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GE's products get an intelligence boost

An upcoming line of products from GE operates in ways that save both energy and money.

General Electric via CNN

Our struggling economy has put just about everyone in the country back in touch with the part of their judgment that decides when it's a good time to splurge and a good time to save. In the wake of rising oil prices, a planet that's heating up, and falling stocks, the emphasis on energy-efficient home technology is higher than ever.

GE has responded by planning a release of a line of green appliances in early 2009. The line is part of GE's "ecomagination" initiative, and will include an array of ''smart" refrigerators, ranges, washers and dryers, dishwashers, and microwaves that will be equipped to receive a signal from local utility companies. Based on the incoming signal, the appliance will respond accordingly. What is the benefit of allowing your refrigerator to communicate with your utility company? The proof is, shall we say, in the pattern.

Since energy rates are higher during hours of peak usage, the line of smart appliances will put off using energy until later, when peak hours are over and rates are lower. According to the press release, "the automatic defrost feature on GE refrigerators is initiated by the internal electronics based on the number of refrigerator door openings and other input signals. If the refrigerator can delay the defrost cycle from occurring during peak energy usage hours, consumers will save money by paying for the same amount of energy later in the day when the rates are lower."

The new line offers consumers the best of both worlds in terms of consumer control, either functioning without the need for any user input or allowing the consumer to override the energy-saving program. Then again, when saving energy and money is as easy as some internal programming, why override it?

The line of Energy Management Enabled Appliances will be released in the pilot area in Louisville in the first quarter of 2009 to a group of employees. At the beginning of the program, GE plans to test out the line in a group of 15 to 20 homes. To read more about the new line of smart appliances, check out the company's press release.