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Participation in Pilot results in Power Smarts
OCT 13 '09 | ItsYourSmartGrid.com

When Mark Brian’s electrical utility announced it was establishing a pilot program of 2,000 homes to test smart grid technology, he jumped at the opportunity.

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Mark’s utility, LG&E, installed a smart meter and smart thermostat in the Brian family’s home. Mark also had a suite of smart appliances with demand response technology installed in his home. The appliances — refrigerator, dishwasher, washer-dryer, microwave oven and hybrid water heater — and the smart meter communicate with each other via radio signals.

During peak hours, the utility may send out a signal indicating that the cost of electricity has increased. Armed with this information, Mark can then decide whether to adjust his thermostat a few degrees up or down to help reduce the impact of the cost increase.

Mark can also respond to peak hour rate increases by delaying certain appliance functions, such as the refrigerator’s defrost cycle, and raising the set point a few degrees.  A monitoring device enables his family to measure the amount of power the family is consuming “by the minute,” says Mark.

“The old dial meters that everyone is familiar with, for most folks they really don’t tell you anything about the amount of power you’re using,” he explains. ‘With the smart meter, we get up-to-the-minute data. You can watch the monitor and see the effect that turning on or off an appliance or computer has on your power consumption. It’s right there on the screen.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, real-time pricing information provided by the smart meter helped consumers reduce their electricity costs 10% on average and their peak consumption by 15%..  A recent smart grid pilot project in Fayetteville, N.C. resulted in an initial 20 percent decline in average electricity consumption.

So what has Mark and his family learned during the ten months they’ve participated in the pilot?

“It’s really increased my general awareness of how much power my family consumes,” he says. “I never thought about our energy consumption on a daily basis; now, we have a monitor in the kitchen and we’re aware of how much power we’re using.”

There’s been another welcome change since his family began the pilot program: a lower utility bill.   The Brian’s typical monthly electric bill was around $100, Mark says. Since joining the pilot, he says, “We’ve reduced our monthly electric bill by $10 to $15,” he says, which is in line with DOE estimates.

Mark Brian is also an employee of GE, working in the Louisville-based Consumer & Industrial business as Manager – Home Energy Monitor.

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