing.death.folo/index.html). And he had plenty of money to pay--he'd just lost his competency to handle his bills. "Smart" appliances are an open invitation for this sort of idiocy to increase.

Re:Ugh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745953)

You also couldn't wash the dishes after dinner (she didn't have a dishwasher). That led to all kinds of idiocies like warming up water for the dishes on the gas stove--a real savings!

Gas heated water rather than electric heated? It actually might have been a real savings.

Optional? (1)

tnok85 (1434319) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745407)

At this point, yes, it is optional.

However, if it becomes widespread, it could potential turn into something that's NOT optional - and probably on a federal level. Take a look at car emissions/mileage standards... used to be a power of the states, but no longer... Yeah, I'm a libertarian (for the most part, I am a proponent of a strong national defense - note: not offense) and I want the government involved in my personal life as little as possible.

You can dismiss this as fear mongering or alarmism, but if you look through history, as soon as you give the government the tools and authority to do something (despite many claims of 'oh no that would never happen'), they generally do it. Usually under the guise of 'terrorism!' or 'economic collapse!' or 'think of the children!'

Why should the anybody else dictate when and where I can use my appliances, with electricity that I am paying for with my hard earned cash? (What portion of it I'm allowed to keep of it after the government takes its cut, that is) What if I am happy doing my laundry in three huge loads once a week? Or if I'm only home and awake for an hour a day, which is a peak hour?

I don't see why they keep pushing this stuff, when nuclear energy is a (relatively) clean alternative, and very safe. It's like nuclear energy is just being dismissed as dangerous and does not warrant further investigation - you'd think we're living in the fifties with nuclear mutant scares. (Well, maybe it'd have some credibility of being scary if The Happening had been a success)

Bleh.

Re:Optional? (1)

babyrat (314371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745529)

You can dismiss this as fear mongering or alarmism,

OK I will.

  you'd think we're living in the fifties with nuclear mutant scares.

No, we're living in the now with paranoid 'the government won't let me dry my clothes' scares.

Tooth and nail (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745435)

I would fight tooth and nail to keep utility companies and the government out of my home so far as HOW I'm using the energy I use. Why? Because if it's 105F outside, it's MY decision whether I want the air conditioner on. If I get up in the morning and my clothes are still sopping wet and sitting in the dryer because someone else decided it wasn't convenient to use that energy just then, there'd be hell to pay (especially if I got in trouble with my employer for being late to work because of it!). I also sure as HELL don't need anyone sending me targeted advertisements based on some bullshit "analysis" of my energy usage patterns. Not anyone's business!

Re:Tooth and nail (1)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745807)

I can understand your unwillingness to completely give up your A/C. OTOH, there are things that can reduce consumption at peak times, simplest is setting the thermostat higher on peak hours, lower during off peak hours. It may take just a few per cent reduction in peak loads to avert rolling blackouts. A bit more involved means is to have a lot of thermal mass in a well insulated house, cooling the house at night and letting it warm a bit during the day.

Cheaper electricity *rates*? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745447)

in the hope of taking advantage of cheaper electricity rates

I'm all for cheaper electricity, but at least in my city, I don't have to pay for rates; the electric company sends them to me annually for free, printed on a piece of paper.

It's not about money savings, it's about rationing (4, Insightful)

PugPappa (1569423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745463)

As far as I can see, this whole smart-grid concept is being sold as a money saving move when it's really about convincing the citizenry to freely accept rationing, even ask for it. The whole basis for the smart-grid is the notion that we cannot or more correctly, should not generate more electricity. If this is allowed to continue, we will all be forced to accept a lower standard of living.

Re:It's not about money savings, it's about ration (1)

babyrat (314371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745497)

From the article:

For example, a person can allow the clothes dryer to go into "conservation" mode when the utility signals through the smart meter that peak prices are in effect.

Note the 'a person can allow' part.

Spend this money on more coal instead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745473)

Maybe they should look into wasting this money on home economics classes, smart people > smart appliances, and if you can't grasp the concepts you will be slightly poorer... so what? Who want's to schedule their lives around the power grid? I mean, if it's going to save you.... $10-$20 a month and that's a bank buster for you then sure schedule you're life around it, peak hours are posted, but for normal people who work for a living this isn't an option. What about computers? computers use alot of power, and I'm sure many people on this website have more then one, like I do, and that at least one of them is never turned off other then the odd restart, and with lots of fancy gadgets in them like two graphics cards, physX card, 4 hard drives, fans and the works probably looking at 300W on idle at least, making it essentially an appliance, probably consuming more power then a dryer that is used for 2 hours once a week (when looking at a one month period), so now an AI is in charge of when your computer is on based on usage?

