A wide and ever-evolving range of these products can deliver real-time data on any home’s energy use.

Photograph by Realimage/Alamy

Environmental Impact

Smart Grid

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.

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