Are Smart Appliances Worth The Big Investment?

smart appliances, Samsung

Is upping the intelligence of your home appliances worth the stress on your bank account? Ecosalon investigates smart appliances to help you decide.

According to a 2012 poll from Pike Research, worldwide sales of smart appliances will reach 45 million by the end of the decade. Since most of us have kicked, dropped, or wanted to hurl an appliance out the window at least once in our lives, you might be wondering what makes tomorrow’s devices so smart.

Let’s start with something familiar. What makes your phone a smartphone? You might say internet connectivity, intuitive design, and the ability to “talk” with other devices that utilize its same operating system. The same is true of next-gen appliances, and then some.

As Daily Finance explains, smart appliances are those major household items that “use intelligent power management technology to help optimize electrical load on the power distribution grid…[and] offer consumers the benefits of reduced energy usage, lower energy costs, lower carbon emissions, and advanced features such as remote control.”

These intelligent, connected appliances close the loop that’s been started by the rollout of the smart grid, which allows for the instant monitoring of energy consumption and transfer of that information in real time between smart meters, the utility company, and back again.

Now, in addition to getting your dishes clean, a smart dishwasher can monitor the price of electricity, starting its cycle in non-peak hours to save you some money. Your smart dryer can let you know that the load is done by pinging your smart phone, and your smart refrigerator can keep track of the food on its shelves, and find recipes to match that inventory.

Sound like you’re living with the Jetsons? It’s not far off.

But like everything, this new technology comes with a fairly hefty price tag. And like my die-hard greenie friends always tell me, “the greenest products are the ones you don’t buy.” If your dishwasher or fridge or dryer is in perfect working order, is it really that “green” to upgrade to a smarter version?

The first thing to consider is how much value they’ll actually add to your life. Would it be nice for your appliances to do all the thinking and conserving for you? Yes. Is it really that hard to only run the dishwasher at night or walk downstairs to check the dryer yourself? No.

Then there’s the issue of connectivity. Smart appliances only work if your home is on the smart grid. If your home’s already been upgraded to a smart meter (digital rather than the analog meter that someone comes to read once a month) you’re good to go. If not, there’s no point in upgrading.

Also, true to form, most major brands have designed their smart appliances with limited compatibility. That means your LG fridge really wants to talk to an LG dishwasher and washing machine. And if an appliance uses the Android platform, but you’ve got an iPhone, forget about all those fancy alerts and analytics.

Lastly, there’s the issues of repair and security. Do you really want to have to call a “genius” every time your fridge makes a funny sound? Or worry about hackers messing with your dishwasher settings? Don’t laugh–security companies are already working on anti-virus solutions for connected homes, not just individual devices.

The last word: if your 30-year-old appliance is on its last leg, you’ve got the money (and smart meter), and are interested in being an early adopter–go for the smart version. It will give you a peek into the future, impress your friends, and probably save you some money.

If your appliances are newish and functional, keep your money. In a few years, there will be fewer kinks, more to gain, and probably a smaller price tag.

Image: Samsung Tomorrow