06/16/2022

Is a Smart Panel Right For Your Home?

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4 MIN. READ

Society is moving away from fossil fuels toward clean electricity created by renewable technologies like solar. With this move, the demand for electricity in the home by using tankless water heaters, electric stoves and ovens, electric heaters, and electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing rapidly. In addition, installing solar panels on rooftops creates its own power. All of these technological advances save homeowners money and are a large part of the solution to climate change.

However, not only is upgrading necessary for the appliances and vehicles but also for the power transmission. Unless your home was built or renovated in the past few years, your current electric panel would need to be upgraded to accommodate the increased demand for energy that all homeowners experience in the electrification movement. You can still buy a panel without smarts, but this will limit what you can do in the future, and another upgrade may be needed in a few years.

What is an electric panel?

An electric panel is a device that receives power from the utility and if you have them, solar panels and distributes this power within your home while protecting your home from electrical surges and short circuits that can damage equipment. It does this by distributing the energy entering the panel into individual circuits within the home. Each circuit can be designated to a particular room in the home or to a specific device that uses a lot of power. Each of these circuits has a breaker (or fuse in older models) that will “trip” or disconnect the power from that circuit if too much energy is flowing, protecting you from damaged equipment and electrical fires.

What is a smart electrical panel?

A smart electrical panel is a device designed and built with power monitoring, conditioning, smart breakers and controls. This allows you to monitor how much electricity (and the associated cost) is used by each circuit in the panel and prioritizes the circuits in case of a significant demand (charging your EV) or if there is a power outage and you are running on your at-home battery storage.

Why is this important?

There are many benefits to having a smart panel built into your power distribution system, such as resiliency, financial savings, and even extending the life of the equipment in your home.

You can expect to see a 38% increase in the demand for electricity from EVs alone. This will put additional stress on the grid and result in more common blackouts and brownouts, as noted by Pew National Trusts. In a power outage, your storage system takes over, providing electricity to your home. Depending on the size of your battery, you may not have enough storage to power everything in your home, so you can prioritize critical items such as refrigerators to prevent food spoilage and EVs so you have a full charge in case of an evacuation or more likely, to get to the office the following day. You can also reduce the stresses on the grid in these situations by shutting off non-essential circuits, reducing the frequency of these disturbances.

A smart panel also has scheduling features where you can set when to charge your vehicle or backup battery, so the electricity costs from the grid are at their lowest.

Another great benefit is conditioning the power, where the panel levels out the fluctuating voltages from the grid. Many newer electric devices can be sensitive to these fluctuations, and their life span is reduced; having a power conditioner built into your new panel will mitigate this effect and keep your equipment operating as intended.

EVs come with a Level 1 charger powered by standard 120V AC from a standard outlet. Charging with Level 1 is slow, and most EV owners opt for a Level 2 charging system, which uses 240V and can rapidly charge your vehicle for unplanned trips around town when you don’t have hours to wait. There are also developing technologies, such as bi-directional charging, which allows you to use your EV as your whole home backup battery, which will require a panel with smarts to function. This is just an example, but many aspects of the electrification revolution will depend on intelligent devices more and more.

Is it right for me?

As mentioned, you will probably have to upgrade your existing panel to accommodate newer appliances, home backup with batteries, or a new EV. If you are upgrading your panel already, you want to ensure your investment will not become obsolete shortly after installation and will benefit you the most. Investing in the latest technology ensures that your electrical system will be compatible with your future upgrades.

Homeowners that do not need to upgrade their panels just yet still see the many benefits described above and, combined with an @home EV charging, may pay for itself over time. When homeowners add solar or a Level 2 EV charger, they may not need to upgrade the panel but often opt to upgrade since electricians are already on-site and working on that equipment, reducing the cost of the upgrade compared to a stand-alone installation. This future-proofs their power distribution system, meaning that when they get a second electric vehicle or other newer appliances, their systems have already been upgraded to accommodate this.

Qmerit can help

Upgrading to a smart electrical panel saves money, allows more control over your home, and makes you more resilient to both power outages and the needs of newer technology. Find certified installers that can help you with the process. Contact Qmerit today.

Lowry Stoops President, Qmerit Network