What you need to know when choosing a smart electrical panel
May 2, 2023 by Kevin C. Tofel 11 Comments
On a recent Internet of Things Podcast, we took a voicemail from Shane on our podcast hotline. Shane has to replace the electrical panel in his home and thinking about going with a smart electrical panel. He notes that we’ve recommended the Sense Home Energy monitoring solution in the past. However, he’s concerned that as a smaller company, Sense may not be around through the life of his breaker box. So Shane is looking for other smart electrical panel options from more established companies. He’s also considering smart outlets, not smart plugs, and smart switches. Shane wants to know what his options are for those as well, particularly for a HomeKit home.
First up, a kudos to Shane for thinking about the longevity and long-term support for his smart home. I’m not suggesting that Sense won’t be around in a few years, but it’s a valid concern for the decision making process. And to be honest, if Shane has to replace his electrical panel anyway, the time is right for a fully-featured solution.
The $299 Sense product is great for monitoring energy usage. However, a fully integrated smart panel does more than that. You can remotely disable from the app as needed.
Of course, a full featured system is going to cost much more. The price will vary based on your service amperage and the number of circuit breakers you need. Estimates range between $2,000 and $5,000 as a result. That’s because either panel, the individual circuit breakers, or both, have connectivity and smarts built in.
We researched various smart panel options and suggest Shane consider those from Legrand, Leviton and Schneider Electric. All three brands offer similar products, so the decision likely comes down to price and smart home platform compatibility. Unfortunately, none of them a direct integration with Apple HomeKit as they rely upon their own individual mobile apps.
The $2,999 Schneider Electric Energy Center uses the Wiser monitoring system, which has a special version of the Sense app. However unlike having just a Sense monitor and traditional breaker box, Schneider Electric’s SmartLoad system does allow for remote disabling of circuits.
To get a better idea of what all three of these smart panels offer, I’ll use this Leviton video to illustrate. It provides a solid overview of the features and smart functionality through the mobile app:
Again, all three of these options are similar in what they offer. Pricing can be a challenge to find, so you may need to seek out an electrician on that front. You’d be relying on one anyway for the installation and I’m sure different electricians can offer their own perspective on the various options.
When it comes to smart outlets, not the plug in type used with existing outlets, there are plenty of options available. And you’ll find better smart home platform compatibility. Leviton’s smart outlets, for example, work with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, IFTTT, SmartThings and Schlage systems. Leviton also says it will provide Matter updates to its Decora Smart switches later this year.
And, important for Shane’s requirements, the company also has smart GFCI outlets. (Update: Leviton has connected GFCI breakers but not connected GFCI outlets.) Schnieder Electric offers connected outlets with GFCI protection as well but we couldn’t find one from Legrand. We did reach out to Legrand asking about that but did not get a response. Legrand does, however, offer smart outlets similar to those from Leviton and Schneider Electric.
From a smart switch perspective, there are options aplenty. Meaning you don’t have to get switches with the same brand as your smart panel. The panels monitor entire circuits, which would include switches on those circuits. So, for example, you could buy any of the above mentioned smart panels and use switches from GE, Lutron, TP-Link or any other vendor.
Just choose the ones that look nicest to you and work with your smart home system. Eventually, Matter-certified switches will open up even more options since they’ll work across ecosystems. Personally, I’d go with Lutron Caseta switches. That’s what I bought after Stacey’s years of happiness with hers.
To hear Shane’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things Podcast below:
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Filed Under: Featured, How-To Tagged With: electrical panels, energy management, energy monitoring, ge, LeGrand, Leviton, Lutron, Schneider Electric, smart outlets, smart switches, TP-Link, WeMo
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