05/26/2022

Increase Your Home Energy IQ and Upgrade Your Electrical System With a Smart Panel

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4 Min. Read

Many homeowners are investing in electrification or switching to driving an electric vehicle (EV) to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint. But many homeowners miss the opportunity to get the benefits of upgrading their home’s power system with an electrical panel that has smart features.

This article will explain smart electrical panels and their benefits over traditional electrical panels.

Traditional electrical panels

The design of traditional electrical panels has not changed since around the early 1960s. They connect to the utility power source and distribute power to outlets in your home via branch circuits inside the panel. The number of branch circuits varies depending on the capacity of the panel.

In turn, the capacity of main panels varies, with common sizes of 100 and 200 amps. Newer homes with a large number of appliances may have larger panels.

For safety, each branch circuit connects to a breaker. That device disconnects the circuit in the event of an overload. In some cases, it does so in the event of a ground fault in the circuit. The panel is connected to the utility meter that measures the total flow of power through the panel over time (kilowatt-hours).

Importantly, traditional panels themselves have no usage measurement capability, nor do they have the ability to turn on and off the load on circuits, except for the circuit breakers in an overload. They are passive or “dumb.”

Smart panels

Unlike a traditional panel, a smart panel is intelligent and active. It performs all the functions of traditional panels, but it also uses sensors to measure and record the electrical loads on each circuit. In addition, it can turn on and off those loads. It also offers connectivity with other devices, including:

  • Solar panels.
  • Battery storage.
  • Generators.
  • EV charging stations.
  • Smart lighting systems.
  • Smart thermostats.

What’s more, it can provide access and control through smartphone apps, creating a seamless network of devices.

Best candidates

The more advanced and complex your home is in electrification, the more essential smart panels are:

  • If you have a battery backup system, they are highly recommended. You need to be able to manage battery circuit loads. You need to avoid being caught without battery capacity in an outage. Smart electrical panels can do this automatically.
  • In homes with a solar system (usually with a battery system), they offer even more value by allowing you to optimize your loads between your battery, solar power and the grid.

For example, if your utility rates are higher in the day, you can program the panel to run a specific part of your load off the battery storage during the day. This panel will constantly monitor and adjust the loads to match your battery capacity.

  • You can connect smart lighting systems to the panel and set it to run lighting on a set schedule. That way, you avoid wasted energy.
  • If you have an EV charging system, your panel will allow you to set a schedule for charging at the optimal time.
  • If you have most or all of these systems in place, you can integrate them all and essentially run your own microgrid or nanogrid. At any point, you can optimize the source and cost of your power.
  • Multifamily property owners can enjoy these advantages on a larger scale, with vastly improved management information.

So, if you are planning on taking significant electrification steps, be sure to include a smart electrical panel to get the maximum return from your substantial investment.

Benefits to upgrading your home

First of all, upgrading is relatively easy to do. Instead of installing an expanded traditional panel, replace it with a smart one to be positioned for the future.

A word of advice: unless you are experienced in high-voltage electrical work and smart panel, hire an experienced, licensed electrical contractor. Working with high-voltage systems can be hazardous, and shoddy workmanship can be expensive and dangerous.

Other benefits of upgrading include:

  • The ability to actively manage your electrical loads down to the branch circuit level. You can set up the smart electrical panel to use power at the best possible cost from the best source. Traditional panels offer no such benefit. In addition, you can proactively prioritize battery usage by each circuit to ensure battery capacity. For example, circuits can be dedicated to your HVAC, lighting, IT and modem, refrigerator, and stove. If and as battery capacity drops, you can pre-prioritize which load is shed first.
  • A quantum leap in data availability. You can use that transparency to set up your systems for maximum efficiency and the lowest cost.
  • Connectivity. As mentioned above, you can manage your home electrical systems with a smartphone. Never before has there been so much transparency and control in homeowners’ hands.
  • Better, fact-based decisions and energy cost savings. You will make your home easier to run and more sustainable.

For homeowners, smart electrical panels are an electrification solution that can help you get more out of investments like a solar array, a battery backup or an EV.

How Qmerit can help

Qmerit is a leader in electrification across North America. We focus on making it easy for homeowners to switch from fossil fuels to more sustainable, electricity-powered technologies.

Explore all the ways Qmerit is simplifying home electrification with the highest quality and safest installation services at competitive prices. Contact us today for more information.

Author: Lowry Stoops Lowry Stoops President, Qmerit Network