What did the washing machine say to the electric car? (Hint: It's not a joke)
Surely we can appreciate the wonder of the garden without believing there are fairies at the bottom of it. But can we appreciate the convenience and energy savings of our homes without believing our appliances can talk to each other?
As you might know, I live in a 112-year-old home. But, we haven't paid a utility bill since March of 2011. No, we're not dead beats refusing to pay our bills. In fact, the utility company owes us money. We achieved net zero energy by focusing on how the home uses energy and adding the best appliances and control systems. Ultra-efficiency and net zero energy is about to get even easier for everyone.
A collaboration announced earlier this year between Ford, Nest Labs (smart thermostats), Whirlpool smart appliances, and Sunpower Solar brings the magic of fairies to our cars and home appliances. By integrating existing technologies into our plug-in cars, renewable energy sources, smart controls and appliances, these companies want to demonstrate how a typical American family can reduce their electricity bills and their carbon pollution.
Ford worked with researchers from Georgia Tech to create a model that predicts a 60 percent reduction in per home energy use. If all homes in the U.S. were plugged into these technologies it would be the equivalent of taking 32 million homes off the grid or all the homes in California, New York and Texas combined.
Electric cars can be timed to charge during times when electricity is cheaper, appliances can reduce energy during peak periods and smart thermostats can help optimize comfort and lower energy use. Rooftop solar installation costs have dropped in half since 2010 (my panels were $7 per watt in 2010; today a more efficient system in my neighborhood sells for only $3.30 per watt). Wi-fi connects appliances to the Internet and smart phones for more efficient use of energy.
This isn't science fiction. Today on my laptop, tablet or phone, I have apps that are capable of controlling my Chevy Volt, my thermostat, my energy monitor and soon my Whirlpool appliances.
"More than ever, cars are sharing the same energy source as the home," says Mike Tinskey, global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure, Ford Motor Company. "The time is right for the home appliance and transportation sectors to converge if we are going to tackle a myriad of sustainability challenges in a rapidly changing world."
The average American home uses more than 11,000 kWh of electricity a year, says Warwick Stirling, global director for Energy and Sustainability, Whirlpool Corporation. "But with recent technology advancements in our appliances, a family can use energy smarter and more efficiently," he adds.
When you top off all this simple technology with solar panels on the roof (a.k.a. free renewable energy for life), we're on the road to a happier and healthier future at home.