Keynote address: The role of connectivity in driving increased residential energy conservation and efficiency


Conference: World Meter Design Congress
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Presenter: Henry Marcy
Abstract: Presented by Henry Marcy at World Meter Design Congress

Energy generation, use, and conservation are at the root of the many of the most pressing issues facing global society.  Demand continues to increase while the ability to generate and deliver energy is increasing at a much slower rate and is limited by both resources and the desire to minimize environmental impact.  A number of industries are working together to increase the energy efficiency of our products, incorporate features that lead to safer transmission grids, and shift demand from peak usage to other times in order to make more effective use of resources and infrastructure.  However, we have not meaningfully taken on the most significant near term opportunity: energy conservation. Very simply, using less energy in our daily lives seems fundamental to our continued collective prosperity and quality of life. 

Home heating and air conditioning (HVAC), hot water heating, and home appliances represent the bulk of the world’s residential energy load.  Whirlpool Corporation is a leader in making the most efficient use of energy and water resources in home appliances, as evidenced by our product portfolio, which has the most ENERGY STAR rated appliances in the United States.  Now, Whirlpool is setting its sights on leadership in energy conservation. 

The issue is we cannot do this alone.  Energy loads in the home must be reduced and managed in a consumer-friendly and relevant way in order to enable significant energy conservation.  Achieving these goals requires connectivity as well as broad cross-industry collaboration.

By combining thermal and internet connectivity we can reduce home appliance energy use by more than 50% – a step change relative to the incremental improvements we deliver through today’s “unconnected” approaches.  The more appliances that share information and are thermally connected , the greater the reduction in energy consumption.

Another critical aspect to conservation is coordinating energy use among large groups of homes.  Several demonstrations of “demand management” have been done using a variety of incentives to drive consumers to shift their energy use to off-peak times and thereby enable the most efficient use of generating resources, resulting in lower total energy use. 

It the cases of both individual homes and groups of homes, it is not a question whether this possible – the question is “how do we get this done?”

Neither approach will be successful without large-scale, cross-industry collaboration backed by a clear and compelling economic case.  Home infrastructure, e.g., cabinetry, plumbing and building techniques must evolve to provide thermal connectivity.  Data connectivity requires investment and services at the individual consumer / product level as well as on a large scale to provide management and coordination.  Both will require time to develop an installed base that delivers the anticipated benefits.  And even so, it is not clear that conservation alone is enough of an economic driver to cause these collaborations – it will likely be necessary to bundle additional attractive services and benefits in order to strongly encourage and justify investments.

This presentation will explore these issues and point out possibilities for taking next steps that put us on the path to significant reductions in home energy use.