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CES: A “Smart” Fix for Laundry Woes

Kelli B. Grant

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant travels to Las Vegas to find the best, the worst, and the most hyped gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor for three days, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Consumers used to getting a “honey do” list from a spouse may soon need to get used to receiving one from the fridge or washing machine.

For years, manufacturers have been working on — and talking about — appliances that connect with the Internet as well as the power grid to monitor energy use and suggest ways for consumers to use them more efficiently. Now, the first are finally coming to market.

Whirlpool plans to introduce a connected refrigerator and dishwasher in 2012, with a clothes washer and dryer to follow in 2013. Prices have yet to be determined, but a spokesman says the top-of-the-line machines will carry a 10% to 20% premium over standard offerings. (Whirpool’s traditional dishwashers range in cost from $300 to $700.)

The new machines will manage their energy use and suggest ways to improve efficiency, the spokesman says, but that will largely be a feature owners can “set and forget.” They can, however, expect a text or email reminding them about an abandoned load in the washer, or alerting them to a maintenance issue. (Consumers can also remotely instruct the appliance, too.)

Advocates have warned of potential privacy concerns with connected appliances, since the machines collect information on when and how you use them. The Whirlpool spokesman says any usage data collected remains anonymous and aggregated. “You’re not Facebook friends with your fridge,” he says. “It’s not going out there publicly.”

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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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