Sense Launches Open Source Effort to Accelerate Electrification of Homes Without Service Upgrades

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December 8, 2021

Sense announced a new standards-based open source effort to enable software to automatically adjust the power use of edge devices in the home. The new project, Real-Time Power Management Protocol (or RT-PMP), will accelerate the transition to a low carbon future when homes increasingly rely on electricity—without the need for major upgrades to the electrical system. With software for real-time control, electric vehicle chargers, HVAC systems and other high-load devices will adaptively vary their power usage to avoid overloading the home’s electrical panel capacity and reduce strain on the grid.

Said Sense CEO Mike Phillips: “At Sense, we’ve been working on making homes smart using real-time energy monitoring and engaging consumer applications, and have created software for interfacing with devices in the home for control and automation. We’ve decided to make this communication software available as open source, and are working with partners to speed the adoption of the automation and demand flexibility we all know is needed to equitably provide a low-carbon and resilient energy system.”

Said James Jackson, Director of Utility and Energy Programs at Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions: “With the growing need for electrification and the challenges with many homeowners needing to make an investment in their electrical panels, the next logical step is to go past just knowing what loads are on. Moving to a smart home infrastructure where the major appliances coordinate based on need will help homeowners and energy programs make the transition to efficient electric heating and water heating with lower investment and disruption.”

Smarter homes and buildings will play an important role in decarbonizing global energy use. Homes and buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of global energy use and related CO2 emissions and also play a significant role in the electrification of transportation since over 80% of EV charging happens at home.

The path to decarbonization includes electrification of most major energy uses in homes and buildings, as well as increasing amounts of distributed generation and storage.  Without smart control, these new patterns of electricity use will require significant investments in the capacity of electrical systems, not only in the transmission and distribution networks but all the way into homes and buildings. On the current path, significant numbers of electrical panels, service feeds, and transformers will need to be replaced.

Real-time energy monitoring along with software control of edge devices provides a less costly  path that solves this problem, making the electrification transition more equitable and accessible for all households.

Based on an analysis of over 3500 homes throughout North America, Sense has found that by having smart control of just a few major energy consumers in a home (EV charging stations, heat pumps, water heaters), existing infrastructure in most homes can handle all planned future residential loads with no significant disruption to the occupants of the home. If new electrical loads include smart real-time control, Sense has found that more than 98% of homes could stay below their current panel limits by dynamically controlling these new loads less than 1% of the time.

To do this requires tight measurement and control to stay within capacity limits. For some homes, an electrical panel upgrade with direct breaker control may be needed. But in many homes, the same benefits can be achieved through real-time energy monitoring and tight software control of just a small number of edge devices that are major consumers of energy. The software control needs to be low latency and have strong security and fail-safe mechanisms.

RT-PMP is a set of standards-based protocols and software modules to allow this level of energy control in homes and buildings. Sense is making this available as open source under the MIT open source license and enlisting partners to contribute. An initial version will be available for preview in Q1 2022 and will be supported in future Sense products.

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