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Smart Home

Enphase aims to unite your solar panels with the smart grid

Enphase's new Energy Management System works with the smart grid to give you greater control over your energy consumption.

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Enphase's AC battery. Enphase

In cities where the smart electric grid is the new norm, analog meters have been tossed out in exchange for digital versions. These "smart" meters supposedly grant grid customers access to all sorts of information about their energy usage (I've never seen one of these elusive devices in person, however: here's a map of some major smart grid project sites in the US). To make the most of these stats, companies such as Enphase are launching Energy Management Systems (EMSs).

"Energy Management System" is a very dull name for an integrated, whole-home kit that lets you see details about your daily consumption on your connected device of choice. Essentially, it takes all of that once-proprietary electric company info and delivers it to your phone so you can make informed decisions about how and when you use certain appliances. Pretty nifty if you ask me.

There are a lot of potential applications for these kits now that the grid is embracing its own version of the open API (smart home and large appliance brands like Nest and Whirlpool were made for this sort of integration, for instance), but Enphase's new EMS is specifically geared toward the solar panel industry.

Microinverters are central to Enphase's EMS. Traditional inverters collect DC power from a whole mess of solar panels at once and if one solar panel fails or if the inverter fails, you're out of luck until the necessary repairs are made. Microinverters, on the other hand, attach to solar panels and gather the DC power individually -- less risky, but potentially more expensive.

The Envoy-S acts as the hub for the EMS. This Wi-Fi-enabled indoor/outdoor device is designed to give detailed meter read-outs of solar production, energy usage and more; Enphase offers an optional cellular modem through AT&T's machine-to-machine data plan too. The kit also comes with an AC battery so you can store energy for future use. And you can view everything on the Enlighten software interface, giving you on-the-go access to all things grid- and solar panel-related.

Since solar panels haven't hit the home and business mainstream and the smart grid is still largely in development, Enphase's EMS may not have broad appeal. Looking forward, though, there are so many possibilities for EMSs and the smart home. Enphase's EMS will be available in the US in the second half of 2015, with plans to expand to Australia and the UK eventually; there are no details on pricing just yet.

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