Company pitches power-saving idea

James
James McLeod
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Uses radio waves to control the temperature of your hot water heater

When the blackouts hit in January, Jackson Wang says, he could have softened the worst of it with a little device attached to your hot water heater.

Jackson Wang.

Wang, the president of e-Radio Inc. has a house in Newfoundland, and when the blackouts were happening, he was worrying about frozen pipes, he said.

Devices his company makes could have reduced electricity demand and averted the rolling blackouts, Wang said.

With FM radio controllers hooked up to water heaters in homes, the idea of e-Radio Inc. is to allow electrical utilities to be able to turn the temperature of your hot water heater down by a few degrees and save a bit of electricity.

“You really can’t tell when it’s several degrees hotter or cooler anyway because you normally mix it with hot and cold water. But the combined power of that is tremendous,” Wang said.

Ideally, he said, the radio receivers would be installed in the water heaters before they’re sold, and because they’d save the electrical system money in increased efficiency, it would offset the cost of installing them.

Moreover, a homeowner can override the device if he wants to.

“So it’s not Big Brother controlling,” he said. “The homeowner needs to be king in their castle.”

The thing about electricity systems is that they need to be built to provide all the electricity needed at peak demand. If they can’t do that, then you get rolling blackouts, or other problems with the grid.

What that means, Wang said, is that a lot of the time during off-peak periods, power plants are sitting idle.

“For most of the time, you’re using less than half the maximum power,” he said. “It’s a huge set of assets that you park most of the time.”

By being able to shave away at that peak by allowing utility managers to turn down water heaters, it’s possible the power companies could get by with fewer power plants, or burn less fuel to run them.

In a statement, NL Hydro said it’s not really looking at this technology right now.

“We are always open to exploring new technologies, however, to date we have not focused on demand reduction strategies, and study would be required before moving programs in that direction to ensure they are technically feasible and make economic sense for customers on our system,” spokeswoman Erin Squires said in an email.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: E-Radio

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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  • terrible idea
    February 16, 2014 - 10:32

    Hot water heaters should never be turned down. It is set at 60 degrees to prevent legionnaire's disease, it is not worth the risk. Think Walkerton, Ontario.