International partnership looks to tackle energy inefficiency of domestic appliances

Research from the Energy Saving Trust has shown that one third of household energy bills, and well over a quarter of household carbon dioxide emissions, come from electrical appliances. In response Plextek, in conjunction with the ENIAC Joint Undertaking, set up to encourage collaboration within Europe’s largest organisations, SME’s and academic institutions, is working to improve overall energy efficiency while at the same time working to make devices smaller and with greater functionality.

The collaboration has set the target of reducing household consumption by 25% through technological advancements. Gareth Williams, Director of Plextek’s Digital Engineering Group, believes that it’s an aggressive target, but one Plextek can and must strive to achieve.

“The footprint of our household appliances is constantly on the rise, correlating with the huge growth in the amount of household appliances that we each use. There is already some great work being done to encourage behaviour change in our society in the way that we manage these appliances, but we aim to revolutionise the products right from blueprint stage.”

Over 190 million households in Europe possess a microwave oven, adding to the plethora of cold and hot appliances contributing to homeowner electricity bills. Experts estimate that microwaves account for 12.8 tera watt-hours per year, the equivalent of boiling more than 400 billion cups of tea.

The joint undertaking has refined its research into the way that Radio Frequency (RF) energy is used in everyday appliances such as microwaves and Plextek has completed the first stage of a three-year project, in conjunction with its partners, and is currently in the process of constructing prototype microwaves to be tested for study.

According to Williams, “Clearly the food preparation sector is likely to benefit from this programme, but other industries outside domestic cooking are also likely to benefit – areas such as microwave drying, mobile base station design, and radar technology to name but a few. It’s exciting to have so many different organisations coming together as part of this aspiring venture.”

The other companies collaborating with Plextek as part of this project are Whirlpool, NXP, Comheat, Bergh Hybrid Circuits and the Universities of Warsaw, Chalmers, Padova and TU Delft.

The ENIAC Joint Undertaking, set up in February 2008, has allocated grants for projects selected for funding till 31 December 2017. The total value of the research and development activities generated through this partnership upon its conclusion is estimated at €3billion.


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