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At this year's IFA in Berlin one of the hot topics was appliances that run off the Smart Grid system. But, are they really worth the extra money or are they just another attempt to get more money from customers under the auspices of being "green".

In case you were unaware, these new smart appliances have a bit of electronic trickery in them that allow them to operate when electricity is cheaper and demand is low. Now, the logical thing to be thinking is that this is going to save you money on your electricity bill. What isn't being told to consumers is that the amount you would save is low and that the benefit is largely to power companies.

Let me demonstrate what I mean by giving you a look at a graph which shows the Co2 emissions on average from a recent report by the BBC.

average power use in UK homes



As you can see, so-called "wet" appliances which will cover both laundry and dishwashing account for a mere 5% of all carbon generated in the home. We'll split the difference here and assume that 3% is for laundry and that 2% is for dishwashing but, tumble drying is also included in this 5% so far as we are aware which would skew these numbers still further but, for the sake of argument and demonstration we will use these assumptions.

But if and, it is a big "if", your washing machine is also using about 3% of all your home's electricity then on a typical £600 a year electricity bill it equates to being a whole £18 per annum to run your washing machine.

Even if you allow for 5% being the washing machine alone then it is still only £30 per year to run.

What claims such as "30% lower energy use" actually equate to (if any of them were actually true) would be a whole £5.40 per year. Hardly a huge saving and certainly not the one people generally expect from all the marketing surrounding these claims. But, this is why it is given to people in shady percentages, you can't actually do the math and work out it isn't such a good deal.

So, Smart Grid is being hailed as the new saviour that will save us all a fortune in electricity when, it won't.

What Smart Grid does is uses the electricity when it is cheap, it doesn't hail to use less electricity, only to use cheaper electricity. But, the question is, how much cheaper and will it be worth the extra investment to have appliances that are a bit smarter than the ones we have?

The answer is, probably not.

Will they save any carbon?

Probably not and, if any, then it will be a very small amount.

The power companies meanwhile love the idea as it allows them to balance their power supply needs far better and this is the reason that the electricity when the demand is low will be cheaper.

However, for people in the real world, even a saving of 20% is liable to be a very small amount of money per year indeed and we suspect that the much higher price ticket on Smart Grid enabled appliances would take many, many years to payback the up front investment.

Our advice, don't buy without absolute clarity on what you will actually save over the lifetime of the appliance.

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