Indesit’s Aqualtis washing machine, considered the smartest in the European market, will be installed in 150 UK homes to facilitate a shift towards low-carbon economy.
Part of the Ofgem-backed Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project, the smart washing machines installed across Northeast England should help homeowners save money as well as reduce the pressure on UK’s electricity network.
The appliance, designed to be fully integrated into a smart grid, is connected to the Internet and engages in a lively communication exchange with the grid, trying to define the best moment for scheduling a washing cycle.
The washing machine informs the consumer via an LCD display about how much the washing cycle would cost at the given moment and provides with alternative, cheaper options. Most of these options will propose waiting until off-peak hours when the general demand is lower.
“With this washing machine trial, and lots of other trials as part of the CLNR project, we will begin to see how flexible customers are willing to be in terms of when and how they use their electricity,” said Allan Row, Low Carbon Networks Fund project manager for British Gass - one of the project's coordinators.
“We want to develop an understanding of the role customers could play in the UK’s low carbon future, looking at whether they are happy to change their usual routines because it will make their bills cheaper, or because they’re offered an incentive by their network,” he said
The pressure on the already tested electricity network is expected to increase as more people move towards electric vehicles and installing solar panels. The smart appliances offer a tool to electricity network operators to contact the consumer directly via the appliance with an incentive to wait. An overloaded electricity grid operator could, for example, offer a reduced tariff if the costumer is willing to do the laundry at a less busy time.
“We are excited that the CLNR project is exploring the intelligence of our Hotpoint Aqualtis smart washing machine,” said Stefano Frattesi, Indesit’s Technology Center Director. “We have made pioneering progress in the field of smart grids and this new trial brings huge possibilities in terms of energy savings, confirming our commitment to innovating to benefit the environment.”
During a 12-month trial period, British Gas will work with two groups of customers, monitoring their behaviour. The first group will be on a ‘Peak Electricity Saver’ trial and has been assigned a time-of-use (TOU) tariff to help develop a greater understanding of how cheaper tariff times impact their electricity consumption.
The second group of customers will be on the ‘Energy Supply Manager’ trial and has agreed to ‘demand side response’, providing the network operator with the ability to ask the customer whether they would consider rescheduling the time at which they have programmed their washing.
Recruitment for households to take part in the washing machine trials is ongoing, but is restricted to British Gas customers who receive their electricity via Northern Powergrid, the electricity distributor for the Northeast and Yorkshire.
Several other trials are currently taking place in the same region as part of the CLNR project, involving other ‘smart’ technology such as solar panels, thermal store heat pumps, and electric vehicles.