PNNL researchers have created a control mechanism that allows households to lend flexibility to the power system. The technology is able to efficiently convert current home heating and cooling systems, as well as water heaters, into smart home appliances capable of managing their electricity consumption.
The technology is predicted to help an estimated 120 million residents in the United States. It is specially designed for homes where people do not need or cannot buy smart gadgets, and it is retrofittable.
According to Michael Brambley, PNNL staff scientist, the goal has been to build a system that is economical, simple to deploy and use, and puts inhabitants in command of its management. In exchange for assisting the grid, homeowners must receive benefits, such as a lower electricity tariff.
The researchers focused on electrically heated burners, electric water heaters, heating systems, and air conditioners when designing the control scheme. The water heater and air conditioner results were very impressive during testing.
The management system for water heaters proved the ability to reduce electricity use by 34 to 83 percent over seven hours. But obviously, it depends on hot water usage patterns.
On the other hand, air conditioners aided in keeping temperatures cool and lowering electricity consumption. In one case, during four-hour testing in which conditioning was maintained within a three-degree zone considered okay to users, electricity usage was lowered by up to 46 percent.
This was calculated using a 20-degree variation between interior and outdoor temperatures, and the savings should be more significant for wider temperature differences.
Electric furnace testing also resulted in a 25% reduction in consumption. The reduction should be enhanced to roughly 46 percent over a four-hour period by making the device automatically preheat the house by three degrees above the regular thermostat level shortly before a busy grid hour.