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These high-tech 'smart panels' could save you from a massively expensive home electrical upgrade

Your electrical panel is where all the circuits in your home come together in one place and receive their power.

Your electrical panel is where all the circuits in your home come together in one place and receive their power.

Photo Credit: iStock

More and more homeowners are going electric, and why wouldn't they? You save money compared to gas appliances, and it's better for the planet when paired with a clean energy source such as solar.

However, older homes weren't built with today's electricity needs in mind, and often a home's main electrical panel just isn't up to the task. As many as 48 million American homes would need upgrades to reach a modern standard, according to research cited by Utility Dive. 

Smart splitters can help, but to get all the same functionality and more cost-saving flexibility, you want a smart electrical panel.

What is a smart electrical panel?

Your electrical panel is where all the circuits in your home come together and receive their power. 

An ordinary electrical panel gives you basic control and safety features: breakers on each circuit that can be shut off manually and will shut off automatically when the connected circuit draws too much power.

A smart electrical panel puts sophisticated programs in charge of those breakers. It can track energy usage and report it to you as well as turn breakers on and off based on new criteria.

How does a smart electrical panel save me money?

This device costs about $3,000 to $4,500 for popular models (before installation and other costs, which can add a few thousand dollars), but it earns its keep. For example, if you want to use more electrical devices than your home was designed to support, you would normally need an expensive electrical panel upgrade, which can run anywhere from $2,000 to more than $30,000, according to Rewiring America.

But a smart panel will manage the overall load of your system, per Energy News Network, to let you hook up more appliances. A bit like a smart splitter, it manages the loads so the system doesn't get overloaded. You can skip the system upgrade, and the smart panel will have likely paid for itself.

Also, your smart electrical panel can track electricity prices and turn on certain appliances — such as an EV charger — when demand, and costs, are low. 

Meanwhile, if you have solar power and battery storage, your smart panel can hold on to the extra power and sell it back to the grid when the price is high. Buying low and selling high will minimize your electricity costs, and years of reduced bills add up to even more savings.

Finally, the upfront cost may qualify for an electrification rebate, per Rewiring America, making the financial decision even more appealing.

Are smart panels safe?

Electrical safety is a big deal, so smart electrical panels from major manufacturers are safety tested and certified by laboratories including UL, ETL, and CSA. As long as they're installed by a professional, they're safe and reliable.

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