Homeowners make decisions everyday about their residences. Paint colors, landscaping, furniture, for instance. Energy is going to increasingly be part of that decision-making. Here’s a look at what ECC sees ahead.

What drives the change? Two broad themes: Technology – Everything is increasingly connected, faster, accurate. Consumerism – Everyone wants it his or her own way.

One report said it like this: “As digital technologies are increasingly applied to the energy infrastructure and prosumers adopt distributed generation and storage solutions, grid technologies will become increasingly more distributed.”

Distributed means closer to the customer in this case. Closer can mean there are more decisions to make.

By the way, prosumers combines the words producer and consumer. It was created to reflect the more active role consumers play when goods are mass customized.

The We Economy is one term used for this: “Greater consumer choice and access, diverse competitive threats and market environments are radically shaping the energy marketplace today.”

What kinds of decisions are ahead for consumers? Here are a few thoughts.

Mundane describes the first choice: Electric outlets in the house. No electric technology does any good without power delivered well.

The first house I owned was built in 1948. Remodeling meant adding more outlets and checking the electric system, especially in the bathroom and kitchen.

Electrical updates make sense. Some 38 percent of houses in the US were built before 1969, and 80 percent before 2000. Lots has changed in technology since then. (Left, Source)

 

Municipal codes and common sense are the basis of these renovation decisions.

Remodeling needs are more obvious with the pandemic economy and spending more time at home. Maybe it is more than a homeowner’s whim. Work-from-home and learn-from-home life changes demand it. “The money they are not spending to go out to eat, on entertainment or to travel, they’re putting into their house,” said one home improver.

Some improvements affect energy use but are not electric. Like insulation. One home builder told me her energy work has been in things like insulation. “The R-value of insulation, better batting, putting in blanketed basement walls.” (Basement wall insulation, left) Easier savings. “It’s hard to make a big impact with green tech unless you go way over the top. That’s when a green certified builder comes in,” she said, though she does put in smart tech.

Smarten-up really may be the catchphrase. “If you would like to make your home life easier, installing different smart systems throughout the house is a great project. You can have everything automated and controlled remotely if you so prefer.” These are tips from an electric contractor, who says these are some options:

  • Remote controlled sprinkler system
  • Remote controlled heating and cooling
  • Remote security and video surveillance system
  • Smart thermostats
  • Smart alarms, sensors, and sirens
  • Remote controlled lights
  • Smart Hubs
  • Smart smoke alarms
  • Grocery ordering refrigerators

A dedicated equipment space is part of some new homes. One new-build townhouse I saw had a large smart space up-top in the front entrance coat closet. Ample outlets, the cable/internet connection, and a shelf for a router and other equipment. Really handy. All sealed off and out of view.

A bigger change in home power is if (when) an electric vehicle [EV] is purchased.

Charging at home can be with a Type 1 charger, power like most of your house. There’s also a Type 2. “These chargers require a bit of a more complicated setup, as they’re plugged into a 240-volt outlet – the same used by clothes dryers and ovens. The good thing is that this allows them to charge from three to seven times faster than a level one charger, depending on the electric vehicle you drive and the charger you’re using.” (Source)

Other EV suggestions: Check how much room there is on the electric panel. “The National Electrical Code requires an electric circuit to be rated for 25 percent greater amperage than your charger’s output. For instance, if you want to buy a 40-amp level two charger you’ll need a circuit breaker that’s rated at least 50 amps.”

A charging unit in a south Charlotte, NC, shopping area

Charger placement is next. One source said, “If you can, install your home charger close to your electrical panel, as your electrician may need to run a conduit from your panel to where you’ll charge, and conduit can get expensive. If you install near the garage door, that might make it easier to charge multiple cars. A weatherproof charger rated for outdoors gives you flexibility depending on if you want to park indoor or out.”

These decisions should not dissuade you from an EV, but it does show that you need to plan ahead. Expert advice on home charging is smart.

The decision to buy an EV may be based on more than improving technology. On September 23 the Governor of California signed a bill that prohibits gasoline and diesel car sales in the state by 2035. Two things to note: That is by 2035, not in 2035, so it could happen sooner. California is a big market, so it can have an outsized influence on markets everywhere. The idea could spread.

Home generators or battery back-up systems could be a home project. “Work with an electrician to install a home generator. It is easier when you are building,” said the home re-modeler.

Battery systems have lots of options. They can be whole house systems to keep the basics running in an outage. Maybe just a smaller battery can provide a stop-gap for the essentials. Perhaps it is a specialized back-up, like a sump-pump battery that keeps the system going and sends an SOS when power is out – a call for help.

(Watch for our blog that looks at smaller portable power back-ups.)

Why make any change in energy use? Residential and business users both want to reduce energy use and move to cleaner energy sources said one report. Cost management, reliability, resiliency, and power security are also on the list. The report said businesses are able to balance energy goals and costs very well.

“In contrast, residential consumers, while similarly intentioned, often seem unable to balance climate and cost concerns with the choices available to them.” Stuck in a holding pattern, says the report. Consumers weigh cost and deliberate the best technology, and then decide.

Home energy users certainly care. “Sixty-seven percent of consumers are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints.” (Source)

A catalyst is needed for homeowners to advance in energy technology. Perhaps it will be nudged, just like California will do with EVs. Maybe tax incentives. More likely, consumer education will broaden the appeal and ability to adopt innovative technologies at home.

Consumers can only do so much about clean energy. They can save energy but not really make it in large part. That’s why it is important that consumers know their local utility and voice their desire for well-run, smart energy projects that open up doors to clean energy. Make sure companies genuinely represent customers well.

The new energy future will positive for us, but it will require that consumers think ahead and plan.

This is just a start, and ECC will visit this topic again.