Now the opposite side of the coin is how smart are these appliances going to be, will there be an override so that if I need this laundry done now, or I don't ever want to shut off my computer, I don't have to? Obviously the largest power hogs in a house are refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters, A/C. Things that for liability reasons can't be 'smart' because those all are things that are necessary to run at certain times that are going to almost always fall in a peak period (if it's cold EVERYONE will need heat creating a large strain on the grid, if it's morning a large amount of people will need hot water to shower, and so on)

Also just because as with anything 'green' is this actually going to reduce strain on the grid? Will it ultimately have a smaller environmental impact? Probably not in my opinion, things getting used at different times are still things getting used, if I drive my car 100miles and you drive your car 100miles does it hurt the environment less if we do it not at the same time? I doubt it. Not too mention the massive amount of power consumed by the large data storage and process/analysis facilities that will need to be created to make usage statistics so that someone from the power company knows when I'm doing laundry and how often so it can be a lighter side note on the evening news, altho it would be funny, "In other news, power companies are reporting that 4.6% of americans do their laundry at 3am, that certainly is interesting, back to you Tom."

This money is probably best spent researching lower power consumption appliances/electronics and greater efficiency power production, make more power and make things use less power is the only solution.

What does the tribune article habe to do with this (2, Insightful)

babyrat (314371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745521)

The last link in the summary, regarding the student who was without power for two weeks has absolutely nothing to do with smart appliances or smart grids. Why is it even included? Perhaps an article detailing the rolling brownouts that some areas have had to deal with during times when demand is greater than supply would be more appropriate (and would be something that a smart grid could address in a better way).

Oh wait, a balanced story detailing the pros and cons of an issue is probably way too much to ask for.

P.K. Dick wrote about this (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745531)

Ubik, I think, was set in a world were even the doors were 'smart' so you had to pay a toll every time you went in and out of your apartment... unless, of course, you had a screwdriver handy. Somehow I doubt that any 'consumer' really wants to live in a world like that.

does anybody really have to use a clothes dryer? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28745575)

I get the impression that clothes dryers are mostly a U.S. institution. In most countries I've visited, everyone uses washing machines because they really save a lot of work compared to hand laundering. But after they wash the clothes they just hang them up to dry. That's what I do at home, not even on an outdoor clothesline, but just on a drying rack in my apartment. It takes a day or so, usually not a big deal. If I'm in a hurry for something to get dry, I can put it on the radiator for an hour, or even dry it with a clothes iron in a few minutes. The laundry room does have a (coin op) dryer and I occasionally have reason to use it, but not very often.

Re:does anybody really have to use a clothes dryer (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745693)

I get the impression that clothes dryers are mostly a U.S. institution.

The only place I've ever used them is in the US, but they've started to creep out.

They sure would have been convenient when I lived in Japan where there isn't much sunlight in the winter and even if you start drying at dawn (on that side of the building) your clothes won't get dry by sunset.

Washing machines are different. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity. IMO.

Well, yes! (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745593)

An insightful article coming from kdawson? The world is about end! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

It's a pity, really... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745607)

That the "Smart Appliance/grid" proposals seem to be skipping the simple, obvious, and substantially less problematic option in favor of a complex mess of remote control crap.

Fact is, the farther from base load you go, the more the marginal unit of electricity costs. No getting around that, barring amazing advances in generation or storage technology. Because of that, there are clear efficiencies to be had if load that can be moved off-peak is moved off peak. Unfortunately, the "smart grid/appliance" setups that involve utilities remote controlling your stuff are invasive, complex, and downright paternalistic.

Far better would be a simple price signalling mechanism. The electricity company's meter would report, every period(could be simple "off peak"/"on peak" could be each hour, could be each minute, could be each second, doesn't matter in principle) the cost of a unit of electricity consumed during that period and the value of a unit of electricity sent back to the grid during that period. The reporting would be via a standardized protocol on a standardized header on the unit and/or over the powerline and/or a standard wireless mechanism(again, details aren't wildly important).

That reporting would be all. If I wished to adjust my usage to save money, I could purchase appliances capable of interpreting the standard electricity price information(either built in to the appliance, or in the form of a smart breaker box, that could turn on and off power to specific outlets). I could then program the device or devices to respond as I wished to price signals("AC: NEVER go above 80c, go to 68 if price is less than 10cents, go to 70 if price is between 10 and 15 cents" "Dishwasher: do not run if price is greater than 10 cents, unless override button is pressed").

This scheme would have three major virtues: First, it would avoid the invasiveness of having somebody else control your home systems. Second, it would allow each individual to set his own priorities on the value of various uses of electricity, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Third, it would allow unconstrained innovation/optimization by device manufacturers in what options to provide and how granular to be.

