Are connected smart appliances and energy management systems that can save us scads on our utility bills finally, finally going to be a factor in our homes?
GE plans as much—and is attempting to kickstart some interest with its own GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, which it says uses 62 percent less electricity than a standard electric water heater and can save $325 a year with its efficient technology that uses an air-source heat pump to help heat water.
Over 100 Sears stores in the Northeast United States are offering the GeoSpring appliance and a Get Connected Starter Kit (under $200) consisting of the Nucleus energy manager and an appliance module, in addition to GE’s connected thermostat. The in-store water heater also features a “Take Control. Get Connected” display that promotes the Starter Kit and thermostat.
The Nucleus energy manager can connect to the GeoSpring water heater via Wi-Fi and an appliance module. This will enable users to receive messages like maintenance alerts for filter changes and allow control of the appliance via an iPhone app. You can also control GE’s connected thermostat through the app. An app for Android-based devices is in the works.
I’m not sure people are going to flock to change their water heater set temperature via a mobile phone. John Desmarais, market development manager for GE Home Energy Management, says that while most people don’t even know how to set the temperature of hot water heater to an economical 120 degrees, doing so from a phone app resonates with them.
Don’t laugh. Users of connectivity systems being sold by service providers like ADT, Comcast andVerizon seem to like changing the set temperatures on their thermostats via mobile phone apps, especially if they want to heat or cool their home before they get home. Though how many times must you reset the set temp of your water heater? It could be just once or when you want to use the GeoSpring’s energy-saving vacation mode or switch from normal mode to a hybrid mode that uses the heat-pump technology.
Maintenance alerts sent to mobile phones may have far more use for people. And we must remember that this is GE’s first real stage of releasing its Brillon brand of smart appliances and energy management to the public. The Nucleus energy manager has previously been available only through utilities and their smart grid pilot programs, while the new GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater started manufacturing earlier this year.
“We’re finding out how people want to control their ecosystems,” Desmarais says. “No where have you been able to see that ecosystem include any type of appliance connectivity.”