The best smart panel? It depends on your home.

Different panels solve different problems

Written by:
Updated May 22, 2024
7 min read
A variety of smart panels from multiple leading brands

Looking to upgrade your old breaker box to a new, internet-connected smart electrical panel? The right choice depends on your home and your goals.

Do you want to make the most of a new solar battery

Do you want to use your panel to run your smart home?

Do you need a new code-compliant, future-proofed panel for a new build or gut renovation?

Are you buying an EV charger, heat pump, or induction stove and looking for a way to avoid an expensive electrical service upgrade?

Here’s how to pick the right smart panel for your unique needs.

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Panel
Strengths
Weaknesses
Price
LuminGreat add-on for solar batteries. Some smart-home chops.Only “smartens” 12 circuits, but is still relatively expensive.$2,500 for the panel. Up to $5,000 w/ installation.
SpanA full, code-compliant electrical panel. Every circuit is controllable via app. Can help sidestep an expensive electric service upgrade.Expensive. Long-term durability and repairability is unknown.$3,500 for the panel. Up to $10,000 w/ installation, but typically less.
SavantModular; “smarten” as many or as few circuits as you need. Can work alongside smart light switches and outlets.Each module eats up an extra space inside your breaker box. Somewhat fewer features.$120-$240 per module, before installation.
Schneider Home PulseA full, code-compliant electrical panel. Built to work well with solar + storage. Based on a proven panel design (by Square D).None of the circuits are controllable by default; you add extra Wiser modules to circuits as you like—based around Savant tech, but not identical.$2,999 before installation.

Our picks: Essentially any smart electrical panel—it depends on the specifics. But Lumin is a good place to start.

One solar battery probably can’t run all the stuff in your home, or at least not for very long. So you’ll need a way to make sure you don’t try to draw too much power at once, or run through your power too fast when you’re unsure of how long a power outage might last. 

The most common workaround: Only connect the battery to some of your circuits—usually the really important stuff like the fridge, sump pump, and entertainment center, and maybe the HVAC system if there’s enough capacity.

There’s a basic old-school way to do this, with a standard critical loads sub-panel. It’s the same strategy that installers have used with backup generators for decades.

A smart panel offers extra flexibility. It works like an air traffic controller between your solar battery and your home’s energy needs, monitoring your power usage and adjusting the power flow based on rules that you (or your installer) set in an app. In some cases, a smart panel will also let you change your mind about which appliances you want to keep backed up, without hiring an electrician to require the sub panel for you.  

As long as you don’t already need an entirely new electrical panel, the Lumin Smart Panel makes a lot of sense in this scenario. It’s a sub-panel but smarter, with energy monitoring and enough flexibility to adjust energy management settings through an app in real time, if that’s important to you.

That said, any smart panel or energy manager can be a fine solution for this problem. If you’re excited about features you can only get in the Span, that’s also a fine choice for many solar batteries. Ditto for Savant, Schneider Home Pulse, and Leviton Load Center. Each has pros and cons. (EnergySage is owned by Schneider Electric, manufacturers of the Pulse panel.)

Alternatives: If you don’t care as much about hands-on control, a simpler smart load controller can also be a great way to manage a solar battery, usually for less money than a smart panel. Your battery-maker might even make a smart load controller that is purpose-built to work with their product.

Our picks: Span’s everything-is-automatically-connected approach feels powerful and is easy to understand. Get it if you want it. “Smart circuit” systems from Savant, Schneider Electric, and Leviton offer as much control as most people realistically need, and can cost less. 

If you like to control your home through apps and assistants and that kind of thing, you have options. 

Span feels like the most powerful choice. By default, you can control, manage, program, and otherwise fiddle with every single circuit in your home through one app.

But most homes aren’t wired in a way to make the most of these capabilities. Multiple rooms’ worth of overhead lights are often shared on a single circuit, so you can’t automate your lighting with as much nuance as you’d get with smart bulbs or smart light switches. You’d need another controller on top of the Span to get a proper smart-home experience anyway. 

