Span is expanding its smart home infrastructure offerings with a new EV charging system and a smart electrical panel designed for homes where the circuit-breaker panel is integrated with the electric utility’s meter.
Span’s first product, the Span Panel, gives the homeowner circuit-level control over their home’s electrical system. When combined with the company’s smartphone app, the system can not only analyze power consumption to the device level, it can also identify consumption anomalies caused by malfunctioning appliances, a feature Span likens to an automobile’s check-engine light.
Products like Sense can similarly analyze and report on your home’s electricity consumption by attaching sensors to the cables delivering power to your home from the utility. As such, they cost considerably less than Span’s $3,500 solution, but they can’t turn circuits on and off, and they aren’t as accurate at identifying individual devices since they’re limited to analyzing consumption patterns. With Span’s product, you know precisely which circuits your electric range, clothes dryer, oven, water heater, and so on are utilizing because the Span panel itself controls those circuits.
The panel connects to your Wi-Fi network, and using the app, you can turn any circuit on or off with the touch of a button. The panel can also be integrated with solar panels, allowing it to track the amount of energy your home produces, and—if you have a grid-tied system—it will report how much power you’re sending to the grid. Finally, it can be connected to a whole-home battery, which means you can choose the circuits that the battery will power (the ones controlling your refrigerator and freezer, for example) and which will be shut off during a blackout.
The new panel announced today, the Span Meter Panel ($3,950), is essentially the same device as the first Span Panel, but this updated product is designed as a drop-in replacement for homes where the circuit-breaker panel and the electric utility’s metering device are integrated. Both the new and the original panel can also work in concert with a utility’s demand-response program to better match demand for power with supply, reducing consumption when demand is high and shifting it to times where supply is more plentiful.
In an interview with Span founder and CEO, Arch Rao, Rao told me the company is working on a new feature that will allow a Span panel to change the set point on the home’s thermostat—even an old-school dumb thermostat—to reduce the HVAC system’s energy consumption. “The panel will talk directly to the [HVAC system’s] air exchanger if you don’t have a smart thermostat,” Rao said.
The company’s second new product, the Span Drive ($500), is an electric vehicle charging system for the home that works in concert with either of the company’s electrical panels. Since the panels know precisely how much electricity is available—and how much is needed—at any given moment, they can throttle down low-priority circuits to shunt more power (as much as 48 amps) to the Span Drive. Other features include charge scheduling, so you can charge your vehicle when your utility’s electric rates are the lowest; dynamic charging speed, so you can tap your home’s backup battery during a power outage; and wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G LTE) to a Span panel. In homes that have solar panels installed, users will also be able switch from grid power to solar power to charge their EV.
Span also announced a new partnership with Sunrun, under which the nationwide solar-panel installer will offer its customers the option to incorporate Span’s electrical panels and EV charging product into Sunrun’s solar and battery-backup product offerings.
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Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.