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Earlier this month, Monica and I attended a presentation from AEP Ohio and Silver Spring Networks. The companies have teamed up to bring Smart Grid technology to Ohio. Before attending I was most interested in hearing the “angle” and how they would make it relevant and interesting to moms. Much to my pleasure, they didn’t “dumb down” the information or twist it to make it interesting – it just was. And both Monica and I learned a lot.

What Is Smart Grid?

An easy to understand definition of Smart Grid from Silver Spring Networks, a company that works with energy providers to create a network:

Our electrical grid is outdated and demand is outpacing the supply.The smart grid transforms our electrical system into a modern network that empowers utilities and consumers to revolutionize how we create and consume energy. A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability.

So Silver Spring Networks “provides hardware, software and services that connect every device on the grid” to create a wireless network allowing electricity devices to communicate with the power provider. In our case, this provider is AEP Ohio.

How smart grid benefits consumers.

  • Address our aging infrastructure, which approximately 60% of will need to be updated within the next 10 years.
  • Save consumers money by allowing them to monitor their energy consumption and make more informed decisions.
  • Environmental benefits of smart grid technology will reduce the need to build more fossil-fueled power plants while encouraging the use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The current and future tools of the smart grid technology.

  • You will soon be able to receive alerts via text, email, and telephone call as you move through the energy tiers towards higher costs for electricity.
  • Smart meter technology will alert your utility company in the case of a power outage so they can restore your power faster.
  • In the future you will be able to control the energy usage of the appliances in your home through chip connected to your home area network.
  • Offering consumers the ability to opt into to new pricing programs to move away from existing flat rates.
  • Offering consumers the option to receive a rebate in return for allowing AEP to send set back signals to a Programmable Communicating Thermostat during peak load conditions.

Kate’s Thoughts

One of the talking points that really resonated with me about Smart Grid is this: Imagine you gas up your car every week for a month without knowing how much you’ve spent or how much gas you’ve purchased. Rather, you get a bill at the end of the month that you have to pay. Well, that’s how our power works at this point. As consumers, we really have no idea how much we’re using or what we owe until the bill arrives. Sure, you can guesstimate how much you’ll owe, but wouldn’t it be better to know how much energy you’re using in real time? Smart Meters provide that information (and more) to consumers and also provide information to the power company. For example, if you lose power because a wind storm knocks down a power line, the Smart Grid will automatically know and respond by re-allocating power to restore power to consumers more quickly. Pretty cool. You can see a comparison of a traditional meter and Smart Meter to the left.

Monica’s Thoughts

When we were invited to this Luncheon by AEP and Silver Spring Networks, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am neither an energy expert or honestly have ever really thought about how energy is metered, priced, and monitored. After hearing now gridSmart technology can change the way we think about energy, I am honestly a little bit excited to see this technology enter our everyday lives in the near future.

One of the things I kept asking myself throughout the presentation was, “How is this technology going to impact me as a stay at home mom who, let’s face it, is plugged in to pretty much everything all day long?” Well, for one thing, the new energy management tools that will become available will make me, as the main “house manager” be able to see my energy use in a more timely fashion by being able to view my daily use online or through an in home display monitor that will show me my electricity use and costs.

They also introduced the idea of time-of-day rates for customers who chose to enroll in this particular pricing option.  Apparently peak hours of use are from 1-7, and energy costs would be most expensive during this time, and significantly lower during other times.  Well, for me, this option isn’t necessarily the best one. Like most stay at home moms, my washer, dryer, dishwasher, a/c are all pumping full throttle  during those precious hours (especially 1-4 when little ones tend to nap!) So, I would be better off going with a flat rate(similar to what we all currently have) for electricity.  However, for families who have all children in school, and adults out of the home at work all day, the Time-of-day pricing could save them a considerable amount of money. Regardless of what pricing option you would choose, what is nice is that there is actually an option, to better suit the different energy demands of different households. Currently, not many people have this option.

Tips to Conserve Now

Regardless of what type or electric meter you have, or if you have been converted to an energy saving system in your area, one thing we all need to think about is what type of a world do we want to leave our children? We all can do a few little things that can do so much for our energy use and costs, and therefore conserving natural resources and maintaining our planet for our precious children. Here are a few of those things:

  • In hot weather set your thermostat to 78, in cold weather 68. Maintaining a consistent temperature within a few degrees saves energy
  • Install a programmable thermostat to use less energy cooling and heating when you are away or asleep
  • avoid running ovens, dryers during the hottest times of day
  • Set your water heater to 120 to 140 degrees
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs
  • Caulk, seal, and weather strip all openings from your home to the outside.  Eliminating air leaks can save you as much as 10% in energy costs!
  • Replace your old refridgerator with a new, more efficient model and save 3 or 4 times the energy!

Not only do these thing save energy, they save you money!

We wrote this post after attending an informational luncheon on behalf of Silver Spring Networks and Mom Central Consulting and received a gift bag and gift card as a thank you for taking the time to participate


Kate started The Shopping Mama™ in January 2009 when, after graduating law school, she traded in online legal research and writing for locating the best products for children. She shops for three kids ages 8, 6 and 3 from their home in Japan. Her military family is making the most of back-to-back overseas assignments by traveling every chance they get.

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