Span Smart Electrical Panel Review: An Essential Upgrade For Your Solar-Powered Home


As you might expect, upgrading your home’s electrical panel isn’t really a DIY affair. Span starts by asking you to take pictures of all your electrical equipment and then discussing the installation process with a representative in a video chat. From there, a site visit is taken and the installation is scheduled if everything looks good. I was quoted an estimate of five to seven hours for installation; my house is big, but our electricity is quite simple. When the appointed day arrived, the installation crew arrived on time, ready to work. Naturally, my house was without power during the day, but the Span team bought some big portable batteries so I could run my router, refrigerator, and other essentials. They even offered to buy me lunch, as I needed to be on site for most of the process to answer questions about the different tours and how to set them up. While the installation took about nine hours, the crew were professional and clearly knowledgeable, and a few days later Span dispatched a handyman to fix the holes left in the drywall.

After a brief training session, I found myself working directly with the system. It didn’t take long to see exactly how much I had missed. The main screen of the app shows where the energy comes from (solar, battery or grid) and where it goes (at home, to the battery or to the grid), all in real time. From there, it’s easy to explore and gain insight into (almost) every circuit in my house, detailing the current power consumption of each circuit and, over time, how much power is consumed. by each circuit.

But information like this is just the start. Span is also designed to give you incredible control over how your battery is used, allowing you to rank each circuit into three priority levels: Must have, Nice to have, and Not essential. In the event of a power failure, non-essential circuits will shut down, the Nice should run until the battery reaches 50% of its capacity and the Must will remain on until the battery is dead. With my old setup, circuits were either must or non-essential and, critically, there was no way to change them. Now, swapping circuits between these three groups is literally a drag and drop operation in the app.

Author’s app dashboard.

Span via Christopher Null

Why is this important? During the initial installation of the battery, my installer suggested that I put the furnace blower on the back-up circuit, so that we could continue to have heating in the event of a power failure. It was a good idea, but I soon found out that this circuit was consuming so much power that it drained the battery in under two hours – a big deal if the power goes out when the sun is not not switched off to recharge it. But there was no way to fix it. If the power was off and I was awake, I began to manually cut this circuit off completely in order to keep the battery from draining too quickly. Without Span, I would have had to hire an electrician to fix this problem. With Span, correcting this error was trivial. Another cool feature: the app offers on-the-fly estimates of battery life in the event of a failure, so you can see the likely effect of changes to your priority levels.

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