Photograph by Realimage/Alamy
When exploring today’s smart home systems and energy meters, it’s worth keeping tomorrow’s smart grid technology in mind. The smart grid, an energy priority of many governments, is able to track total electricity use throughout the grid in real-time, and allow power sources to communicate with usage meters and even individual appliances.
The goal is a much more efficient use of energy resources by smoothing the peaks and valleys of both demand and variable supply sources, particularly for renewables like wind and solar power.
Utility companies are already installing smart meters, which log not only total power use but provide more detailed information on when and how a home requires power. Appliance producers are developing everything from clothes dryers to coffee machines that can also share energy information and receive it from the grid.
Smart grid systems will enable home energy use to occur at the most opportune times, such as when demand is low. Owners could set non-essential appliances, like dishwashers, to be cued by the grid to run automatically at off-peak (and sometimes less expensive) periods. The grid could automatically shut down devices when not in use, like untouched computers, or power others up when the time is right—like that overnight laundry load just waiting for a green light.
If growing power needs can be managed more efficiently by smart grid technologies, utilities may not need to keep adding power plant capacity—and the environmental benefits of that could be priceless.
More Buying Guides
Green Living Video
Find out with our footprint calculator, then pledge to cut it!
The Great Energy Challenge
An initiative to help you understand our current energy situation.
See how you measure up against others, and how changes at home could do tons to protect the planet.
Special Ad Section
NG's new Change the Course campaign launches. When individuals pledge to use less water in their own lives, our partners carry out restoration work in the Colorado River Basin.
The National Geographic Society aims to be an international leader for global conservation and environmental sustainability. Learn more about the Society's green philosophy and initiatives.