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Understanding Smart Electrical Panels

Home technology expert Ross Trethewey and master electrician Heath Eastman teach host Kevin O’Connor about this new wave of electrical technology.

Heath Eastman and home technology expert Ross Trethewey teach host Kevin O’Connor about smart electrical panels. The two pros show Kevin how this new wave of technology is more about optimization than maximization, giving users complete control over their electrical system.

Smart Electrical Panels are the New School

Everyone has an electrical panel in their house, and the design hasn’t changed much in decades. However, the newest technology to come along is smart technology-enabled electrical panels. While these systems can stand alone or piggyback off of a standard panel, their features make them an attractive option for energy-savvy homeowners.

Smart Panels Focus on Load Management

Load management is the name of the game for smart electrical panels. The technology to monitor how much energy the home is using isn’t new, but the ability to manage how it’s using that energy is. These panels utilize relays to control circuits, and they report back to a smartphone app. Not only can the user see how much each circuit is drawing, but they can also turn each circuit on or off.

Optimize Energy Storage Systems

In the case of a generator or solar-fueled battery system, smart electrical panels allow users to make informed decisions. In the past, these energy storage systems were often controlled by a separate panel of circuits, and the users couldn’t switch circuits at will. And, for those that weren’t, the backup system would power the entire house, which could deplete batteries too quickly or draw too much on the generator to be efficient.

Rather than energizing an entire house with a backup generator, the user can choose which circuits turn on and off when the generator kicks on. This lessens the load and creates safer transfers.

And, for solar-powered batteries, users can avoid depleting their system too quickly. When the electrical systems switch over to the battery, they can program certain circuits to stay on while others shut off. They can even switch them at will via the panel’s compatible app.

Users Can Choose Which Circuits to Energize Based on Priority

In the past, the only way to choose which circuits were on or off was to flip breakers physically. While that’s okay in a power outage scenario, smart electrical panels make the job easier. Users can manually toggle circuits, but they can also program schedules based on priority. They can program critical loads like refrigeration and heat to always stay on, program somewhat critical circuits like WIFI or television to come on at certain times, or shut off non-critical circuits altogether.

These features make a huge difference in today’s energy utility market. With so many suppliers raising prices during high-demand hours (typically the evening), users can throttle back what they’re using automatically with the help of their phones.

There’s a Panel for Every Scenario

There are panels for existing electrical systems and those designed for new installations. The retrofit panels install after the existing electrical panels. Installers can expand the system with as many of these panels as necessary. For new installations, the smart panel takes the place of a standard panel, with main breakers and relays integrated into one clean unit.

The integrated units are also a good idea for anyone who plans to upgrade to a large solar system or generator in the future.

Where to find it?

Heath and Ross explain what smart electrical panels are and how they work by demonstrating how they track and manage a home’s electricity consumption.

Smart load management allows the homeowner to see how much energy is being used in real-time on a circuit-by-circuit basis and control the loads, both manually and automatically.

Panels looked at were provided by Lumin and Span.