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How to Hook Up Your Home to the Smart Grid Today

This is your house on the smart grid. What the future of home appliances will look like when we're managing our electricity better.

This is your house on the smart grid. What the future of home appliances will look like when we're managing our electricity better.

Smart energy management is becoming common among utilities across the United States. But the smart grid—a catch-all term for an upgraded electrical grid that leverages two-way digital meters to monitor power use, keep track of home electricity costs, and integrate renewable energy sources—is still a nascent technology. That will change quickly, though. In the next five years, smart meters, electric vehicles, and smart appliances are all going to grow in popularity, and when they do, the smart grid will take off.


Take a look at your electrical meter. Does it have a digital read-out? If so, it might be a smart meter, or a two-way electrical meter that constantly sends information about energy use to your local utility. Many utilities are rolling out smart meters as fast as possible, and for good reason. Smart meters make it easy for utilities to adjust electricity pricing to account for the unpredictability of renewable energy sources, which are quickly becoming part of the energy mix. Electricity prices may rise, for example, when solar power is unavailable. In theory, this should reduce pressure on the grid during times when there isn't as much electricity available.

A handful of smart meter-equipped homeowners currently have access to energy use and pricing information via energy monitoring tools like Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm. But a slew of upcoming smart grid-connected appliances will make it easy to schedule energy-sucking devices to run only when prices are low.

GE is getting ready to roll out a range of smart appliances, including microwaves, oven ranges, hot water heaters, and dryers. Some of the appliances go into lowpower mode when overall grid energy consumption is up, and others feature on-board displays that signal when electricity is cheap. All of the appliances can be scheduled to run when electricity prices are lowest.

The appliances, many of which will become commercially available later this year, won't be cheap—smart water heaters (available now) cost up to $1,500 compared to $500 for a standard water heater today—but they pay for themselves in energy savings within 10 years.

Appliances may be the biggest energy vampires in today's homes, but plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles are set to emerge as a major source of electricity consumption in the near future. If everyone on your street decides to charge up their EVs at the same time, the grid could quickly be overloaded. That's why new companies are quickly popping up to manage EV charging. Juice, a startup backed by consumer electronics giant Belkin, is working on a smart EV charging system that uses software to charge up car batteries when electricity is cheapest.

Automakers are also taking an interest in the issue—Ford recently teamed up with Microsoft Hohm to optimize vehicle charging for the 2011 electric Ford Focus. Ford imagines that an in-vehicle Hohm system could eventually do everything from scheduling a washing machine to run at off-peak electricity times to letting drivers see if a house has the correct wiring to accommodate an EV.

Perhaps the best example of how the smart grid will transform our daily lives comes from Japan, where Toyota is testing its Smart Center, an all-in-one system that connects homes, vehicles, and utilities into a home-based energy management hub. The Smart Center syncs with Toyota plug-in hybrids for charge monitoring and scheduling via a smartphone and allows remote energy monitoring and coordination (taking into account power consumption, solar panel electricity production, and electric heat pump hot water volume, among other things).

This is the energy efficient home of the future—a house with an array of appliances, devices, and vehicles that communicate with utilities to keep the renewable energy-reliant electrical grid running smoothly. And it's coming soon to a city near you.

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via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

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Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

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Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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