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Whirlpool Demos Smart-Grid-Compatible Dryer At Intl. CES

Whirlpool showcased a smart-grid-compatible clothes dryer during International CES that can respond to peak-demand signals from a local utility by automatically modifying its energy consumption.

The dryer demonstration provided a preview of the various smart-grid-compatible appliances Whirlpool plans to manufacture in the near future. The company has committed to producing 1 million smart appliances by the end of 2011, and plans to make virtually all the appliances it produces throughout the world smart-grid-compatible by the end of 2015.

Whirlpool representatives attending International CES would not comment on how much cost the smart-grid features would add to clothes dryers — the majap category that can benefit most from the interactive technology.

“We believe that the smart grid and smart appliances are the next big opportunity in energy savings,” Whirlpool North America Marc Bitzer said in a statement. “We are continuing to make significant strides in the development of smart grid-enabled appliances, and we’re excited to show our progress at CES.”

Whirlpool said its timeline is dependent on the development of an open, global standard by the end of this year, and appropriate policies to reward consumers, manufacturers and utilities. Helping to accelerate its smart-grid efforts is a $19.3 million federal matching grant that the company was recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Investment Grant program.

The smart-grid dryer demo was accompanied by an interactive simulation, developed by OpenPeak in cooperation with Direct Energy and Best Buy, which showed how smart appliances will connect to the power grid and operate in homes and communities.

Smart appliances will be able to send and receive signals to and from utility companies and automatically modify energy consumption by, for example, turning off the heating element in a dryer while continuing to tumble the laundry load.

Shifting a portion of household energy use to “off peak” hours can help consumers save money on their home electric bills and reduce carbon emissions without compromising core product performance, Whirlpool said. In markets where utilities offer variable or time-of-use pricing, a typical consumer could save up to $40 per year, per appliance, while also helping the environment.

“Smart-grid technology provides a significant opportunity to make renewable energy sources such as wind and solar more usable,” said Warwick Stirling, Whirlpool’s global director of energy and sustainability. “These sources of energy are inherently more variable, but fit well with smart-grid technology, which can more easily take advantage of this energy when it is available.”

Also at International CES, Whirlpool previewed a prototype of its new Vantage top-load laundry platform and displayed its Jenn-Air 30 wall oven, which received a CES Innovations Award for its 7-inch, full-color touch-anywhere LCD display and sophisticated system of thermal sensors, computer processors, and chef-tested cooking programs that help consumers achieve desired cooking results by considering a range of details such as food type, desired doneness and type of pan used.

The Vantage laundry pair also features an intuitive LCD touchscreen interface as well as a USB port, which will allow consumers to update and customize laundry cycles. In addition, the platform also offers its own select cycles, including athletic wear, baby items, stuffed animals, jeans, bath mats, shower curtains, shoes and swimwear. The washer also boasts a new “stain assist” laundry feature designed to help remove tough laundry soils.

“These aren’t your grandmother’s appliances,” said Bitzer. “We’ve pushed ourselves to take a look at the best consumer electronics features on the market today and meld them with Whirlpool’s long-standing reputation for industry-leading appliances. The result is appliances that get the job done — and done well — with options that give consumers unparalleled control and style like never before.”