Ask the Expert: Smart Panels

Mark D’Antonio, Zondits staff, 3/1/2023

Zondits spoke with Mark D’Antonio, an industry expert in clean technology approaches to decarbonizing the built environment.

I’m in the process of designing a net zero home with solar, battery storage, electric appliances, and heat pumps for heating and hot water. I will also have an EV charger system. I have heard that “smart” electric panels can manage loads and do other functions. Can you help me understand their capabilities and are they a good value?

Smart electric panels are an evolving technology that is available today from a small number of suppliers and will certainly be deployed more frequently in homes in the coming years. Smart panels provide all the functions of conventional electric panels plus additional monitoring and control functionality. Like many “smart” technologies, they can be controlled from an app on your phone (so you can access it from anywhere you have an internet connection).

The interest in smart panels is partly driven by electrification. Adding heat pumps, EV charging, and electric cooking appliances can often build the electrical load beyond the capabilities of existing electrical services and circuit panels. Smart panels offer an opportunity to control loads in a manner that avoids overloading existing circuits or exceeding the electrical service to the home.

The list of capabilities of smart panel technology, depending on the system and options includes house-level and circuit-level monitoring, peak load management, backup power circuit configuration and control, intelligent EV charging control, and battery storage optimization. These capabilities allow the homeowner the ability to understand the total amount of energy usage, as well as the consumption of individual circuits serving EV chargers, heat pumps, and major appliances. With that knowledge, the homeowner can set up scenarios to manage their energy use in a prioritized fashion during different circumstances such as during high-demand periods or during a backup power event, and to take advantage of utility demand pricing options when available.

The overall value of these systems will depend on the given scenario and application. In some cases, the right smart system could pay for itself immediately by avoiding a costly service upgrade from your utility company. In other cases, the long-term value will be associated with improved monitoring and controllability of home energy use.

For a deeper discussion, check out this Zondits article: Smart Panels. How Smart Are They?