One of the main justifications for having smart appliances is to save money on electricity and reduce your carbon footprint. And if there's one place where we use a whole lot of energy, it's the laundry room. Dryers in particular are electricity hogs, using as much as 15 percent of a household's electricity to generate heat and blow it out through the wall. That's why Whirlpool's new smart washer and dryer are so interesting. The company rolled them out as Nest-connected at CES 2015, which is getting all the publicity, but the real brains are already baked in. Why? Because talking to the smart meter is much more important than talking to the thermostat. According to Whirlpool:
By connecting to the Smart Grid used by utility companies, these models optimize energy use and track how much energy your appliance is using. Smart Energy features include Energy Advisor, Rate Revealer and Smart Delay.
That's a lot of smarts. Where I live, for example, electricity costs half as much at off-peak as it does during peak hours. Off-peak power also has a far lower carbon footprint, relying on base sources like hydro and nuclear rather than running off peak-time plants, which run on natural gas. Your power rates and sources may differ, but if you have a smart meter, you should have a smart dryer.
The smart washer has some useful connectivity features as well, pinging your phone with it's time to add detergent or do required maintenance. There are some things on modern washers that require a reminder. On our front-loading machine, for example, there's a little strainer on the drain that you're supposed to clean out every few months — but of course we didn't do that, and it wouldn't drain. A smart washer will give you a call and yell at you.
The Nest connection adds an extra frisson: if you're out, the Nest will tell the dryer to slow down and go into eco-boost mode, where it runs longer at lower temperatures, or to go into quiet mode when you're home. It will even keep tumbling away until it knows you're home, preventing the clothes from settling and wrinkling. Whirlpool has also introduced a new smart top-loading washer (because front loaders are so, you know, European). Gizmodo liked some of the new controls:
Bizarre foreign phrases like 'permanent press' have been replaced with easier to understand descriptions like bedding, baby clothes, even hand-wash fabrics to ensure your clothing is best being cared for and cleaned. And when the washer is connected to a Whirlpool app on your phone, you'll be able to eventually download additional custom wash cycles for harder-to-clean garments.
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