Article
Back when we renovated the house, one of the top priorities was upgrading the electrical system. The house was built back in the 60s, and the electrical system was a mess, to say the least. Well, maybe not a total mess, but definitely outdated.

A Brighter Future For Home Energy Management: Sustainability and Efficiency with Smart Load Centers

Steve Maurer, IME
Back when we renovated the house, one of the top priorities was upgrading the electrical system. The house was built back in the 60s, and the electrical system was a mess, to say the least. Well, maybe not a total mess, but definitely outdated.

The panelboard was old school and used screw-in fuses and cartridges to feed the branch circuits. When we added the new addition, converting the old carport and utility room to offices and a laundry, that upgrade was top of mind. We went from a 100 amp to a 200 amp service. It meant knocking down the overhead feeder to the house and going underground.

But that... is a story for another article.

While the upgrade to a new 42-space panel full of breakers was invaluable, that was still 15 years ago. I installed all the proper breakers that were code at the time, and it certainly made our electrical life easier. But... that was then, and this is now.

And the times, they are a-changin'. Big time.

The evolution and revolutions of residential energy systems
The world of home energy isn't just changing; it's undergoing a revolution. Leading this transformative charge are Smart Load Centers, the next generation of breaker boxes that are reshaping how we think about and manage our home electricity.

Picture this: a system that doesn't just distribute power, but intelligently manages it, adapting to your lifestyle and energy needs. These state-of-the-art systems are a game-changer for homeowners and electricians alike, offering an unparalleled level of control and efficiency.

Gone are the days of the traditional, passive breaker box tucked away and forgotten. Smart Load Centers are dynamic, interactive, and incredibly user-friendly. They allow you to monitor and control your home's power usage in real-time, directly from your smartphone or tablet.

This means you can adjust settings, track your energy consumption, and even receive alerts about potential issues before they become problems. It's like having a personal energy assistant in your home, ensuring that your power is not just flowing, but flowing smartly. This innovation represents not just a step, but a leap forward in home energy management, promising a future of smarter, more efficient homes.

Elevating Aesthetics and Control
The box installed was fairly common—well, maybe not ideal for home use. I acquired a commercial breaker panel and equipped it with commercial circuit breakers. The panel had a commercial tan color...

Against a bright yellow wall. In a word...

Ugly.

Moving beyond the traditional, utilitarian concept of breaker panels, Smart Load Centers come in sleek, modern designs that fit seamlessly into the contemporary home. Some can be color-matched, with most being white. Some even sport a window, through which you can see the status of the breakers at a balance.

The benefits of these systems extend far beyond aesthetics. They empower homeowners with remote control capabilities, enabling them to manage their home’s electrical system from anywhere using a dedicated app.

Intelligent Energy Management
Smart Load Centers are more than just safety devices; they're intelligent energy management tools. Users can set custom, time-based schedules for their breakers, optimizing energy usage according to their lifestyle and preferences. This smart functionality not only enhances convenience but also promotes energy saving and cost reduction.

Additionally, the homeowner can plan power consumption while away on vacation or business trips. Through the app, the breakers to non-essential appliance and mechanical equipment, such as HVAC and water heaters, can be turned off when leaving, yet turned back on remotely before their return to the humble domicile.

This goes beyond what even a smart thermostat can do, which are cool in their own right.

Or warm. It’s a seasonal thing.

Prioritization and Load Management
For homes equipped with backup power solutions, Smart Load Centers provide an added layer of sophistication. They enable users to prioritize essential circuits, ensuring vital systems stay operational during power outages. The ability to manage and shed loads helps maintain stability and efficiency, even in emergency situations.

For homes equipped with backup generators, Leviton’s smart load centers take emergency preparedness to the next level. Homeowners can designate essential circuits, ensuring that critical systems remain operational during power outages. This feature also allows for load shedding, eliminating the need for a separate essential loads panel, thereby reducing installation costs and complexity. This keeps the load even, ensuring that while the lights may be out… the refrigerator keeps on humming.

New solar power systems use a battery backup generator to ensure power is always on, come rain or sleet or dark of night. Smart panel load management makes sure the essentials are always powered on.

Like the refrigerator. Or the stove. Or the TV for Monday Night football.

Integration with Renewable Energy
Designed to embrace the future, these advanced load centers support integration with alternate energy sources. Whether it’s solar power or other green energy systems, these smart panels can monitor and manage energy production, contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly home environment.

We discussed battery back for solar systems. And that’s cool. But the apps used to control smart breaker panels can also enable real-time monitoring, as well as provide a history of power supply and consumption.

This gives you fair warning that something is going on with the electrical system, or even the grid, allowing you to have the problem diagnosed and fixed.

Moving toward a brighter, more sustainable future
Smart Load Centers are more than just an upgrade to your home's electrical system; they represent a leap into the future of home energy management. Offering enhanced control, energy efficiency, and integration with renewable sources, they redefine how we interact with our home’s electrical infrastructure. For those looking to modernize their homes with innovative technology, Smart Load Centers are an essential consideration.

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*Note: The capabilities and integration options of Smart Load Centers vary by model and manufacturer. It is recommended to consult with professionals for specific product details, installation, and optimal use.
Photo courtesy of Leviton
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