Majority of Americans don't understand smart grid, study says

The majority of Americans have heard of the smart grid, but most don't know what it is, according to a new survey by Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

The majority of Americans have heard of the smart grid, but most don't know what it is.

That's according to a new study conducted on behalf of Whirlpool, maker of many an appliance that will one day, with a little intelligence, connect to the grid.

According to the survey, 70 percent of consumers reported being aware of "smart grid technology" but only "somewhat understand how it works."

Just 43 percent of consumers said they know what smart grid tech is.

Interestingly, the number shifted depending on household income: 63 percent of the "upper-middle class" said they knew what it was; 57 percent of "high income" folks reported an understanding of it.

Of those consumers aware of the smart grid, just 35 percent believe their community somewhat understands it. Forty-six percent said they feel their community doesn't understand it at all.

The survey was conducted by the NAHB Research Center on behalf of Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity International. It was conducted with two groups: consumers (1,092 people were surveyed) and builders (304 people).

The companies' interest in these results stems from the fact that smart appliances are a key component of building green, environmentally sustainable homes.

More stats from the builder portion:

  • Of smart grid-aware respondents, 62 percent said they believe homeowners do not understand it at all.
  • 79 percent of grid-aware respondents said they "at least somewhat understand how it works."
  • 51 percent of grid-aware respondents said they believe the home building industry understands how the technology works.

And a pair of statistics about the future of green building:

  • 48 percent of grid-aware consumer respondents indicated that smart appliances will be "very important" to green homes.
  • 64 percent of grid-aware builder respondents said smart appliances will be at least "somewhat important" to green homes.

Finally, the survey touched on how knowledge of the smart grid was gained. (After all, most of these public perceptions are formed by how folks learn about the smart grid -- friends, coworkers and publications such as SmartPlanet.)

True to that statement, the survey found that the primary sources from which grid-aware consumers learned about the smart grid were the Internet (51%), television/radio (46%) and magazines/periodicals (28%).

Whirlpool's global director of energy and sustainability, Warwick Stirling, summed this point up nicely:

These survey findings suggest that there needs to be greater emphasis on smart grid education among all of us, which would encourage more green building.

A steep challenge, since Whirlpool has committed to making all of its appliances "smart" by the end of 2015.

The survey is the third in a series sponsored by Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity. (The first was in Nov. 2010; the second, Jan. 2011.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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