New Standards Push For Smart Appliances. Will Consumers Follow?

October 10, 2013

As the appliance industry gets ready for the 2014 Energy Star standards that go into effect in January, we’ve been preparing for one of its biggest changes: smart grid features. The next generation standards encourage appliance manufacturers to include smart grid functionality on their products — the ability to connect to the grid and manage when appliances use the most energy.

In an effort to make the smart grid feature accessible for all customers, our engineers are in the process of developing a proprietary connector that will connect any device to the grid using onboard Wi-Fi. “Even if an energy event happens, the consumer can accept or reject operational changes,” says Paul Sikir, vice president of Sub-Zero design engineering. This proprietary component streamlines connectivity, preventing our products from having to meet individual utility company requirements throughout the country.

Currently, Wolf E series ovens work with home automation products which connect them to the home’s automation system and ultimately the grid. The Built-In refrigeration line was redesigned in 2008 with the 2014 standards in mind. The Integrated refrigerator models are currently being redesigned and will meet the new requirements. Both the Integrated and Built-In lines will have the smart grid feature.

It is important for Sub-Zero and Wolf to understand the balance between standards and consumer demand. “The big question is when will the consumer find value,” Paul adds. “Some people think we are too connected. Our designers are all about full integration. There are other things we can do for product interaction with each other: control scheme, pairing of units, do you need all the control panels on all units, etc.”

The future of appliance connectivity and government standards are similar to what we’ve seen with HD TVs, Paul adds. “You would see HD-ready but the HD channels weren’t really ready. The TVs were built ahead of time to be ready. This is somewhat similar.”

As we continue to listen to what our consumers are asking for in products, we continue to stay up-to-date on where standards are going by being involved in the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and listening to what our customers want.

Where are your consumers focusing more attention: connectivity, design, or functionality? Is energy usage a primary factor in appliance decisions, or is it considered only after a product meets other requirements for performance and aesthetics?

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