Sunday, March 23, 2008

Digital Tools Help Users Save Energy

The results of the research project by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department, released Wednesday, suggest that if households have digital tools to set temperature and price preferences, the peak loads on utility grids could be trimmed by up to 15 percent a year.

Over a 20-year period, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired plants, say scientists at the federal laboratory.

In the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, 112 homes were equipped with digital thermostats, and computer controllers were attached to water heaters and clothes dryers. These controls were connected to the Internet.

The homeowners could go to a Web site to set their ideal home temperature and how many degrees they were willing to have that temperature move above or below the target. They also indicated their level of tolerance for fluctuating electricity prices. In effect, the homeowners were asked to decide the trade-off they wanted to make between cost savings and comfort.

After some testing with households, the scientists decided not to put a lot of numbers and constant pricing information in front of consumers. On the Web site, the consumers were presented with graphic icons to set and adjust.

“Your thermostat and your water heater are day-trading for you,” said Ron Ambrosio, a senior researcher at the Watson Research Center of I.B.M.

The households in the demonstration project on average saved 10 percent on their monthly utility bills.
Sounds cool to me. Looks similar to what Bell Canada was doing. Wish I could sign up for something like that.

A system like this would also be useful with renewable intermittent energy sources like solar and wind. Personally, I would be more interested in adjusting my energy usage to be able to take advantage of renewable energy than I would to lower my electricity bills (though they might go hand and hand).

via NY Times


Kedar said...

Nice article,

So far automation has been exploited for replacing manpower. But with recent advancements in sensor technology, there is a lot of scope to exploit automation for optimizing energy use.


Kedar said...

Sorry for consecutive second comment. Just wanted to add that I have a similar article on my blog, at

Fat Knowledge said...


Good point. Especially as energy prices rise, we will see a lot more technologies to optimize energy use.

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