For instance, a computer could be set to manipulate its own ACPI settings according to the current price level, wifi devices could trade off between throughput, range, and power in response, AC could adjust target temperature, etc. Devices that store or generate electricity on site would know their own costs of operation, and only operate when economically viable. If a utility, for whatever reason, was facing capacity problems, they could simply raise the price of a unit sent back to the grid, to encourage local generators to start up.

Obviously, serious configuration of the details in each device would be substantially beyond the interests(and quite possibly the capacity) of a lot of people. For them, manufacturers could simply provide a suitably small set of sane default options(probably the same ones that a one-size-fits-all policy would apply across the board). For complex programmable devices like computers and game consoles, interested organizations could even distribute suggested settings packages over the internet.

Well said (1)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745827)

I was thinking along similar lines when California was having rolling blackouts in the early aughties. Should be simple to implement.

Florida has a form of this for years. (4, Informative)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745611)

I live in Central Florida and we had the "great" box in the garage that controlled A/C, Water-heater and Pool. For a ~$8 saving per month, the power company would send a signal over the wire to turn-off these items to save power on grid.

I had small children that were are home and temperature in house soared to 95+ for hours on end. The A/C cycle time was to at most 80 degrees. We were running the system for 4hrs or more at night to bring the temp back to ~75 degrees.

The pool was constantly green, causing more shock treatments and forcing us to run the filtering all night to catch up.

Finally, had to power company "cut" the connection. Lowered my power bill, 20% since the internal systems did not have catch up.

Also around that time, the power company was also cross connecting the meter with cable. The reason was to improve this control and let them read meter from afar. I had that removed when the power company would not warrant any damage that joining these isolated systems could cause since I was running multiple surge protectors. Lighting strikes were common, one hit the tree behind my neighbor's house taking out the power to back of the house (fried wires). Power Company tired to get me to leave installed after they offered upgrade my wiring to "full house" surge protecting - If I paid them $1000 to install it.

WOW... (1)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745637)

You mean the consumer is about to be sold equipment that has features we can't use yet!? Say it ain't so! I see stuff like this regularly.

Remember the "64-bit' revolution of the CPU back 5 years ago? Friends went out and bought the same CPU they had in the 64-bit version and drooled over how awesome it would be to have 64-bit OS & apps. I told them all the same thing... it's a waste of money. By the time 64-bit becomes a viable option their CPUs will be long obsolete. Sure enough, only 1 of them still has their CPU, and it's not fast enough for Vista. WinXP64 sucked for driver support etc.

Why not just set up appliances with a clock and run it at 11pm or something. You prepare the appliance, hit start, and at like 4am your washer does your laundry. You wake up at 6am and you throw them in the dryer.

Me, I did my part to save electricity. I can turn on ALL of the lights in my living room, both bedrooms, and kitchen and use a whopping 120watts of electricity. Why? I bought LED lighting. They're an expensive initial investment, but (hopefully) they'll pay off in the long run. Some are quite expensive, so you replace the lights that you use the most and ignore the others.

Who needs to add all this extra smart infrastructure when anyone can start cutting back on their electricity usage now.

On another note... When I lived in AZ, you were billed based on usage during peak and off peak hours. The peak hours were a bit more expensive. Here in IL, a kWh is a kWh. You pay 1 flat rate. Why spend all that money to create a smart infrastructure when spending money on something as benign as changing a few light bulbs can save you quite a bit of electricity. Not to mention I don't have glowing balls of fire heating up my house in the summer months which means less A/C used.

Coming soon! (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745665)

Power usage plans similar to cell phone plans!
Cheaper weekend and nighttime minutes! Plans with cheaper any time minutes!
Calling the power company to add extra minutes to your plan (and extend your contract for 2 more years) when you discover you have more laundry than usual you need to get done this week!

Won't this be wonderful???
I can hardly wait.

flamebait story (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745675)

And longer-term, a big question is whether consumers will want to deal with the hassle of optimizing household appliance energy usage themselves, or be willing to relinquish monitoring and control to utility companies with a concomitant loss of privacy. After all, losing one's copy of 1984 is one thing losing one's lights and refrigerator is another thing altogether."

What them hell? The link for "losing one's lights and refrigerator" has NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. It's about a woman who through an account screw up of a previous tenant could not get her power connected. This kind of thing has been happening for about a century.

As for "loss of privacy"? The idea is that the power company signals your system when the power is cheaper. They know how much power you're using (as again, they have for the last century), but not what you're doing with it.

For the last 40 years or so my father has had an off-peak hot water heater. It switches on late at nigh, heats up the insulated water tank. Saves him money, smooths out the demand. No one has to run around to "optimize household energy usage". Set and forget.

This article is, as usual for kdawson, a load of sensationalist crap.

