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Power Technology

Networked Fridges 'Negotiate' Electricity Use 217

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have developed a way to network household and commercial fridges together in a distributed peer-to-peer fashion that lets them 'negotiate' with each other on the best time to consume electricity. A retrofittable controller is attached to each fridge and then a temperature profile is built around the unit. The controller enables communication between other fridges on the network and also the power source. It enables fridges to work together to decide when to cool down, and thus consume power, based on how much surplus power will be available, and to anticipate power shortages and change their running schedules accordingly to use as little power as possible during these times."
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Networked Fridges 'Negotiate' Electricity Use

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:17AM (#26463135)

    That's because you didn't RTFA.

    It's about renewable energy and making the most of solar/wind. I.e. ensure that excess solar energy is used up during the day by cooling the fridges an extra couple of degrees so they don't have to use base load power over night.

    RTFA, you might learn something.

  • by totally bogus dude ( 1040246 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:55AM (#26463341)

    Well, there's a big difference between lab simulations and real-world trials. The previous paragraph suggests the largest trial they've done with real equipment consisted of seven small fridges and three larger industrial-sized coolrooms.

    Also, it's not intended for single locations but rather for "every house in the city". There's little to be gained by smoothing out the energy usage of individual locations, even rather large locations.

  • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:53AM (#26463613)

    I'd highly recommend going with INSTEON, or building your own custom modules that use WiFi to communicate instead of the powerline. Not many houses have more than 254 outlets in them, so you'd only need a Class C of private address space for your house. I'm not sure if 254 outlets/devices can connect to a single 802.11g/n access point though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:01AM (#26463669)

    Merloni/Indesit, an Italian home appliances company, in 1999 launched the "Margherita Dialogic" washing machine, the first device to include the WRAP (Web Ready Appliances Protocol) technology.

    The point of this is that all households in Italy (and I guess in many EU countries) have a 3KW usage limit, and if your demand gos over the limit the electricity meter will disconnect your house entirely.
    Hence the need of a communicating protocol between home devices so that if you're using the electric oven and the AC, the fridge or the washing machine talks to them to coordinate a global demand that's below the 3KW threshold.

    They also produced "adapters" for devices without their technology, so the smart devices could have a guess of the current electricity usage in the house (think of old devices or hairdryers for example).

    I studied this case in an economy class I had. The discussion was focused on the big dilemma: open the technology (eg.:usage of the patents) to everybody to spread it out as much as possible or try to keep it proprietary to keep competitive advantage over competitors?

    The only reference I found about it is:

  • by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:36AM (#26463855)

    Why yes, yes it is pitched at residential AND commercial sites. This is what "Lonworks" from Echelon is all about - energy management. The technology wasn't designed for just fridges, it was designed for EVERYTHING. Lighting, heating/cooling, dishwashers, laundry, etc. With its 64 bit addressing, it is intended to allow everything to communicate, and peer communications is a big part of it (as is negotiating when to "run".)

    Anyway, these researchers should talk to Echelon. They solved this problem 12 years ago.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:44AM (#26463891) Journal

    Yep ... I was going to put in a Star Trek reference but that would just have been karma-whoring.

    Funny mods don't give you karma unless that's been changed recently. In fact you usually wind up losing karma because of the jackasses that like to hit every joke they don't get with an overrated mod.

  • Re:Cold beer (Score:3, Informative)

    by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:16PM (#26473581)

    Heh, you're thinking well, but you've overcomplicated it.

    The heat loss when you open the door is a function of delta_temperature and MASS of the air exchanged. A fuller fridge will lose less of it's cold air simply because there is less cold air to lose. This is of course assuming that the fridge door is open for a relatively short amount of time, long enough for air transfer, but not long enough for the items in the fridge to sink a significant amount of the heat from the (now warmer) air.

    Once you close the door, you're left with a smaller mass of air to cool inside the fridge than with an emptier fridge. The key is closing the door before the HUGE mass of air (the open atmosphere) can dump its practically infinite (for our purposes) amount of heat into the lower temperature items inside the fridge in order to balance the temperatures.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.