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## Consumers May Find Smart Appliances a Dumb Idea347

Posted by kdawson
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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## Consumers May Find Smart Appliances a Dumb Idea

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

on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:33PM (#28745261) Journal

> 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:Dumb (Score:4, Informative)

on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:35PM (#28745265) Journal

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

on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:42PM (#28745299) Journal
Australia has had off-peak rates at night for decades, most people use it for their hot-water service.
• #### Re:It COULD be a good idea, though. (Score:3, Informative)

on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:47PM (#28745311) Journal
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:How long will peak rates be around for? (Score:4, Informative)

on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:57PM (#28745365) Homepage

"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? (Score:1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:31AM (#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.

• #### does anybody really have to use a clothes dryer? (Score:1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:37AM (#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.

• #### Florida has a form of this for years. (Score:5, Informative)

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:43AM (#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.

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

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:45AM (#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:There was someone who thought Smart Appliances. (Score:3, Informative)

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:50AM (#28745651) Homepage
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.
• #### Re:Dumb (Score:2, Informative)

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:52AM (#28745661) Homepage

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:While I am all for green energy, save the Plane (Score:5, Informative)

<mashiki@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday July 19, 2009 @01:22AM (#28745769) Homepage

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.

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

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @01:49AM (#28745889)
The problem is that cooling your food down too far can damage it. eg. freezing milk or cheese.
• #### Re:Why do the appliances need to be smart? (Score:3, Informative)

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:01AM (#28746285)

This reminds me of how the clock my parent's microwave worked. When programming the clock, the system asks for the time of day, whether it's AM or PM, and then asks for the month, date, and year. Why does the microwave care what the date is? And why does it need the year? This microwave has no progammability features for turning on in the future. It is not daylight-saving aware. You can't even ask the display to show the current date. There are no day-of-week functions either. Quite honestly, asking for AM and PM alone is generally overkill. Even worse, the microwave will not allow you to cook food or use the kitchen timer until the clock has been programmed. The clock showing the time of day is not a core feature, people! A microwave shouldn't care about the time that much!

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

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @08:04AM (#28746999)

Making it colder than normal refrigeration temperature doesn't mean you have to freeze it, there's some leeway there, just keep it above freezing.

A refrigerator is supposed to always be just above freezing. http://home.howstuffworks.com/question121.htm [howstuffworks.com]

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

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @08:06AM (#28747009) Journal

My U.S. power company had that for my house for 20 years, and now suddenly they are phasing it out. Dicks. My heater would run at night, storing the heat in a giant tank of water when rates were cheap, and then remain off during the day. It helped us save money. Now the idiot Power company has announced we'll be charged the same rate all day long.

Idiots. It's like they are DEvolving their service instead of evolving it.

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

<martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 19, 2009 @08:07AM (#28747011) Homepage Journal

Just imagine a gas stove turning on with it's pilot light off, and then the pilot igniting.

You could just imagine it working like my 20-year-old oven instead. It has an electric igniter and it doesn't turn the gas on until the resistance reaches a certain point, the resistance increases with heat. An open means it's broken, and so does a short, so it's all very simple. The user only need provide a thermostat input (e.g. a signal which goes on until the target temperature has been reached) and the oven does the rest.

If your burners had a similar thermocouple safety, you could remote light those too, but you wouldn't want to. That really WOULD be dangerous.

How about an electric stove and oven going to full power for no reason. I hope nothing was left on top of it.

Nobody is actually talking about controlling cooking appliances here. Those are things that have to come on precisely when you need them. On the other hand, Air conditioning units use the most power when the compressor is engaged; once it comes up to speed they settle down slightly. Just being able to stagger their spin-up times could be a major win. A properly sized A/C is going to cycle anyway, so the cycle times can be tuned and ganged with minimal effect on temperatures but with a significant effect on peak load. Water heaters, of course, are also prime examples, although most people would be better served with an on-demand water heater intelligently located in their house. Unfortunately, most houses are not built with all water uses centrally located, so these heaters are usually quite lame to use. (I have an old Thermar in my laundry room, which is fucking stupid because the washing machine can wait for hot water, but I want it in the shower quickly.)

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

on Sunday July 19, 2009 @08:18AM (#28747041) Journal

I wish I had points. I'd give you "+1 Ignorant"

Tankless waters heaters are instant. They heat the cold water as it passes through the pipe and into your shower. Picture in your mind a cold pipe heated with a large flame* - the water gets hot as it passes the flame. There's no waiting time involved.

* They also have electric versions.

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