General Electric has unveiled a research project that intends to help homeowners cut annual energy consumption to zero by 2015.
GE plans to "combine on-site power generation through solar panels or wind turbines with energy-efficient appliances and on-site storage," according to an article by Martin LaMonica on CNET.
The goal? A "net-zero energy home."
Consumers will receive energy data and could potentially control appliances with Home Energy Manager, a device that is expected to cost between $200 and $250, according to GE. The home products are being piloted this year and are expected to be available next year.
The efficient, networked appliances will carry a $10 premium, according to GE.
Studies show that when consumers have more detailed information on their energy use, they can find ways to reduce consumption by 5 to 10 percent. When utilities have variable, or time-of-use, pricing, consumers could cut electricity use by 15 percent at on-peak times, typically in the morning and early evening.
GE appliances have been converted to have electronic controls and will have a small module in the back that will allow it to communicate with a home's smart meter. With that communication link in place, consumers can find out how much electricity individual appliances use and program them to take advantage of off-peak rates.
Or, in other words, adding a little intelligence to the way we manage energy use (and, to a greater extent, the energy grid).
For example, GE's Home Energy Manager control unit could evaluate electricity rates and run appliances more efficiently, using less energy during peak times, according to the article. Another common sense example would be lowering the temperature in a water heater or thermostat when the house is empty.
GE's Net Zero Home Project also calls for on-site power generation using solar panels or wind turbines. A $30,000, 3,000-watt solar panel array would be enough to supply all of a home's consumption, according to the company. Not a bad idea, considering driveways may soon be filled with plug-in electric vehicles.