What is a Critical Load Panel?
A critical load panel is a secondary electrical panel that is crucial to an energy storage system. Instead of connecting your battery directly to your existing electrical panel or circuit breaker, the battery feeds into the critical load panel. This configuration ensures that your stored energy supports only your essential appliances and circuits while preventing unintentional power consumption by non-essential devices or phantom loads.
Why are Critical Load Panels Important in Energy Storage Systems?
Integrating a critical load panel into your energy storage setup allows you to tailor the battery size to your home's specific needs, maximizing the value of your stored energy. Most homes across the country consume an average of over 30 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day, while the majority of solar batteries have a capacity of 17 kWh or less. Attempting to back up your entire home with a single battery may result in energy depletion in less than 24 hours, undermining the battery's purpose.
Additionally, some appliances demand more power than others, meaning that activating them may rapidly drain your battery. For example, the Department of Energy's energy usage calculator indicates that a clothes dryer can have a load of 3,000 watts or more. Using a 3kW dryer for just a few hours with a 10kWh battery will deplete your stored energy completely.
Lastly, your appliance may need more power than your energy storage system can provide, putting your battery, device, and home's electrical system at risk of damage if you inadvertently run the machine on backup power. Therefore, the critical load panel safeguards your appliances and battery from unexpected electrical failures while ensuring that your most essential appliances and devices remain operational.
Can You Power an Entire Home with Energy Storage?
It's more complex than a simple yes or no answer. Many batteries on the market are "stackable," allowing you to combine multiple batteries to double or triple your storage capacity. Stacking batteries may provide sufficient power to meet your home's daily electrical needs.
However, if you're looking to go off-grid with solar plus storage, you must size a solar and storage system to power your home not only for an average day but also for multiple consecutive days, perhaps during periods of above-average electricity usage.
What are Smart Panels?
Incorporating digital aspects into appliances, vehicles, and home items has totally changed how we go about our daily lives. One of the newest developments in electrical systems is the introduction of smart electrical panels. These panels bring cool digital features to homeowners, making it a breeze to keep an eye on and manage power consumption, leading to savings on energy costs.
A smart panel is essentially a souped-up version of the classic electrical panel found in every home. Your typical panel is a slim metal box containing circuit breakers, usually tucked away in the garage, basement, or some out-of-sight corner. But smart panels are different – they've got cutting-edge tech that allows for 24/7 monitoring and management of power usage.
It's kind of like comparing a smartphone to an old-school landline phone. Both have the same basic purpose, but the smart panel has extra features and modern perks. If you're moving towards electrification, like energy storage batteries, solar integration, electric cars, or all-electric appliances, upgrading your panel will help you handle your energy use more efficiently.
A smart panel does the same job as a traditional one when it comes to distributing electricity to different circuits in your home and acting as a circuit breaker to protect your system from short circuits and surges. But with a smart panel, you don't need to check circuit breakers in person to see which circuit is off. The tech in the panel keeps you in the loop and lets you know if any circuit breakers have tripped, and allows you to control which circuits are on and off whenever you want.
One of the main perks of a smart panel is its ability to manage energy use and expenses. The panel lets you monitor and control the energy load using apps on your smartphone or computer. It shows how much power each circuit is using, so homeowners can turn off circuits when needed and even prioritize or schedule circuits. For instance, you can make sure important power loads, like the fridge or heater in winter, stay on. Plus, electric vehicles can be charged during off-peak hours when utility rates are lower.
More homes these days are getting solar power or backup battery systems installed. Smart panels offer the flexibility to switch between different power sources, maximizing efficiency and minimizing utility bills. For example, solar power can be used to charge battery systems, and power from the battery system can be used when the sun isn't shining. Also, during peak utility rates, power can be directed to specific parts of the home or particular appliances to keep energy costs in check.
Smart panels also provide extra protection during power outages. If a solar array and storage system are installed, homeowners usually have to choose which loads to back up during a power outage. But with a smart panel, you can change the loads that are operating or backing up in real-time, ensuring that backup power is used only where it's absolutely necessary and lasts longer.
The need for a smart panel comes from several factors, including rising utility bills, growing electricity usage, an aging and unreliable grid, and the push to reduce carbon emissions. Smart panels are a secure and dependable solution for electrification projects and are the top choice for projects that increase electricity usage or draw power from multiple sources. With a smart panel, homeowners can take charge of their energy use and spending, ultimately leading to cost savings.