Today’s home appliances are estimated to be 50-70% more energy efficient than those made just 15 years ago. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, today’s homes also have more appliances on average, so energy use continues to grow.

That means appliance manufacturers are under continued pressure to make their products more energy efficient. A major innovation has been the development of smart appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators and dishwashers that incorporate advanced electronic and communications technologies. This allows customers and utilities to closely monitor and manage energy use through controls built into the appliance, wireless devices or a meter.

6 Ways Smart Appliances Can Save Energy—and Money

Depending on the model, a smart appliance can reduce energy demand in up to six ways, saving you energy costs at the same time:

  1. Provide dynamic electricity pricing information for peak and off-peak times, so you can adjust when you use your appliance
  2. Offer reminders to delay using your appliance, if you can, until the next off-peak period
  3. Allow you to override some or all recommendations from utilities, without compromising an appliance’s essential safety functions
  4. Respond to emergency power situations, helping to prevent brownouts or blackouts
  5. Facilitate the use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, by shifting to them when conditions are favorable
  6. Work within a total home energy management system, so you can monitor and manage your home’s energy use overall

Here’s a real-life example. Let’s say you want to wash a load of clothes in your smart washing machine. Instead of the machine firing up and churning away as you have no idea of the energy being consumed or its cost, the machine first communicates with a smart grid meter to determine whether it’s a peak or off-peak time. Based on that information, the machine either recommends proceeding with washing the load or delaying it.

Safety…Second?

Appliances haven’t been developed historically with smart technology in mind. Adding on new smart technologies late in their overall evolution can make for a dicey transition, particularly in these three ways:

  1. Electronic communications circuitry that facilitates energy management can cause electric shock if it isn’t properly isolated from the other appliance components
  2. Communications circuitry can also generate unintentional electromagnetic interference (EMI) that can compromise an appliance’s protective functions
  3. In accepting incoming signals to help control operation, smart appliances become open to unwanted signals that can cause it to malfunction or operate in a hazardous way

Bringing Smart Appliances and Safety Smarts Together

UL, an independent safety science company, has published a number of appliance safety standards based on its extensive third-party testing. UL works with appliance makers to help them understand and implement the standards and certifies appliances that meet them. This certification lets customers know the appliances are made with smart technology that doesn’t conflict with overall product safety. So far, UL has set smart technology standards for:

  • Electric washers and dryers
  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Electric hot water heaters
  • Ranges and cooktops
  • Air conditioners
  • Microwaves

UL is currently investigating the need for standards in additional categories, such as HVAC systems and lighting. As technology changes in any category, standards are continuously re-assessed and updated. The end goal is to support the making and buying of energy-saving solutions, without sacrificing a complete safety framework in the process.

Learn more at UL.com.