On the other hand, circuit-level control does make sense with large appliances: HVAC, electric stove, water heater, EV charger, hot tub, and so on. Each of those devices almost always gets its own circuit in your breaker box—so controlling the circuit is essentially the same as controlling the device. 

You might only have a half-dozen major circuits like those in your home, though, so it could make more sense to add smart control only to those circuits. The Leviton Load Center and Schneider Home Pulse are full panels that make it easy to add and control “smart circuits” where you want them, or smart switches or outlets where those would make more sense. The Savant system does the same without the need to install an entire new panel. The Lumin sub-panel could be a good fit, too.

Alternatives: You don’t need to funnel your smart home gear through a smart electrical panel, and a smart electrical panel doesn’t need to be the center of your smart home. If you want smart home control but don’t have any use for a smart panel otherwise, you could get better results with something much less expensive and easier to install. An energy monitor like the Sense or Emporia Vue plus a smart home hub should suit you fine. Of course there are loads of individual smart home gadgets, including smart light switches and outlets. If all you really want from a smart panel is the ability to cut the power to some circuits in an emergency, you could look into individual smart breakers from Eaton, Tuya, or others.

Our picks: This is the ideal time to add a brand-new, full-size smart electrical panel like the Span or Schneider Home Pulse.

In some parts of the country, new building codes mandate an electrical system that makes it easy to tie in solar panels and a battery backup. Many smart panels meet those requirements more elegantly than traditional setups would, with clunky main-panel / sub-panel designs. So, if you’re building a new home or doing a gut renovation, consider a smart panel.

And even if you don’t need to add a smart panel, a new build or renovation is a great opportunity to put in a future-proofed electrical system—something that’ll make it easy to eventually go solar, get a battery, drive a couple of EVs, and run a whole house full of electric appliances. Even if you aren’t adding all that stuff today, the smart panel could come in handy later.

Alternatives: You always have the option to install a traditional non-smart main breaker box, plus non-smart sub-panels and / or load controllers. The equipment itself will be relatively inexpensive. But you’ll have more gray boxes and cable conduits mounted on the side of your house or in your utility closet, and that could also mean more labor hours for your electrician. You won’t get the flexibility offered by a smart panel, either.

Our picks: This is a great case for the Span. It could be a cost-effective workaround if you want an all-electric home but will need more power than your existing connection can provide.

All-electric heating, cooling, cooking, and driving can demand a lot of power, especially when you need to run some of them simultaneously. Homes that were built for fossil-fueled appliances might need an upgrade to their electrical service (the size of the wire feeding power from the street to the main breaker box) to keep things working smoothly. 

There’s a healthy debate about when and where a service upgrade is truly necessary. (We cover the ins and outs in another guide.) But at times of peak power needs, like a hot night in July or a frigid morning in February, homes with 100 amps of service could come up short and the main breaker could trip—which is not only inconvenient but potentially bad for your appliances and electrical equipment.

Sometimes, a traditional service upgrade is brutally expensive, or could have a months-long waitlist. In that case, a smart panel can let you keep your existing service—but use it more intelligently. Certain panels are smart enough to sense when you’re about to draw too much power at once, then automatically and immediately selectively shut down your least-important circuits (that you’ve pre-chosen in an app) to ensure that your most important circuits keep running.

Right now, the Span is the best smart panel for this use case. Schneider Electric has told us that the Wiser modules that work with their Pulse panel will eventually be able to do this, but the feature isn’t currently available.

Alternatives: In a borderline case, where your service line can handle almost all of your post-electrification demands except for an EV, you could just manage the EV charger directly. Qmerit, a big broker for EV charger installations, has told us that they scope these load-shedding or circuit-sharing devices into their jobs about a quarter of the time. Some EV chargers even have built-in load-shedding features.

EnergySage can help you find a contractor for your next clean energy upgrades. Whether it’s solar and storage, a heat pump, an EV charger, or a new electrical panel, we can get you in touch with vetted local installers through the EnergySage Marketplace.

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