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Water Heater Controller

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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Water heaters can be retrofitted to incorporate the Water Heater Controller with the Grid Friendly Appliance chip to provide control over the appliance to meet price or electric grid objectives
Water heaters can be retrofitted to incorporate the Water Heater Controller with the Grid Friendly Appliance chip to provide control over the appliance to meet price or electric grid objectives

Technology Marketing Summary

The Water Heater Controller is a device that provides smart grid services from existing, installed electric water heaters. The device uses the water heater’s thermal energy storage to provide fast, autonomous regulation (both up and down) and short-duration spinning reserves for the power grid. Additionally, as part of a communicating energy management system the Water Heater Controller can shift the power demand for heating hot water to non-peak power demand periods. These services promote grid stability and potentially reduce costs to consumers without sacrificing the service provided by the water heater.

Description

This smart device hosts the Grid Friendly™ Appliance chip (also developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) and provides the load-management capabilities of that chip to household water heaters. Among the device’s benefits is that it eliminates the need for a separate, external control box; in fact, this technology is simply retrofittable on current models of water heaters within about 5 minutes time using only a screwdriver. The autonomous benefits begin accruing immediately without significantly impacting the availability of hot water. If the device is connected to a home energy management system or other communicating system, the device can also participate in available demand-response programs.

Benefits

Autonomous benefits:

  • Frequency regulation (both up and down)
  • Spinning reserves (both up and down)
  • Augmented conservation voltage regulation (ACVR, a PNNL innovation)
  • Cold-load pickup after outages


Potential benefits as part of a communicating system:

  • Participate in available time-varying rates
  • Participate in demand-response programs
  • Respond to communicated regulation signals
  • Avoid peak demand charges
Applications and Industries

The technology is licensable to appliance manufacturers wanting to incorporate smart technology into their appliances, in this case water heaters. It may also be offered to firms selling smart technologies for aftermarket installation.

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
16166Prototype - Post prototype. The Grid Friendly controller has been field tested on 50+ water heaters over a year-long period. The Water Heater Controller has been operated for prolonged periods in a laboratory setting. Available07/11/201008/03/2010

Contact PNNL About This Technology

To: Jennifer Hodas<jennifer.hodas@pnnl.gov>