The CSIRO has developed a way to network household and commercial fridges together in a way that lets them ‘negotiate’ with each other the best time to consume electricity.

According to Sam West, an engineer at the CSIRO. “A lot of people don’t realise that fridges cycle on and off regularly, which means you’ve got a bit of discretion about when they use power”. The controller enables communication between other fridges on the network and also the power source. It has the potential to smooth out fluctuations in electricity demand by enabling fridges to manage available power. Simulations have shown the technology is capable of supporting 10,000 or more networked units.

“The fridges work together to decide when to cool down, and thus consume power, based on how much surplus power will be available,” said West. “They are able to anticipate power shortages and change their running schedules accordingly to use as little power as possible during these times.”

The networked fridges are also able to take "surplus" energy produced by renewable sources such as solar panels and store it in thermal mass inside the unit. The technology could also be applied to other household appliances such as air-conditioners and clothes dryers.