A new collaboration between Ford, SunPower, Eaton, Whirlpool, Infineon, and Nest Labs, called MyEnergi Lifestyle®, aims to show how a typical U.S. family could reduce both their CO2 footprint and their electric bills when renewable energy generation is combined with “time-flexible” loads – essentially optimizing energy consumption between a plug-in vehicle and modern home appliances.
“Ford and its business associates worked with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to create a computer model that calculates the electricity usage of a typical single family in their home for one year and the associated savings with moving to an energy-efficient lifestyle. The cumulative results predict a 60 percent reduction in energy costs and more than 9,000 kg of CO2 (55 percent reduction) saved from a single home. If every home in the U.S. were to implement these energy-saving technologies, it would be the equivalent of taking all the homes in California, New York and Texas off the power grid (32 million homes).”
According to Ford, some of the key factors behind the MyEnergi Lifestyle campaign include:
- Electric vehicles are now more efficient and can charge during the low-cost electricity hours
- Over the past decade, appliance efficiency has improved dramatically
- Hot water heaters have become more efficient and use electricity predominantly at night
- The new generation of connected appliances are capable of using less energy during peak periods
- Smart thermostats, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat programs itself and automatically saves energy when a homeowner is away
- Efficient, reliable and affordable rooftop solar systems enable families to generate renewable energy and save money on utility bills
- Connected devices enable smarter use of energy
“More than ever, cars are sharing the same energy source as the home 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.” – Mike Tinskey, global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure at Ford
Because an electric plugin vehicle is probably the largest electrified product that the average person will ever buy, Ford believes it could serve as the catalyst that drives adoption of other products capable of reducing the CO2 footprint of U.S. homes (and saving money at the same time).
In addition, the recent wave of ‘smart meters’ deployed in homes across the nation could further enable the optimization of home electrical demand – by shifting their usage to taking advantage of off-peak rates for charging vehicles, running water heaters or dishwashers, or managing other appliances’ necessary cycles (refrigerator defrost cycles or running the icemaker).
In addition to paying less for off-peak electrical loads (as much as 50% less), according to Ford, some of the electrical utilities have indicated that a higher percentage of the power generated in off-peak hours comes from clean or renewable energy sources, enabling households to further reduce their CO2 footprints.
While I applaud this effort – coming as it is from some of the biggest business leaders in the U.S. – it remains to be seen how it could affect change in the large number of households who are not in the market for an electric vehicle (either because of the price or because it really doesn’t suit their lifestyle), and those who are not in a financial position to upgrade their appliances or other home infrastructure.
Like so many of the tech innovations we see every day that promise the world yet deliver only the deed to a piece of Arizona beachfront, it still seems like pie in the sky to me. I’d like to believe that the energy-efficient smart home of the future is possible for the masses, but without any real movement toward the retrofitting of older homes with the obvious things – such as better insulation and weatherproofing, for example – I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude on this.