In the events leading up to CEDIA Expo 2022, the air was abuzz with an electric energy. From exhibitor announcements to some of CEDIA’s own programming, there was a clear focus being placed on energy and its role in the built environment. Then, come the day of the expo, experts in smart home control, solar, energy storage and more convened during The Role of Energy Management in the Future Home educational session to bring integrators up to speed on the emerging category.
It might be easy to write off the current popularity resulting from the Inflation Reduction Act’s rebates surrounding the solution, but the experts assured a far different trend is playing out in the home. Much like how COVID-19 brought air quality to the forefront of public perception, so too are a variety of factors turning energy into a core focus among homeowners, and they see integrators as being the key in enabling more resilient and more independent homes.
Why Interest in Energy Management Will Continue to Rise
1. Energy Monitoring is Already a Core Focus Among Homeowners
Led by Chris White, an analyst at Parks Associates, the panel began with a simple percentage: 44%. That’s how many Americans, he said, monitor their energy—manually or otherwise. However, it’s that other 56% that the panelists found noteworthy: the grouping of people that either needed assistance in monitoring or were not aware monitoring solutions exist.
As Brad Wills, Strategic Direct of Schneider Electric, saw it, the average consumer isn’t tuned into the specifics of power consumption throughout the home, nor should they have to be. The interaction, as most consumers envision it, should play out like thermostats, where it, for the most part, sits in the background of the home. However, the rising cost of electricity has people eyeballing the meter far more often.
Wayne Morrison, Principal, Emerging Technologies, Reliant Energies, also offered his own take, citing customization and control in energy as being more desired than most people think. As a utility provider in Texas, Morrison engages in one of the most competitive utility markets in the country, and consumer choice is a huge part of the over 1,000 price plans offered by over 40 utility companies.
That ability to customize their energy services, he said, is what homeowners are after, and once they realize there are solutions out there that allow them to do it at a home level, there will be a lot of people that seek out those solutions.
2. The Electrification of All is Putting a Major Strain on Aging Grids
Vera Gavrilovich, VP of Marketing, Sunnova, echoed the sentiment of Wills, stating that as prices have risen and blackouts have become more frequent, people are looking at their energy consumption more. As she sees it, the situation playing out now is much akin to the ‘gold rush’ that occurred when solar first rose to popularity, and its causing adoption to rise yet again.
The increased electrification that is occurring across the United States is going to place an incredible demand on an already aging grid, they say. Outages that are already a common occurrence will become even more frequent, and this is where the COVID/Air Quality comparisons come into play, the experts said. People are going to seek resiliency in the face of an unreliable and expensive grid.
The spot where integrators step in, however, is where other industries leave off. Despite consumer demand for it, solar installers and electricians simply aren’t interested in providing solutions like smart energy management or intelligent storage systems. For them, their job is to go in, add the utility and function to the home, and head out, the experts noted, and the integrators are left to do what they do best: provide a better home experience.
3. EVs Are Becoming More Prominent in Homes
Another number that was brought up from the same study was 16%:, which is percentage of non-EV owners that are interested in buying an EV. That’s up from 10% last year, and it’s not just people looking to save on gas bills. Many are interested in luxury, high-performance EVs as well, stated White.
For those people that own an EV, charging behavior then boils down to 2 locations: work and home. However, considering the number of people who regularly work from home, or whose workplaces simply don’t have the infrastructure in place, home becomes the only option. But, the experts stated, it isn’t as easy as plugging the car into the wall outlet.
Traditional wall outlets, at most, only charge up to 15 miles of range per hour, further increasing the need for a purpose-made EV charger in the home. However, if not properly managed, an EV charger can cause massive spikes in home energy consumption, potentially causing damage to the local grid. That leaves a genuine need for professional energy management in these settings.
How Will Home Technology Professionals Factor into the Trend?
Calling back to EVs, Will Dillon, Chief Innovation Officer at Savant, said one of the most salient benefits to a smart energy management system is dynamic charging and intelligent load management. Such features, made possible by products currently available to integrators, can make it so the spike flattens, drawing power from areas of the home not in use so a massive electrical overhaul isn’t required to accommodate a charger.
The only stipulation, he threw out, was that integrators would need to offer up these ideas as suggestions to homeowners, rather than waiting for requests, as it’s likely most homeowners won’t be aware such a thing is possible in the home.
Wills also highlighted the technical experience integrators bring to the table. Yes, he admitted, they would still need to work with a licensed electrician on certain parts, but with regards to bringing the whole system together, integrators already design systems of similar complexity for AV. “Power becomes a very similar thing,” he said, “Just told in a different language.”
Morrison again stressed the importance of convenience, customizability and control that integrators can bring to homeowners. With automation and security being two massive categories integrators will be able to easily incorporate energy management into robust control systems with real-time notifications that will make the experience for homeowners even better.
Partnerships and products, Gavrilovich, stated, shouldn’t be discounted either. Twenty-five companies already have residential batteries that are linked to integrator buying groups, while companies like Sunnova and Schneider will even partner with dealers to design systems that best fit the needs of homeowners.
What Lies in Store Next for Residential Energy?
The next 20 to 30 years are going to be exciting, the experts stated. As developments like government incentives and greater ease of installation progress, the demand and interest will only continue to rise. From there, what’s being done in pilot programs today is likely to reach greater prominence sooner than expected.
For Karen Gough, VP of Channel Sales, Span.io, EVs will be able to develop as more symbiotic additions to a home. Essentially, she said, the car itself will become a potential battery for the home. It’s already in the process of being explored, but greater control and regulations are going to be needed.
Wills, meanwhile, said the profusion of solutions will eventually contribute to community microgrids, which will allow entire neighborhoods to become more self-sufficient through automation and intelligent storage. Solar will further drive adaptability and resilience in these homes, stated Gavrilovich, and it’s not too far off from where we are now.
In closing, the panel stressed this excitement for the years to come: a big boom window, as they saw it. It’ll be one where integrators have a distinct opportunity to get in on the ground floor to a new growing market, and, most importantly, solidify their reputation as curators of enhanced electronic experiences in the home.