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Thread: Coming soon, to a smart-grid near you...

  1. #1
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Default Coming soon, to a smart-grid near you...

    THREE element electric hot water heaters, with the bottom element controlled by the utility (to manage and use excess off-peak grid power rather than dumping that power.)



    Load management/demand-response is becoming a really hot topic among grid operators looking for higher grid reliability and handling intermittent zero-marginal-cost sources outside of their direct control such as wind power and solar. There have been instances in the past year when the wholesale price of electricity has gone NEGATIVE during off peak hours in places like Iowa or parts of Texas with higher penetrations of wind power, forcing baseload generators to pay to keep putting power on the grid, which really messes with their business model. Widely distributed power-dumps like hot water heaters would lower the cost of power further in those places, and make better use of the overall power generation mix on the local grids.

    Subsidizing these smart-heaters to take on excess power when available to the extent that it's cheaper than building & operating low capacity-factor peak generators, and everybody on the grid wins financially.

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    Strange.. I always thought the electric cars would take up that power surplus. A decade ago, I was sure that we'd see electric vehicles being used as distributed demand surge buffers and surplus storage systems when they were plugged into their charging stations.

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    What a Joke.

    If they give the water heaters away, It may catch on. They may need to put less insulation in them, so they can depend on the water needing more heating.

    The power company has been controlling water heaters for awhile. In reality they just shut the elements Off during peak usage.

    The electrical vehicles may have caught on if the batteries were safer. Right now they catch on fire.

    Charging a bank of batteries would make more sense, but battery banks are expensive.


    I do not like the idea of the power company or the Gov controlling my electricity on the fly.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    I do not like the idea of the power company or the Gov controlling my electricity on the fly.
    I have three meters on my home.. 1) Main power 2) Electric Heating Meter 3) Air Conditioner.

    During peak usage hours, in an emergency, the power company can turn off 2 or 3 as they please, but only for 15 minutes at a time and then I think not for another hour or something.

    In short, you don't even know they do it unless you're intentionally watching for it. Loosing your air conditioner or water heater for 15 minutes won't make a beans worth of difference..

    They can not touch my main power.

    For allowing them to do this, I get a 30% discount on my power for 2 and 3.

    I've had this system for 6 years and have not had a single issue.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    That means everyone will have to take their showers after 8:00 p.m. , or so, so the heater will be cold at the bottom and need heating there. It also does not take into account "stacking" because the top of the heater WILL be at the set temperature, so adding heat at the bottom of the tank, WILL overheat the top because of convection currents in the water. Conventional heaters heat the bottom FIRST, then let the top element boost the temperature of the top, IF IT IS NEEDED.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    I don't think that the world will collapse into doom and gloom in 15 minutes. I've never had an issue.

    I believe this is one of those things that looks inconvenient on paper but the reality is that you'll never notice any difference.

  7. #7
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy625 View Post
    I don't think that the world will collapse into doom and gloom in 15 minutes. I've never had an issue.

    I believe this is one of those things that looks inconvenient on paper but the reality is that you'll never notice any difference.

    I agree, IF everything is working correctly.

    Some of the new Station Power Switching that the Power Companies does to route power plays havoc with electronics.

    I have noticed more switching after our Smart Meters were installed.

    I would rather have a 15 min off time, than a power glitch that is not in 60HZ sync, or shuts off for a few seconds.


    Compressors have Locked Rotor protection, but I do not like it being tested.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    I have noticed more switching after our Smart Meters were installed.
    I will never let them install one of those at my home.. The NSA already collects enough info on me.. I don't need them knowing when I take a shower, wake up and go to sleep.

  9. #9
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy625 View Post
    I will never let them install one of those at my home.. The NSA already collects enough info on me.. I don't need them knowing when I take a shower, wake up and go to sleep.
    Sounds like a case for going off-grid.

    As regulated monopolies power companies are already controlling your electricity, just not at the individual load level. Being able to intermittently switch on a 4.5kw load to better match the instantaneous power inputs and balance loads between local grids, and delay/reduce peak-demands at times is complicated, but it saves overall grid costs.

    Like signing up for cell phone service, absolute privacy over power use is less assured, but it doesn't take 100% of the load base volunteering to participate in demand response programs to produce a measurable financial benefit to all users of the grid.

    Distributed grid battery storage is coming too, but probably not at the house-by-house level. (The liquid metal battery technology looks like it will be cheap and scalable). Smart battery chargers will likely become mandatory in neighborhoods with a sizeable market penetration of electric cars (as is happening in some CA neighborhoods), since the local grids as currently implemented can't handle the instantaneous loads of a large number of car-chargers, even if the average capacity is more than adequate.

