solar panels on roof of house

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin.” 

Never have these words been more true than with respect to a home’s energy management system. “Back in the day,” we all expected the safe, reliable, flow of grid power from your local utility into your home. This unwavering faith and expectation has been under siege in the last decade. The confluence of global warming, teetering utilities, public safety power outages, the recent pandemic, and the general environmental upheaval have homeowners and building owners searching for energy independence and their own personal microgrids.

The home of the not too distant future will need to be capable of managing multiple power sources like; the traditional grid, backup generators, rooftop solar, and home batteries. In addition, the homeowner of the future will face a growing tide of complex electricity pricing or tariffs such as; time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing and demand charges. A “smart” energy system will need to autonomously govern the multiple power sources, electricity pricing, intermittent grid power, and homeowner preferences.

Current Home Energy Monitoring Barely Scratches the Surface

The energy movement in the previous decade has been dedicated towards the propagation of HEMs (Home Energy Monitoring Systems), a system focused on energy efficiency and energy monitoring products that illuminate a home’s energy use and trends,

What home energy management systems currently lack? Control. These systems have left homeowners lacking a way to do anything about it, or without a sufficient way to take immediate control of their energy use. 

Smart energy management systems of the future tackle many of the inadequacies that currently permeate the existing and basic HEM structure.

What is a Smart Energy Management System?

The smart energy management systems of today and into the future will combine both monitoring and multiple levels of interactive and autonomous control at the circuit or breaker level. This new smart energy management system must be capable of making real-time decisions on which loads or circuits to power for the homeowner based on important questions such as:

  • Is the sun shining?
    What does the near-term weather forecast look like? 
  • What is my current electricity pricing? 
  • Is the current grid power “clean”? 
  • How big is my generator? 
  • What is the status of the grid? 
  • What is my preferred power source? 
  • Is there a potential for a grid outage? 
  • What is the state of charge of my battery?
  • What are my current lifestyle requirements?

The advent of smart appliances, energy efficiency, and a connected home are important components, but they ignore the necessary and foundational aspects of power availability and varied power sources.

Smart Circuit Breaker Panels are Breaking the Energy Monitoring Barrier

The fundamental nexus, or nerve center, in a home or building is the circuit breaker panel. Every electron that flows into a home or building passes through the circuit breaker panel, and it is here where the next wave of connectivity, or Internet-of-Things, is being developed. Smart, connected circuits will and continue to enable the smart energy system of the future. Smart circuits that are connected to the cloud, and accessed via a smartphone app, are set up according to your preferences and autonomously respond to the growing complexities of your microgrid.

Enter Responsive Control: The Next Level of Home Energy Monitoring

Control is king. Autonomous, user-driven smart control of your energy loads is coming. While energy monitoring and efficiency are useful, in order to make solar a viable, widespread source of energy, homes will require responsive and autonomous control of circuits to maximize the promise of energy storage, solar, and generators. 

The Internet-of-Things is roughly defined as the network between everyday physical objects embedded with computing technology in order to share data over the internet. One of the most “everyday” objects in our life, one that is not considered much of an asset for us, is our circuit breaker panel. Think about it. 

That “dumb gray metal box,” also known as that thing in the recesses of your basement that you may have had to crawl to when resettting an overloaded circuit, is getting a face lift! Suddenly, it is being viewed as the cornerstone for the new distributed energy economy which is all about; energy efficiency, clean power, reducing your footprint, retiring fossil fuel based peaker plants, and controlling your own destiny with respect to power.

The Importance of Responsive Energy Management Systems

How about a few “for instances?” to reinforce the importance of the circuit breaker panel and a load management system

“I have solar on my roof and I am contemplating a battery, but have no idea how big an energy storage system I might need. Smart circuits that can provide granular per circuit demand data are required to properly size this system.” 

“I am away from my home’s microgrid that has solar+energy storage for several hours, the power goes out, and it is going to be a lengthy outage. What happens to my electrical circuits?” 

Without responsive load control, or smart circuits, the finite resources of your battery are in jeopardy. Your heating/cooling, water heat, pumps, etc. would be left to “run amok” and use power as if you had the nearly infinite resources of the traditional grid at your disposal. You do not. 

Load governance is required to make sure that you get through power outages in good shape, and that the battery is not prematurely depleted. Finally, let’s say your utility is approaching a “peak event” and they would rather not fire up a diesel genset. Instead they ask you if you would consider not heating water for a couple hours. They will make it worth your while and credit your electric bill a few bucks. Combined with the social and environmental responsibility, it is your call, would you like to participate? Your choice. Smart circuits enable that choice. If your current lifestyle (Am I home,? Do I have guests?) affords it, then allow the utility control of your water heater for a couple hours. If not, catch the incentive next time.

The Lumin Energy Management Platform

Times they are indeed “a changin.” And that means good news in reference to your dusty old circuit breaker panel. The “internet-of-things” is coming to one of the final holdouts, the electric panel, and it’s getting a much needed makeover. The Lumin smart electrical panel allows you to enhance your home’s energy storage system with whole home battery backup, home battery protection, and a flexible load management system. Smart circuits enable consumer choice and they allow you to play a part and participate in the tidal wave that is the distributed green energy revolution.

Kevin O’Shea, Co-Founder & CCO

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