06/14/2022

It’s Time to Get Smart - Your Guide to Smart Electrical Panels, What They Are and Why You Need One

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5 MIN. READ

Digital features have transformed appliances, cars and so much more. Recent electrical panel technology innovations make advanced digital features available to homeowners. Here’s what you need to know about smart electrical panels and their benefits.

What is a smart panel?

Every home has an electrical panel. It’s that thin metal box with a door and a bunch of circuit breakers hidden away in a garage, basement or out-of-the-way corner. You rarely think about it except on the rare occasion when you need to flip a breaker switch. A smart, state-of-the-art panel is an electrical panel on steroids. It’s filled with technology that will enable you to monitor and control your power use round the clock. As a result, you can reap savings on your energy costs.

Comparing a smart electrical panel to a traditional one is like comparing a smartphone and an old landline. The basic function is the same, but going “smart” offers additional functionality and modern conveniences. If you are moving toward electrification and considering energy storage batteries, solar integration, an electric vehicle (EV) or all-electric appliances, upgrading your panel will help you manage your energy use.

What can you do with a newer panel?

A newer electrical panel with “smart” capabilities distributes electricity to the different circuits in your home. In this way, it’s just like a traditional electrical panel. Both types also serve as circuit breakers to protect your system from short circuits and surges. However, with a contemporary panel, you no longer need to physically inspect circuit breakers to figure out which circuit is off. Instead, the technology in the panel keeps you informed. It lets you know if any circuit breakers have tripped as well as control which circuits are on at what time.

Manage energy use and costs

Simply put, a smart panel is essentially an “energy management system.” It serves as the brain of your home to optimize your energy use and even the amount you spend on electricity.

The panel lets you monitor and manage the energy load using smartphone or computer apps. It shows how much power each circuit is drawing. This allows the homeowner to shut circuits on and off as needed. It also enables owners to prioritize or schedule circuits. Areas of the home with critical power loads, such as the refrigerator or heater in the winter, can be prioritized to remain on. An EV can get plugged in when you get home, but the panel can delay charging until a time when utility rates are most favorable.

More homes now have solar power or a backup battery system. In these homes, today’s smart panels let you switch between different power sources to control electricity use around the house. With this flexibility, along with the data provided by the panel’s sensor boards, you can maximize efficiency and minimize utility bills.

For example, you can use solar power to charge your electric battery system. Then you can use the power from the battery system when the sun is not shining. You can also choose to draw power off the batteries when utility rates are at their peak to save money, but only direct that power to part of the home or particular appliances. This helps keep energy costs contained on hot summer days.

Keep the power on

Additionally, homeowners who install a solar array and a storage system usually must choose which loads to back up in a power outage. However, with a smart electrical panel, you can alter the loads that are operating or backing up in real time. This ensures you use backup power only where you critically need it, and it will last longer.

Some smart panels also feature battery load management capabilities. This lets you automatically keep your backup battery at an optimal level and ready to use.

Why do you need a smart panel?

An old-fashioned electrical panel was adequate in a world that wasn’t so dependent on electricity. But several factors have changed the demand for electrification and for more control over the energy you consume:

  • Rising utility bills. The cost of energy is going up. An upgraded, smarter panel will put you in control of your energy usage and spending. It offers reporting capabilities and mobile control of which circuits are operating rather than letting them all run 24/7.
  • Increasing electricity usage. Several factors drive the demand for energy usage. Let’s face it. Odds are you will soon use more electrical appliances and tools than 20 years ago. Computers, mobile devices and large appliances like a clothes dryer or an electric range are some examples. Now, with EV adoption rates growing rapidly, there’s more demand for vehicle charging around the clock. An electrical panel that lets you take advantage of off-peak rates will boost your return on the EV purchase.
  • An aging, unreliable grid. The federal government has allocated money to update the aging electric infrastructure. Still, it will take a long time to modernize the grid. With increasing severe weather incidents, the potential is greater than ever for rolling or even multi-day blackouts. Smart panels are crucial to reliable home power solutions when using backup battery systems.
  • Reducing your carbon footprint. Climate change is nearly irreversible, and everyone can make a difference by reducing carbon emissions and energy usage. If you are considering going all-electric, you will have to look for high-efficiency heat-pump air and water heaters. You’ll also need qualified contractors familiar with the technology and its installation. However, there is little value if you’re not using technology to control energy usage and costs.

Smart panels are a safe, reliable solution for electrification projects. They’re the best option for projects that increase electricity usage or draw the most power, such as at-home EV charging or an electric HVAC system. They can prioritize essential circuits when using battery backup systems and provide short circuit and surge protection of traditional panels. Eventually they will become standard, much like smartphones have replaced landlines. These panels are also a great option for multifamily rental properties and commercial buildings seeking more load management capabilities.

Getting qualified help

Smart electrical panels are opening new possibilities for electrification. Their features vary from one brand or model to another. The number of circuits and capacity are also variables. Before purchasing a panel, it is a good idea to work with an experienced electrician. A Certified Installer can help you determine your needs now and in the foreseeable future as fossil fuels are phased out.

How can you find a dependable and qualified electrician to upgrade your electrical panel? Partner with Qmerit.

Qmerit can help you modernize your home with one of these panels thanks to our network of Certified Installers. We deliver qualified, trusted installation solutions for homeowners, property managers, EV owners, fleet managers and others pursuing electrification. Contact Qmerit today to find out how we can help you and your home get smart.

Lowry Stoops President, Qmerit Network