Smart circuit-breakers for energy-efficient homes

Nov 23, 2017

Let there be light

IN THE future, homes will use electricity much more sensibly than they do now: turning the lights off automatically when no one is around; adjusting the heating regularly to suit a householder’s daily routine; making sure the electric car is charged up using off-peak rates; even drawing power from the car’s battery in the event of a grid outage. A variety of plug-in devices can already do some of these things. Yet lurking in every home, usually in a dark cupboard or down in the basement, is a humble piece of equipment that, with a bit of tweaking, could replace them all with a single command centre.

The equipment concerned is often referred to as a fuse box, although nowadays it is unlikely to use actual fuses—strands of wire that cut off the current by melting in the event of a power surge. Instead, such boxes contain a panel of electromechanical switches called circuit breakers. Typically, a breaker contains an electromagnet through which the...

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