    Bottom line: If you expect the power grid in 2030 to continue operate like it did in 1990, methinks that Genie has long since left the bottle. The controllable 4.5kw load on the electric water heater is the least of it. Switching issues and grid stability WILL improve over time, even if some of the current methods have flaws.

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    DIY Senior Member guy48065's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post

    Some of the new Station Power Switching that the Power Companies does to route power plays havoc with electronics.
    I wonder if this is what's been happening where I work. In an effort to be "greener" we replaced hundreds of old T12 lay-in light fixtures with new T8 fixtures with electronic ballasts. We've had to replace about 100 of those brand new ballasts so far this year due to intermittent "glitches" (short-duration, high voltage spikes) that we've traced all the way back to the incoming 3-phase power. The utility has so far only admitted it's caused by their automatic switching gear. As a test they disabled the switching and we lost no lights during that period. They have resumed normal operation and we're popping ballasts again.

    The cheap electronics consumers demand today can't tolerate the junk on the grid like the old-school gear could.
    Romeo and Atlanta, MI

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guy48065 View Post
    The cheap electronics consumers demand today can't tolerate the junk on the grid like the old-school gear could.
    I wonder if some power line surge suppression/noise filtering might end up paying for itself in the near term. Spikes and noise can shorten the life of computers and other things, too. Computers, obviously, have ps that have some filtering of their output, but may or may not handle input noise and spikes all that well.

    I've been an advocate of whole home protection for quite awhile (I put some in in the 80's). My neighbors lose electronics periodically, but I've never had that issue. Scaling one up to an industrial package could be expensive, but may become a cost of entry...the labor and inconvenience of swapping out parts to keep the lights on adds up, surge/noise protection is a one-time thing (unless you get a lightning strike!).
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    I'm thinking "Giant Ferrite Ring" LOL

    You could put in an isolation transformer too... Spikes and noise tend to flatten a bit across induction like that.

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    The problem here is that when they switch power routes It may take a second or two to do it.

    Then a million compressors try to restart, some don't have a delay relay, some do.

    Then the power goes out from the surge for another seconds then comes back on after your Frigidaire trips its overload protector.

    You would be surprised at all of the noise on the line, looking with a O-Scope, but most electronics can handle it unless it screws with 60 CPS.


    Texas does a lot of wind and solar when they can.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  14. #14
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    There is already some good technology out there for using distributed grid-storage for better frequency control, but the installed base is mostly in Europe.

    That too will be coming soon to a smart grid near you, but it won't be inside your house.

    Some of these things are hitting the critical list for Texas / ERCOT grid, which has rising baseload demand being increasingly met by wind power, and increasingly, small scale solar. Fossil fired baseload power generation in TX has been falling in raw numbers, being price-out by the near-zero marginal per kwh cost of wind power. There is even talk of developing a "capacity market" in the ERCOT region where rate payers can buy in, being paid for negawatts, under contractual agreements to shed load during peak hours when the buffer of remaining dispatchable generation is getting thin. Until some of the smarter-better more automate load control and distributed storage frequency control gets implemented it could be a bit bumpy for awhile, but overall the grid is moving toward higher reliability. (Rome wasn't built in a day- it didn't even BURN in a day.)

    Jigar Shah (founder of Sun Edison, a third-party ownership solar company) was saying a couple of weeks ago he was told by a competitive PV installation company operating in TX that rooftop PV will be breaking well under $2/watt (all-in, installed price, before subsidy) there in 2014, due in part to some innovative low installation-labor low-cost racking systems recently coming out of India. We'll see. But at that price point the tsunami of distributed PV will be accelerating at an even faster rate, and grid operators unable to manage it are going to be in dire straights. CA just passed a mandate for 1.3 gigawatts of distributed grid storage output by 2020 to manage the growing PV resource there. It's yet clear that 1.3GW is really the right number if there is going to be another quantum drop in installed PV pricing before then. (Last time I looked small scale PV was still averaging over $4/watt all-in for most of New England, but that was several months ago, and it's a rapidly moving target.)

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    DIY Junior Member samcal's Avatar
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    According to the Strategic Directions in the U.S. Electric Utility Sector Report, the power utilities industry is going through fundamental basic changes. The sixth-annual report was published Monday by Black and Veatch, a consultation and construction firm.

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