The underestimated electricity consumers
Washing machines and dishwashers are among the biggest consumers of electricity in the home. Most of the electricity they consume is used to heat the wash water. According to the current state of the art, washing machines and dishwashers still use an electric heating element that converts electrical energy 1:1 into heat. After completion of the wash cycle, the warm wastewater is pumped into the sewage system without using its residual heat. In Germany alone, there are about 40 million washing machines and 30 million dishwashers that together consume as much electricity as a large coal-fired power plant generates.
The challenges of the energy transition
The energy transition poses major challenges for the power grid. Due to the increase in renewable energies such as wind turbines and solar plants, a constant power supply in Germany is becoming more and more difficult, because sun and wind do not follow the power consumption of the people. The following figure shows the fluctuation of electricity generation and consumption.
Another challenge is found in private households with their own electricity production, mostly in the form of solar panels. The feed-in tariff for photovoltaic system owners is currently 8 cents per kWh while the purchase from the power grid is 30 cents per kWh. Because of this discrepancy, photovoltaic system owners are keen to optimize their own electricity consumption so that their own produced electricity is used and as little as possible is drawn from the power grid.
There are around 40 million washing machines and 30 million dishwashers in private households in Germany. On average, these appliances are replaced once every 10 years. In 2020, 4.18 million washing machines were sold at an average price of €351, resulting in sales of €1.4 billion. For dishwashers, sales in 2020 were €1.2 billion. Energiewäsche filed a patent application for its technology in January 2022 and will act as a supplier, know-how carrier and licensor to established household appliance manufacturers (OEMs).
The benefit of the product for the individual customer is, on the one hand, the ecological aspect, as he makes a significant contribution to climate protection by purchasing such a device, and, on the other hand, the economic incentive, as he saves electricity year after year. The device is particularly attractive for owners of photovoltaic systems, who can use it to maximize their own consumption due to its smart grid capability and avoid having to sell their self-generated electricity at increasingly unattractive feed-in tariffs.
The big picture
Since energy washing is primarily a climate protection project, the focus is on the benefits of the product for society as a whole. The aforementioned appliance population of almost 40 million washing machines and 30 million dishwashers in German households consumes so much electricity over the course of a year that it is calculated that a major coal-fired power plant would have to run continuously at full load (approx. 1.1 GW) just to supply the washing machines and dishwashers in the country with electricity. This order of magnitude underscores the enormous contribution that more economical washing machines and dishwashers can make to climate protection and the success of the energy transition. At the same time, the smart-grid capability of 70 million such machines results in an energy storage capacity of 20 GWh – which will be enormously helpful for the power grid of the future. Much like there were legal bans on incandescent light bulbs and oil heaters, the long-term goal of Energy Washing is to fully displace heating elements in washing machines and dishwashers by developing a more efficient, ecologically valuable and sustainable alternative.