Whirlpool: One Million 'Smart' Clothes Dryers by Late 2011

Whirlpool: One Million 'Smart' Clothes Dryers by Late 2011

One million clothes dryers that can receive and transmit signals to the electricity grid will hit the market by late 2011 as part of Whirlpool’s push to make all of its electronically controlled appliances smart grid compatible by 2015.

The two-way communication between the grid and home appliances will tweak energy consumption of home appliances when demand is highest, temporarily relieving the grid and saving consumers up to $40 per year.

"Peak electricity demand drives disproportionately higher energy costs," Mike Todman, Whirlpool’s North American president, said in a statement Monday. "If the differences between peak and off-peak energy costs are passed along to consumers, then Whirlpool Corp. believes there are great opportunities for home appliances to shift energy consumption outside of peak hours without forcing consumers to compromise on performance."

The move is part of the Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Investment Grant program, meant to develop options for increased energy storage and hasten the integration of green power with the grid.

For its part, Whirlpool, whose brands include Maytag, Kitchen Aid, and Amana, is working to create public-private partnerships to develop the open, global standard for home appliances to receive and transmit signals by the end of next year.  It is also working to promote policies and incentives that reward consumers and businesses for using smart grid technology.

Smart grid developments have been all over the news in recent days, partly due to the widely touted Grid Week held Sept. 21-24. IBM also announced results of a smart grid pilot program with 100 businesses and residences, which enjoyed an average savings of 15 percent after six months. Some participating homes saw energy savings of up to 40 percent after the six-month trial period.

Whirlpool first tested its own smart grid pilot project three years ago with 150 clothes dryers in the Pacific Northwest.

"The pilot yielded remarkable results: when a grid sensor observed a peak demand event, the dryers turned their heating elements off, reducing their power demand by 95 percent, with little to no impact for consumers," according to Hank Marcy, Whirlpool’s vice president of technology.