A circuit breaker in your home is an essential device. It will cut the power whenever too much current flows through an electrical wiring. This protects your home from potential fires caused by electricity overload and equipment failures.
How Breakers Work
Most of today’s circuit breakers in homes are simple electromechanical devices sitting idle in the basement. They function also as the distribution points for all the wires in the house. The breakers monitor the power and light sockets in the different parts of the house, with separate breakers regulating the individual appliances. Because of this function, it has the great potential to manage energy use in the house.
Circuit breakers are a multimillion-dollar business and their future looks bright and promising. The global market for circuit breakers can grow to as much as $19 billion by the end of this decade. New versions that feature computing power and wireless connectivity will transform it into a device that will be more like a smartphone or a smart meter.
The smart circuit breaker creates a bold impact in the market. It allows utility companies and building owners to track power supplied by the grid and the on-site distribution of energy resources. When most of the buildings have smart circuit breakers, they will be able to augment or replace equipment that utilities and buildings are using today.
A circuit breaker is made smart by adding electronics to it. That’s the idea behind the field trial conducted by Eaton’s energy management circuit breaker (EMCB). Eaton, the giant electrical equipment manufacturer deployed smart circuit breakers last year in 500 homes connected with various US utilities. It will be working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to determine the viability of accurately collecting and sharing data, receiving and sending control to other smart equipment such as water heaters and thermostats, including shifting homes on and off the power grids during emergencies.
Studies are ongoing to understand the potential value and functionality of the device to control solar power and storage. The smart circuit breaker will also be functional in electric vehicle application because these will work with the 240-volt EV charging equipment.
The Digital Breaker
A digital breaker lacks mechanical parts, making it safer and more reliable. It can cut circuit in 250 nanoseconds, a lot faster than the mechanical breaker. The program running the digital breaker has online updates, allowing the addition of new features. And like most smart-energy devices, it has a smart home app to control the digital circuit breaker.
The smart circuit breaker has an impressive array of capabilities, such as the ability to measure the rpm of the refrigerator’s compressor. It will detect how hard an appliance is working and also warn about an impending breakdown.
The smart circuit breaker is a useful innovation, but its success will depend largely on how manufacturers can produce solid-state breakers at the cheapest price possible. If the electronic circuits are into a single chip, the manufacturer could save a lot of dollars and sell the device at a very low price.
Different electrical giants are betting on this new technology, investing money for the development of the circuit breaker that will revolutionize the industry.