The average consumer does not know how the smart grid works because it is an evolving system being implemented in various ways at each utility and in different ways by appliance manufacturers.

A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Whirlpool Corp. found that 70 percent of consumers are aware of smart grid technology, but feel they only somewhat understand how it works. Only 43 percent of all consumer respondents indicated they know what smart grid technology is, although the percentage was higher among the upper-middle (63 percent) and high-income (57 percent) segments.

Experts consider appliances that use smart grid technology to be the future of environmentally sustainable homes and green building. However, the consumer portion of the survey showed that of all smart grid-aware respondents, only 35 percent believe their community somewhat understands smart grid technology. Forty-six percent said they feel their community does not understand the technology at all.

“These survey findings suggest that there needs to be greater emphasis on smart grid education among all of us, which would encourage more green building,” said Warwick Stirling, global director of energy and sustainability at Whirlpool. “Whirlpool has committed to make all of its appliances smart grid-compatible by the end of 2015, so it understands how important it is to have everyone working together to promote knowledge on the topic.”

The builder portion of the survey showed a similar perception of consumer knowledge on the subject. Of all smart grid-aware respondents, 62 percent said they believe homeowners do not understand the technology at all. Smart grid-aware builders generally felt more confident with their own knowledge of the technology, with 79 percent answering that they at least somewhat understand how it works. A total of 51 percent of smart grid-aware builder respondents noted that they believe the home building industry as a whole understands how the technology works.

As an encouraging find in the consumer survey, 48 percent of smart grid-aware respondents indicated that smart grid-compatible appliances will be very important to green homes. In the builder survey, 64 percent of smart grid-aware respondents said these appliances will be at least somewhat important to green homes in the future.