GE Appliances Are A Dumb Idea (1)

slyborg (524607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745687)

I'm waiting for GE to figure out how to build a fridge that lasts more than 3 years. The PFS22 I bought in 2006 has a failing main logic board. Ironically, the house I bought has a 1970s vintage GE fridge that is still running fine.

So based on my experiences with this and other recent GE products, a GE-driven smart-grid will save gigawatts of power within a short time as all of its appliances die and cease operating. We'll all be cutting ice in the winter and back to the original meaning of the "icebox".

General Electric should stick to being the banking operation that it primarily is now, and leave engineering to people that know how to do it.

the Windows Vista mentality reaches the utilities (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745691)

Step 1: Presume everyone breaks "the rules". Corollary: The more "rules" there are, the more people there will be who break them.

Step 2: Impose measures to prevent such "rule-breaking," through which permission is granted by some Higher Authority to do... whatever. Examples: Digital Restrictions Management, Treacherous Computing, Windows Genuine Advantage, PlaysForSure.

Step 3: Squelch the nay-sayers and their ilk, long enough for everyone else to accept it. The nay-sayers will eventually give in to the inertia. Make object lessons of those who don't. Example: the MafiAA.

George Orwell tried to warn us, but now even he has been silenced. By cowardly Amazon, no less.

Re:the Windows Vista mentality reaches the utiliti (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745947)

Step 1: Presume everyone breaks "the rules". Corollary: The more "rules" there are, the more people there will be who break them.

Step 2: Impose measures to prevent such "rule-breaking," through which permission is granted by some Higher Authority to do... whatever. Examples: Digital Restrictions Management, Treacherous Computing, Windows Genuine Advantage, PlaysForSure.

Step 3: Squelch the nay-sayers and their ilk, long enough for everyone else to accept it. The nay-sayers will eventually give in to the inertia. Make object lessons of those who don't. Example: the MafiAA.

George Orwell tried to warn us, but now even he has been silenced. By cowardly Amazon, no less.

There needs to be a "civil rights" corollary to this. [xkcd.com]

Do you earnestly believe the average world citizen has less access to information [george-orwell.org] than their counterparts of 25 years ago? 50 years? 100? 250? 1000? How about the ability to listen to alternative / unpopular viewpoints?

Or the reverse: Could the average person a generation or two ago reach a larger audience than they can today? Are there more taboos?

Do you think that there are more political prisoners today (as a percentage of population) than there were in any previous era?

Of course, there are plenty of people still in the world who would love to curtail the rights of others—for profit, for control, or simply out of a misguided desire to avert "social decline". And if you narrow your gaze to the microscopic, you will find instances where civil rights have diminished in recent years. But in the broad view, the average person has never had access to so broad a spectrum of viewpoints, or such ability to express his own opinions without fear of persecution.

"We have always been at war with Eastasia" crumbles before the might—not of armies, not of kings, not of fascists or communists or religious fundamentalists—of Twitter.

Fair Billing (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745797)

Where I live, homes are billed for their water and sewage based on how many bedrooms the home has.

They don't monitor usage, because the meters are too expensive (however there is a mandate to replace it in a few years, but it's not yet determined if that will change the billing).

I'm all for smart stuff, but I'd be happy if the billing were fair. I should not pay the same as my neighbor who has three kids, a spouse, and a larger lawn to water.

Not So Smart TV (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745821)

My very new Sharp TV has a lot of bells and whistles. One of them sounds pretty neat on the surface. If it's showing a dark movie, the screen dims a bit to preserve power. If it's showing a colorful movie, it brightens up for more contrast.

And when you're playing a video game that can't make up its mind, the brightness is continually going up and down on this thing making it very distracting.

Thankfully it's a feature than can be disabled.

housewide transformer (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745893)

I liked the idea of each house having it's own trans/rec capable of producing a variety of ac/dc voltages. Then, when you plugged something in, it would tell the plug what it needed and the household transformer would deliver. Thus increasing the efficiency...kinda like the combining power supplies argument for data centers.

We dont need "smart" appliances... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745901)

We need appliances that are more energy efficient.
And we need to have mandatory energy efficiency labels on appliances.
Here in Australia, my Fridge, Washer and Dryer all have "star rating" labels that tell you how energy efficient they are. Electronics and electrical appliances should be required to carry energy efficiency labels. Devices such as the following:
Fridges and Freezers
Dishwashers
Electric ovens and stoves
Washers and dryers
Microwaves
Electric hot water systems
Fans and air conditioners
Electric heaters
Vacuum cleaners
TV sets
DVD players
Blu-Ray Players
Game consoles
Set top boxes
Stereo systems
Home theater systems
Computer monitors
Computers
Printers

If people could see how much power devices use they might choose more energy efficient models.

Don't know how great an idea this is... (1)

Landshark17 (807664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745921)

But at least they're not being made by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.
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