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A new way of thinking inside the box

Next-generation electrical panels—that boost reliability while offering new levels of customization and control—are coming to homes at a very critical time

A new way of thinking inside the box

Another unpleasant truth in these already anxiety-ridden times: The electricity that powers your home—that keeps your lights on, your devices running, and your rooms at a comfortable temperature—is fast becoming less reliable (and more environmentally unfriendly) with every passing year. Our nation’s fragile and aging electricity grid is simply unable to cope with surging energy demands (accelerated by work-from-home households) and the widening and unpredictable impacts of extreme-weather events. Looking to bring order to this ever-shifting landscape, Schneider Electric, an industry-leading electrical-equipment manufacturer, is harnessing an array of cutting-edge technologies—from AI to smart-home connectivity—to help homeowners meet these challenges.

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The home of the future will provide next-level protection from the effects of power disruptions (utilizing solar, battery, or other backup sources) as well as an easy path to future expansion and upgrades (from EV charging to uninterrupted power supplies). It will offer personalization and an unprecedented understanding of home-energy use, while reducing both costs and your carbon footprint. These features are among the many game-changing innovations that can be found—today—in Schneider Electric’s Square D Energy Center smart electrical panel.

AN ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION FOR THE MODERN HOME

Electrical panels—or, as they’re more commonly known, breaker boxes—are the point of entry for electricity flowing into every code-compliant home and apartment in the U.S. While the primary function—namely, the safe distribution of power—remains unchanged, the innovative Square D Energy Center arrives at a critical moment and lets homeowners monitor and control their energy usage in ways that only recently seemed unimaginable.

The Square D Energy Center is a smart electrical panel for the home that can accommodate solar, batteries, and other backup sources to protect against power disruptions.

Resiliency—maintaining an uninterrupted flow of electricity—should be a key concern for homeowners warns Bradford Wills, director of strategic customers and programs for Schneider Electric. “Our electrical grid has been neglected for decades,” Wills says, citing increased consumption, new energy-source technologies, and a confusing regulatory environment that contribute to our system’s increasingly fragile state. Power-disrupting calamities caused by extreme-weather events, such as heat wave-related blackouts; circuit-damaging power surges; and an ever-rising number of devastating floods further tax an already overburdened grid.

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As more homes install solar, batteries, and generators as secondary energy sources—of growing importance in our WFH reality—Energy Center integrates the different power sources seamlessly, consolidating them into a single device, eliminating the need for additional equipment, re-running wires, or tearing up drywall. Now, homeowners can easily change their power source from their smartphone. The Energy Center responds by redirecting it safely—and changing the breaker configuration automatically—sending electricity only to the most important appliances, or critical loads, to optimize the available nonutility power. A smart investment for owners of older homes who aren’t yet ready to upgrade or add, the Energy Center reflects a forward-thinking design that, Wills says, “reduces the cost and headaches of installing a backup source or EV charging station sometime in the future.”

GOING GREEN, SAVING GREEN

The damaging effects of home-energy usage have long been overlooked. While it’s easy to think of a smoke-spewing factory as harmful to our planet, the pollutants generated by the energy demands of our homes have just as much impact. “Housing accounts for at least 34% of this country’s CO2 emissions,” Wills says, noting that this number is actually increasing as more Americans work from home. Having a detailed picture of your electricity consumption—and the capabilities to control the use of energy-hungry devices—is good for both the planet and your wallet.

The Square D Energy Center offers real-time monitoring of energy usage at the individual device level—like an air-conditioner running when no one is at home—that can be viewed and controlled via smartphones or virtual assistants (including Alexa and Google Home). Utilizing usage history—augmented by the AI-powered Wiser Energy system—transforms Energy Center panels into “control centers that can provide homeowners with the actionable data to make energy-smart behavioral changes,” Wills says.

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Environment-friendly features such as these are a priority for Schneider Electric. Industry recognition has followed: In 2020, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) named the Square D Energy Center its Product of the Year and the winner of its Global Innovation Award. And earlier this year, a “clean capitalist” media firm reviewed the practices of more than 8,000 corporations and ranked Schneider at the top of its list of the world’s most sustainable companies.

PROTECTION AGAINST AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

As if their energy future wasn’t uncertain enough, homeowners are also facing new laws and rules as states turn to disaster-response and energy-saving regulations. New homes in California are now required to have solar photovoltaic panels (or achieve an equivalent level of energy-reduction) and will soon be required to be backup ready—even if the secondary sources have not yet been installed. The ease of modification and expansion with Square D Energy Center panels, Wills says, can reduce the cost and stress of regulatory compliance no matter where you live.

Firmly embedded in all these innovations is the idea of user-friendliness—information that can be retrieved by looking at a phone and acted on by speaking to a virtual assistant. The Square D Energy Center provides homeowners with added levels of energy resiliency at a time of growing dependence on the devices that let us collaborate with colleagues in a virtual conference, play our favorite music, and order the evening meal. “We live in a new world where everything is connected,” Willis says, “and reliability and control of our energy has never been more critical.”

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