KBB - February 2009 - (Page 42)

Education Making Connections Our kitchens are getting smarter If our kitchens could talk, what would we want them to say? And to whom would we want them to say it? These are but some of the questions manufacturers are exploring in a variety of areas, ranging from energy management to home entertainment to maintenance and repairs. With technology continuing its rapid advance, our kitchens are reaching out and connecting us not only to each other, but also to other parts of our homes as well as the world outside, shaping how we live now and in the future. The program opens the lines of communication between a suite of GE appliances—a microwave, a refrigerator, a dishwasher and a washer and dryer—and the power grid via the utility’s smart meters, which send out signals when energy usage shifts from, say, off-peak to peak levels. As the utility bills on a tiered system, rates also change with demand. Installed in 15 homes, the appliances are designed to receive the signals and conserve energy when demand and pricing are high. For refrigerators, this may mean postponing the automatic defrost cycle to late evening, while microwaves may draw less power, requiring longer cooking times, which helps soften spikes in usage. “Each of the appliances does different things when it gets the signal from the utility,” Nolan said. “The theory is that we don’t want users to see a change in performance. It’s pretty much invisible to them, but it will save them money on their utility bill and help the grid shed load.” WORKING THE GRID With the swearing in of President Barack Obama last month comes a new interest in upgrading our power grid to ensure that it will be able to accommodate the country’s energy needs as it continues to grow in population. The issue is a pressing one, noted Kevin Nolan, VP of GE By 2012, a large proportion of the country’s population could potentially experience a shortage of electricity. Consumer and Industrial, as a lack of funding and approval have slowed the construction of new utility plants, causing demand to outstrip supply. Not surprisingly, “There’s a lot of data indicating that by 2012 a large proportion of the country’s population could potentially experience a shortage of electricity,” he said. Most affected will be major metropolitan areas, such as those in California or the Northeast Corridor, where “85 percent of the population could fall below what utilities consider to be a safe margin on the grid,” said Nolan. If left unattended, the problem could result in power outages not unlike those often associated with developing countries but which, here in the U.S., “we are not used to having,” said Nolan. However, he added, such black- or brownouts have already occurred in certain parts of the country—most notably, Florida and Ohio. In response, GE has collaborated with a utility company in Louisville, KY, on a pilot program that utilizes the interactivity of smart grids to better manage energy consumption throughout the day and during peak hours, which tend to be in the early evening. “If you look at the amount of electricity available in the U.S., on average, we have plenty of power,” said Nolan. “The problem is everyone wants to use it at the same time. Because there’s no economical way to store electricity, the grid has to be able to generate the peak amount, whatever that may be.” Because the program was launched last October, at press time, participants are just getting their first electric bills in the mail and beginning to understand the implications of a tiered pricing structure. Nevertheless, initial reports have been positive, according to Nolan. Not only have the appliances been performing as intended, but interestingly enough, their presence is also having an impact on user behavior. Because each appliance includes a device that alerts users to shifts in rate, program participants have become more energy-conscious, which “is another benefit,” said Nolan. Currently, GE is in talks with other utilities to establish similar programs in other parts of the country. With a new administration in place and a new power grid hopefully in the works, managing our energy needs going forward can be greatly helped by smart appliances that can talk to utilities. Nolan said, “If you ask me what I envision, I envision that five to six years from now, almost every appliance should have this ability.” ON THE MARKET But what about products available today? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. While many technologies currently exist to wire our kitchens for a wide range of capabilities, the problem that many companies have found is pinpointing the ones that make sense for 42 + K BB February 2009 / www.kbbonline.com / The Official Sponsor of K/BIS www.kbis.com Jully2004 http://www.kbbonline.com http://www.kbis.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of KBB - February 2009

KBB - February 2009
Contents
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Online News
Editorial
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Tech
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Education
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