January 17, 2023

Load Shedding Can Be a Viable Panel Upgrade Alternative for EV Charging


6 Min. Read

Residential and commercial electrification projects, such as installing EV charging stations, often result in increased energy consumption. This surge in power consumption naturally leads to an increased load on existing electrical panels. While a panel upgrade has traditionally been the solution for this situation, contractors and their customers should consider and discuss load shedding as a viable alternative.

This option is cost- and time-effective, but may not be an appropriate solution in every situation. It’s important to consult and work with a licensed electrician with a background in electrification services to ensure optimal safety and performance.

An Overview of load shedding

Load shedding is the calculated reduction of demand on a primary source of electrical power when the energy demand approaches or exceeds the maximum power capacity provided by that source. The primary purpose of load shedding, especially when associated with an EV charger, is to ensure that the main electrical panel is never overloaded when charging, thereby preventing the failure of the power source and resulting shutdown of equipment fed by that source. It can also be a great way for homeowners and business owners to circumvent costly electric panel upgrades in certain circumstances, but it’s important to note that load shedding is not a viable option for every situation. Working with a licensed electrician ensures you are selecting the best method for your budget, unique building circumstances, and an option that will best suit your needs.

Where is load shedding used?

On a large scale, utility providers historically use load shedding to balance peak supply and demand of energy, particularly during times of increased demand or energy shortages. If the electric demand exceeds generation capacity, the utility incurs the risk of brownouts or rolling blackouts. The result of customers losing power can have serious effects, so load shedding on this scale is vital for continued service during peak hours and severe weather situations.

On a smaller scale, residential and commercial scale load shedding occurs when utilities in certain markets, such as MISO, direct customers to load shed during emergencies. In those cases, it is controlled by the utility and you may find this occurring automatically.

Customers must comply and reduce their power usage in a timely manner or they may risk potential equipment damage due to the sudden loss of power. Utilities work to provide timely updates to customers on what steps should be taken to optimize safety and reduce energy consumption during these times as it is crucial for customers in those markets to be able to reduce power in a controlled manner.

How residential and commercial users can load shed

There are several steps to take:

  • Reduce the load. Perform an energy use analysis and determine what drives the loads. Replace the biggest users with more energy-efficient products. Examples are lighting, appliances, and HVAC. If you can significantly reduce your load, you may be able to avoid a panel expansion.
  • Install a smart panel and implement smart energy management practices. Smart panels are a key part of microgrids when combined with solar panels, battery storage, and standby generators, and this can further reduce your demand on the grid.
  • By installing a microgrid, customers can be their own utility and achieve energy independence. They can even sell energy back to utilities in certain situations.
  • On a residential or commercial scale, a load controller is an alternative to a panel upgrade. The benefits include a lower upfront cost and more user control over energy consumption. It is also highly customizable.

How an EV load controller works

An EV load controller is installed on the individual 240-volt circuit serving your EV charging unit and monitors power usage. It allows the EV charger to work when the load on the main electrical panel is below the safe capacity limit and disengages the charger when the main electrical panel reaches the safe capacity limit. This means that it will shut down the circuit during peak hours, on a schedule, or when power usage reaches a set threshold. In most homes, the electrical load on the main electrical panel is very low in the evening hours, so the EV charger can safely charge the vehicle through the night.

The customer or electrician can pre-set these limits on select circuits based on prioritized needs. For example, a customer can elect to shed non-essential circuits like electric clothes dryers, washers, home entertainment centers, water heaters, pool pumps and heaters, filters, and lighting, in order to prioritize power to circuits for heating or air conditioning, charging their electric vehicle, or other power needs deemed essential.

Load shedding strategies

One simple strategy is to set load controllers to shed non-essential circuits and shut them off during peak hours, at night, when the house is empty, or when mandated by utilities.

Another strategy is to switch from multiple sources to a whole-home battery during peak load hours. When the battery is depleted, the load controller sheds load to reduce energy consumption to an acceptable level.

Customers can get better results by combining shedding load with other electrification projects.

  • Cost is a constraint, but electrical contractors can provide support to customers to analyze the cost-benefit ratio of such projects. Some utilities may offer incentives for joining load-shedding programs. Energy-efficient appliances can reduce power consumption.
  • Solar panels paired with battery storage can add new sources of power. This system can be set to provide power when the utility load sheds, during times of weather outages, or during peak hours when electrical costs are higher.
  • Bidirectional charging is an emerging technology that can be paired with this system to further support your home and EV needs.
  • With a microgrid, standby generators can also be an additional power source.

The need for expert help

The analysis and installation work for load-shedding projects is usually not a DYI proposition. Specialized equipment to measure power consumption is necessary, as well as the expertise to perform the analysis.

In addition, the work on panels and other areas involves high voltage and amperage. Mistakes can be dangerous, costly, and even fatal. For those reasons, using licensed electricians is essential.

Things like EV chargers, battery systems, solar panels, and smart panels make expert help from a licensed electrician even more essential. Licensed electrical contractors benefit from standardized training and apprenticeship programs regulated by state and local statutes. Thus, customers need to be able to turn to electrical contractors who are not only licensed but trained in electrification methodologies and equipment.

Technology is evolving daily in many areas. If you want to position your business to compete in electrification technologies, you must be up to speed on them.

Qmerit is your answer

Qmerit is North America’s most trusted installer for electrification technologies. At Qmerit, we help customers transition to sustainable electric solutions by leveraging our network of local contractors.

We have a Certified Solutions Partner (CSP) program that allows electrical contractors to learn about new electrification technologies. We feature in-depth training and continuing education programs. We also provide business coaching workforce development for electrical contractors.

Seize the moment. Get the training and resources you need to become a leader in your local market. Contact Qmerit today to open up a new customer base for your electrical contracting company.

Author: David Santillo

David Santillo

Senior Vice President, Contractor Support