Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a control system that allows homes to provide network flexibility.

The system effectively transforms existing home heating and cooling units and hot water boilers into intelligent appliances that can manage electricity use in ways that help the grid coordinate supply and demand, according to a statement.

In the United States, the system could benefit approximately 120 million homes. In particular, it is designed for homes where residents do not want or can not afford smart appliances and has the ability to upgrade.

“From the beginning, our goal was to develop a solution that was inexpensive, easy to install and use, and put residents in charge of its operation,” said Michael Brambley, a scientist at PNNL who leads the development of management systems.

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“In return for the help of the network, households should receive an incentive, such as a more favorable rate for electricity.

In developing the control system, the researchers focused on four appliances in existing homes – electric resistance furnaces, electric resistance boilers, heat pumps and air conditioners.

During testing, the results of the hot water heater and air conditioner were found to be particularly promising.

For boilers, the control system demonstrates the potential to reduce electricity consumption from 34 to 83% in seven hours, depending on the levels of hot water use.

Air conditioners have been helped to keep temperatures low and reduce electricity consumption. In one example, electricity demand was reduced to 46% during four-hour tests in which cooling was maintained in a range of three degrees considered acceptable to residents.

This is based on a 20-degree difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, and the reductions must be greater for larger temperature differences.

Tests of electric furnaces have also reduced demand by 25%. By automatically heating the home three degrees above the usual thermostat setting just before the peak period of the network, the reduction should increase to almost 46% over a period of four hours.

Development partners include smart technology companies ecobee and Shifted Energy, as well as the University of Oklahoma.

In the next step, the project team plans to prepare the management system for implementation in habitable homes.

In the United States, homes use more than a third of the nation’s electricity. In this way, connected homes are expected to play a key role in the pursuit of decarbonisation with the flexibility they can provide to the grid.

Control system enables grid flexibility by turning homes smart

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