As we head deeper into the summer months, the outlook for America’s power grids does not look good. According to North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC — not sure what happened to the “A”), which recently released its “2022 Summer Reliability Assessment,” extreme temperatures and drought are going to put a severe strain on the power grid, particularly in the Upper Midwest and mid-South along the Mississippi River. The power issues in Texas — both in the heat and the cold — have made headlines across the nation, as have the grid disruptions from wildfires in the West. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and all sorts of violent weather also play havoc on aging systems.
If a client has a generator or has invested in solar energy, the integrator could help with a power management system that, in the event of a power outage, would allow the homeowner to delegate how the stored energy was spent. This was a vital service for some — not only keeping the ice cream firm, but also providing a way for them to continue working from home and make sure the devices that need to stay up and running, did.
But as problem power areas expand and violent weather occurs more frequently, it is time for the home’s power infrastructure to get smart, or, to paraphrase the Savant Power System tagline, “to rethink the grid.”
Putting Clients in Charge
Of course, natural disasters aside, a smarter system also has additional benefits that range from being more efficient for the environment to saving a considerable amount of money from being sent to the utilities.
“It’s not always about power outages and a backup power scenario,” says Ian Roberts, director of education and customer experience at Savant. “It’s also about delivering visibility to the homeowner and showcasing what circuits are drawing power throughout the home on a normal day and how to reduce/limit unnecessary consumption. We give homeowners the ability to really dig in and understand what’s being used and to make quick, smart decisions there, too.
“We’re creating an opportunity to make every electrical panel smart in every home. That is an opportunity for every integrator to work with every client and really introduce a new baseline to the home that defines how everything else is going to work because, if you don’t have power, then you don’t have anything else.”
The Savant Power System is designed to make energy usage smart in any home — whether they are a Savant customer or not (though additional features and services become available if working in the full Savant control ecosystem). The system starts at the breaker box with Savant Power Modules that fit into regular breaker spaces and not only allow monitoring and management to take place, but also look very cool in a space that hasn’t changed much in 50 years.
“The Power Modules allow for monitoring and management of every circuit in the home, and we make them in different flavors — dual 20-amp, single 30-amp, and single 60-amp — to accommodate all different circuits,” says Roberts. And because they are designed to fit into standard breaker bays, it makes for an easy retrofit or to be included right from the start of the building process.
Having this one component alone already changes how the house is run. Using the Savant app, homeowners can see how much energy they are consuming and be notified of energy trends as well as abnormal activity, allowing them to make intelligent energy decisions.
“We can start taking advantage of all of that energy monitoring,” says Roberts. “We can test circuits, so the electrician can fully verify that entire solution before anything else happens in the home. We’re pairing a monitoring device — phone, tablet — with these Modules through Bluetooth. It extracts the information and provides us with the capability to set and start layering in smart energy functionality.”
The Power Modules are configured to show the circuit name they are connected to, removing the need for marker scrawlings or masking-tape labels all over the inside of the breaker box.
The possibilities and efficiencies expand when you add other sources of power beyond the grid, such as a generator and solar energy. “With a battery combination, there are two main pieces,” says Roberts. “It’s the storage itself that we think of as the battery, and then there’s a what we call an inverter that transitions the power from the stored battery into AC for use in the home. We coordinate that to create a smart energy experience. We need to be able to talk to the system to understand how much energy is being stored, what’s the total battery capacity, how long can the home be energized with the circuits that are currently active, and how much real-time power can be delivered to the home at any given time.”
With solar energy and a generator in place, the Savant Power System allows the user to decide on a very granular level what circuits should be active based on the available power source. For example, while the house is in full sunlight, perhaps solar power does it all, or maybe it is a mix of solar and grid power until battery storage is at full charge. The Savant Power System can also be configured to pull power from the grid and charge the battery storage only in the late evening hours when rates are at their lowest. All the while constantly detailing how much power is being provided, stored, and used.
In the event of a power failure, the system notifies the user through push messaging and, depending on if a generator and/or battery storage solution is available and its capacity, the Savant Power System can automatically shed circuits that have been identified as non-critical. Critical or essential circuits can be changed on the fly, which is a big difference from a typical generator installation: Savant Power Modules replace the need for the traditional critical load panel that only provides access to a limited number of pre-wired circuits. In contrast, the Savant Power System makes every circuit in the whole home available, giving the homeowner a choice on what to power and for how long based on available storage or generator capacity.
It also helps portion out that power to maximize what the battery can provide and for how long. “Depending on your backup power solution, there’s only so much to go around,” says Roberts. “We’ve already selected a combination of things that fit inside the pre-determined power budget and what are considered the essentials of what we might want to use, but this is where we empower the homeowner to select any other combination that they want, which typically follows how the day unfolds — you need different things as you’re getting home from work, cooking dinner, or overnight.
“Beyond the owners selecting an energy scene directly, scenes can automatically engage for them. When the integrator configures the system, they can create energy scenes based on conditions, such as when the battery gets down to 50 percent, the system sheds some of the non-essential areas. If it’s down to 25 percent, more cuts are made, and again at 10 percent, and so on. The Savant Power System can make sure that the energy lasts as long as possible.”
To ensure ease of installation — and to keep electricians happy — Savant has collaborated with the biggest names in residential power to make sure that the Savant Power System is compatible with industry-leading panels, including Schneider Electric, Siemens, Eaton, and ABB GE PowerMark Gold.
Savant has also partnered with the major home energy storage providers to ensure that the Savant Power System plays nice with them as well. Its recently announced battery/inverter partnerships include Schneider Electric, Fortress Power, Sol-Ark, and HomeGrid, powered by Lithion.
You don’t have to be a Savant dealer to take advantage of these relationships, however. Savant does offer complete out-of-the-box systems for their dealers.
And although Savant has not partnered with any electric car chargers yet, the system can make any car charger into a smart car charger, saving a considerable amount of money for the homeowner as this growing automotive trend continues to take hold.
Related: Smart Lighting and Climate Change
Spreading the Word
Naturally, changing the way the world views whole-home electricity will take a lot of education to a whole lot of individuals, including consumers, integrators, electricians, builders, designers, and so on.
“It starts with education at the consumer level,” says JC Murphy, president of Savant. “We have to present the data in a digestible form, which is first informing the homeowner the amount of energy that the home is consuming at a level that is familiar to them — like the refrigerator, lights, hot water heater, and things like that. But once you expose them to the ability to monitor what’s happening, the secret sauce is now we’ve given them the ability to control that at a very granular level. If you give them an easy way to monitor that energy consumption and an easy way for them to eliminate energy consumption when it is not needed, that’s the fundamental use case.
“We are working with integrators on our advisor council, and what they love is that this is a relatively inexpensive thing to put on every job. It’s the foundation element. Regardless of whether you’re going to have a generator later on, or you’re going to buy a bunch of electric vehicles, or you’re going to go down the path of solar, or you’re going to have battery backup — the Savant Power System is the foundation that starts it all.”
“This is going to look like change to the electrical contractors and the builders you work with,” adds Roberts. “But I think that the way Savant has brought the solution together, with compatibility to their favorite brands, marries in with what they’re already doing. And I think they see that pretty quickly and understand that there’s an application for every customer that they work with. They’re looking at it as a real opportunity.
“What’s interesting about the approach of how we’re delivering this to market is how we’re packaging it up for the integrator as well to include circuit monitoring, management, and battery storage. We take the guesswork and extra engineering time out of the equation.”
“The classic CEDIA integrator already has good trade partnerships,” concludes Murphy, “and now they have a smart power offering that is compatible and a value-add to the work being done by the solar and generator installer.”