How ‘Smart’ Are Smart Grid Appliances?

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By now, you’ve probably heard at least something about the evolution of a smart grid.

Across the country, the electricity industry is moving toward generation and distribution processes that use data and information management to improve energy efficiency —in essence, a “smarter” way to make, move and use electricity. Smart grid appliances are a part of that big picture that fits into your home and, with the help of the average homeowner, the use of these appliances can help the grid become even smarter by feeding usage data back into the grid.

While smart grid technology has been around in Europe for years, it’s just starting to gain momentum in the U.S. More electricity providers are advocating this technology and it’s making inroads into American homes. In fact, if you have a smart meter from TXU Energy, your home is already a part of the smart grid.

A smart grid appliance will communicate with the smart meter set up outside your home.  In the example of our Brighten® iThermostat, the device helps homeowners monitor their electricity consumption patterns and how much their usage habits cost. This information is also sent back to the grid to help electricity companies and utilities better understand when electricity demand peaks occur and ensure there is enough supply to meet the population’s needs.

There are a few caveats to smart grid appliances — at least for now while the technology continues to expand and evolve. For one thing, it may be difficult to find smart grid appliances in your local appliance store. They may also cost a bit more than traditional appliances, although like any new technology, the costs will likely decline as the technology becomes more available. Finally, if you live in an area of Texas that hasn’t yet moved toward smart grid technology, your smart grid appliance might not have anything to communicate with.

Smart grid technology promises major changes in how America makes, moves and uses electricity and, like any new thing, it’s generated plenty of debate and discussion. Generally, however, it’s widely accepted in the electric industry that the pros of smart grid technology far outweigh the cons.