PV systems are 25-year assets, and we probably don’t think enough about how long that is and what it means for a solar installation business. In the last 25 years, we’ve seen PV system prices plummet and energy efficiency become a home appliance expectation. We’re just at the start of the electrification of pretty much everything, too. Then comes the Nest thermostats, Alexa and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. You get it. But note how all of these tech trends are blending and building upon each other. Imagine what another five or 10 years will bring, let alone the next 25.
We at Solar Builder believe it’s important for solar installers to arm themselves with products and services that have an eye toward the potential opportunities and challenges of this nebulous future. If you are nodding your head in agreement (or even if you’re nodding asleep), you should check out Lumin’s energy management platform.
We first heard about Lumin at Solar Power International 2019 when it teamed up with sonnen’s home automation system. Lumin can basically turn any old standard circuit breaker into a smart, responsive IoT device. The most salient use case today is its ability to increase energy storage adoption by simplifying system design and installation.
“At Lumin, we are obsessed with making ordinary circuits in an electrical panel smart and responsive,” says Kevin O’Shea, co-founder and CCO of Lumin. “One of the ‘up the middle’ use cases is governing an electrical panel with a storage system attached such that maximum power outputs are not exceeded.”
How it works
Lumin doesn’t require any replacement of any existing equipment. It is a device that simply mounts below and fixes into the existing electric panel. From there, it acts as a load governor and responds to really any situation specified. If the storage system has a max, the system intelligently sheds loads when necessary to avoid installation of extra hardware and all of the system limitations that come with it.
“You don’t need to have a conversation with a customer about only being able to back up a small subset of loads with the storage system,” O’Shea notes. “And it helps streamline the installation process. These are big wins for the installer and homeowner.”
Beyond circuit breakers, Lumin is also agnostic in terms of the storage technology installed (DC or AC coupled) but also has partnerships with sonnen, Tesla, Pika (now Generac), LG and other leading energy storage manufacturers.
What about just solar?
Installing Lumin in advance of the energy storage system can give the homeowner and installer greater visibility into the home’s energy usage and maximum power demand over various seasons and lead to a properly sized system.
But why stop there? Consider the possibilities of adding Lumin intelligence to the grid edge to help with increasingly common homeowner scenarios such as:
- Demand charge mitigation
- Tine of use pricing response
- General home energy assistant
- Grid services and demand response
What the future holds
Lumin homeowners can check out their current power demand, create schedules (like turning off circuits that aren’t needed during specific times or days) or simply cut out standby loads (awesomely labeled “vampire slayer” in the demo). But there’s a lot more to the technology.
The off grid mode specifies the circuits that should be protected in an outage, which can also be reconfigured on the fly, but will always be set to shed bigger loads to not kill the battery or exceed the max power output. Lumin eliminates the need for a protected loads panel because all protected circuits can remain on the main panel and larger ones shed as needed.
While all of the data and functionality is great, an average homeowner likely won’t intuitively understand how to best put it into use. In that way, Lumin smartens up the homeowner right along with the circuit breaker. Consider a scenario such as: the battery is at 72 percent and the sun isn’t shining.
“We know what the max power output and capacity of the system is, so we can really see Lumin act as the quarterback,” O’Shea notes. “If you said ‘I want to dry my clothes now,’ Lumin could respond and say ‘hey, go ahead, but if you do, it will cost 2.2 hours of battery time.’ It is informed decision-making, and essential for the future personal microgrid of tomorrow.”
— Solar Builder magazine