6 New Electrical Trends Modernizing The Industry
Technology that responds to growing energy demands, plus new lifestyle products for the home, are increasing the sophistication of residential building projects and the demand for electricians who are up-to-date with emerging technologies. Not all electrical contractors are knowledgeable or have the resources to install these trending products, so having those capabilities can give you an edge and help your business grow.
Trend #1: Residential Energy Production
Growing Energy Demand
Energy demand has been growing steadily and is expected to continue accelerating into the foreseeable future. Due in part to the WFH environment fostered by the pandemic, weekday residential demand rose 20-30 percent in 2020 alone1. Wherever people work in the future, researchers predict global energy needs will grow 57 percent more by 20502.
Due to rising costs, as well as carbon footprint consciousness, more and more homeowners are becoming interested in producing and controlling their own energy supply. This is fueling the popularity of young technologies already available to the residential market, such as distributed energy resources, renewable energy and energy storage options.
Solar power is the most popular source of renewable energy in residential projects, and consumer interest continues to grow. Sales of solar panels and other components fell slightly in 2020 due to pandemic-related declines in industry activity, but the solar market is already showing signs of strong recovery and growth. Solar panels have become more efficient and inexpensive to install. Analysts expect more than 3 million to be installed in the United States in 2021 and more than 4 million in 20233. Demand is also increasing for other residential solar-powered products such as garden lighting and gate openers.
Distributed Energy Resources (DERs)
Distributed energy resources are essentially small-scale power generation technologies ranging from 1 kW to 10,000 kW. Home solar panels are part of the growing trend of distributed energy resources — a mix of solar resources, wind, vehicle charging stations, battery storage, etc. — that are giving homeowners more control over their own energy.
The growth of DERs relies on an accompanying growth in energy storage. The cost of battery storage has been falling dramatically, making it a cost-effective option for more homeowners. Storage technologies help homeowners avoid grid dependence by providing a more reliable energy supply that isn’t dependent on factors like the hours of sunlight. For homeowners who still rely at least partly on the grid, storage products can help during a power outage or allow consumers to avoid buying energy during peak-rate times.
Grid parity occurs when the price of using alternative energies – like solar – is equal to or less than the price of using power from conventional sources, such as fossil fuel electricity from the grid. Grid parity makes residential energy production a financially viable alternative rather than a luxury. Grid parity is also the point at which utilities can produce energy from renewable resources as inexpensively as from fossil fuels. With prices dropping steadily for renewable energy, grid parity has already been reached for some sources in many states, and this trend will continue to progress.
Trend #2: Building Information Modeling (BIM)
BIM uses digital 3D models to give builders a view of buildings, roads, infrastructure and utilities before construction begins. It allows projects to be built virtually before they are constructed physically, eliminating many inefficiencies and problems that can arise during the construction process. For electrical contractors and crews, it enables better coordination with other trades. For example, it’s evident in advance if electrical conduits would be blocked by a steel beam. BIM can also be used to study and develop potential solutions to promote energy efficiency.
Trend #3: LED
LED lighting is becoming more efficient, long-lived and popular every year. As more homeowners look to sustainable lighting, it’s important for electricians to be educated on high-quality lights and bulbs. They should also understand other lighting technology that can improve energy efficiency and accessibility, such as smart lighting that can be controlled via a smartphone or voice commands.
Trend #4: Internet of Things (IoT) & 5G — Smart Homes & Smart Cities
Of course, lighting isn’t the only component of homes that can be “smart” today. The Internet of Things includes many home devices that connect to the internet and communicate with each other. The popularity of these technologies is increasing as the 5G network expands across the country. Smart devices require a great deal of data and 5G has ten times the data transmission capacity of older 4G networks. 5G is also helping to spread digital technologies to more rural areas. The IoT can work a lot faster in more places now, and electricians will be seeing more and more existing and new smart technology products in home construction.
Sophisticated systems can use sensors, cameras and even machine learning to automate lighting, security, music, temperature and entertainment systems. These systems can even interact in complex ways, such as televisions that can lower their volume in response to alerts of a possible fire or intruder.
Beyond the smart home, many large and midsize American cities are implementing smart city initiatives which include clean energy goals and backup grid power systems. Future trends will probably include more integration and connectivity of smart homes with their smart cities.
Trend #5: Charging Options
Many smart devices are powered by USB cords, leading to an increase in new homes equipped with USB charging outlets. In addition, the increasing popularity of electric vehicles means more homes will be built with electric vehicle charging stations in the garage. These new charging options need to be installed properly by licensed and experienced electrical subcontractors.
Trend #6: High-Tech Safety Equipment
In addition to tech solutions to energy demand and home automation and efficiency, there are new technological advances geared directly toward the safety of your crews. For example, an innovative type of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been developed that warns users when they approach a dangerous electrical field. The wearable voltage sensor can connect to a smartphone, thereby keeping everyone on-site and in the office informed about the issue. Other wearable devices use machine learning to track conditions on a site and identify multiple types of potential hazards.
There are also permanent electrical safety devices (PESDs) that quickly and safely validate zero electrical energy from outside electrical cabinets. Small, portable ultrasonic equipment is now being used to detect conditions such as arcing, tracking, and corona which have unique sound characteristics in the ultrasound spectrum.
Learn More About SupplyPro GM With Hyphen Solutions
As your business becomes more complex, integrating newer technologies into your residential construction jobs, you will need to enhance your capabilities in estimating, materials sourcing, training, site assessment, appropriate crew assignment, workflow monitoring, safety checks and more.
SupplyPro GM is cloud-based construction software that enables you to manage residential projects from work order creation through approvals and payments, with visibility and consistency. Feature-rich and built for mobility, this effective contractor and supplier software gives you real-time information and control in every part of your business, so you can increase productivity, profits and builder satisfaction.
Learn more about how SupplyPro GM can help you manage your Electrical business more effectively or schedule a demo today.