I don’t know if Schneider Electric will be the one to crack it, but I like what it’s promising here at CES 2023 – a smart home where the electrical circuitry itself is smart enough to power your home, Save on your energy bills, manage solar and charge electric vehicles from a single app.
Schneider Electric isn’t a household name, but there’s a good chance you have one of its Square D circuit breakers in your home – the company says four out of 10 US homes already have it. Today it announces an ecosystem of gadgets that won’t be hidden in your walls, including:
a complete smart main switchboard called Schneider Pulse that can control its own relays and acts as a brain, a 7.6kW inverter big enough for whole-house solar power and a pair of batteries, with a dedicated EV charging port, a a wall-mountable, stackable 10kWh battery called the Schneider Boost that fits directly under the inverter, an 11.5kW Level 2 EV charger, a range of smart sockets, dimmers and light switches powering the system can both control and monitor and work with Alexa and Google Home
Specifications: 200A panel, 10kWh batteries, 7.6kW inverter, 11.5kW/48A Level 2 EV charging. Image: Schneider Electric
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. “Can’t you buy all of these parts from any number of companies?” Yes, you can, and some systems try to balance solar power, battery backup, and car charging to some extent.
But if you buy two or more of these “Schneider Home” products, the company promises a snazzy synergy.
Would you like to know how much electricity each individual device in your house uses? Combine the main panel and the sockets and you can measure this in three different ways – not only can it calculate consumption at each socket, but also at each circuit breaker, and it has an integrated algorithmic energy monitor (powered by Sense) that This can try Estimate what each individual device is using by waiting for its electronic signature.
Beat off key offenders. Image: Schneider Electric
Power failure? If you have the inverter and battery backup, the app promises that you can selectively choose which devices to keep running and which to turn off at the circuit, outlet, switch, or light level. In Schneider’s example, it will even nudge you into making decisions that could make a difference, like remotely turning off an air conditioner or charging electric vehicles. Then it will tell you when power returns so you can continue.
Get notified when you can resume consumption. Image: Schneider Electric
And with the main panel and inverter, Schneider says, homeowners can install an EV charger even if the power line running to their home would normally be too small for the task.
I can relate! I was going to get myself a 200A main panel upgrade for upgrades like this, but my solar company told me my service line was too thin, and PG&E wanted an incredible amount of money to rip up my front yard and get a thicker trench under the sidewalk. “You can just upgrade the panel itself, not the power supply, and save a lot of money,” Jaser Faruq, Vice President at Schneider, tells me.
A look inside the intelligent control panel. Image: Schneider Electric
However, upgrades like this still cost a pretty penny. “Think of the order of $10,000 if you include all the parts of the system here,” says Faruq, adding that installation costs will vary widely. The Pulse panel alone could cost $5,000 in labor and hardware, double that if you have to pay your utility to upgrade a service line, and a full home battery backup could mean four batteries and two inverters if you’re 12 want to endure a one-hour power outage.
On the plus side, there are some federal credits: The Inflation Reduction Act gives you a 30 percent tax credit on the battery, plus 30 percent ($600 max) on a smart panel.
You’ll also need an electrician to install most of these pieces, and/or a solar contractor if you want solar panels, since Schneider doesn’t sell that piece of the puzzle himself. Also, the company admits that most of these upgrades require inspection by your local community.
If, like me, you have already installed solar systems, you may also need to consider the sunk cost of your existing inverter, which you would need to replace to take full advantage of what Schneider has to offer. “We are targeting customers who are first entering this world of solar power and electrification,” says Faruq. “Because over 90 percent of homes in the US don’t have solar or energy storage, that’s a big priority.”
He says people don’t have to buy all the components to get benefits, and parts of the system are interoperable with third-party parts. You should be able to connect most battery, solar and EV chargers to the panel and/or inverter and they even have a miniature backup control switch to select in place of the main panel if you only have one want a battery and an inverter. But the goal, he says, is to control everything with a single app and a minimum of boxes on your garage wall.
Schneider’s new parts are still in the process of certification, but the intention is to start with the first installations this summer and ramp up in the second half of 2023.