This week the world’s first and only digital circuit breaker was certified for commercial use. The technology, invented by Atom Power, has been listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the global standard for consumer safety. This new breaker makes power easier to manage and 3000 times faster than the fastest mechanical breaker, marking the most radical advancement in power distribution since Thomas Edison.
Picture the fuse box in your basement, each switch assigned to different electrical components of your home. These switches are designed to break a circuit to prevent the overloaded wires in your wall from overheating and causing a fire. When this happens, you plod down to your mechanical room and flick the switches on again.
His experienced based inquiry has revolved around a central assertion that analog infrastructure doesn’t allow us to control our power the way we should be able to. That idea has led to some pretty critical questions: “What would it take to make power systems controllable?” and “Why shouldn’t that control be built in to the circuit breaker itself
Instead of using mechanics to switch the power, we apply digital inputs,” Kennedy told Popular Mechanics. “Now I have no moving parts. Now I have the ability to connect things like iPhones and iPads for remote power management, which increases safety and improves efficiency. I can set the distribution panel to a schedule so the flow of power is seamless, unlimited, and shifts between sources automatically. You literally wouldn’t notice. The lights wouldn’t even flicker.”
For a grid-connected solar home, for example, residents sometimes have to disconnect their solar input because traditional power systems (including the circuit breakers) aren’t advanced enough to properly manage multiple power sources that change.
In short, “the modern world has outgrown the risks and constraints of traditional circuit breakers”—a company claim, but also a compelling fact when you consider these inefficiencies and the dangers of a system that requires manual remediation of power surges and failures.
“Old school breakers simply can’t operate as fast as the flow of power,” says Kennedy. “When things go wrong in larger buildings, they go really wrong because you typically have a much bigger source feeding that demand.”
Poor energy management results in 30,000 electrical hazard accidents per year. Arc flash events can take out an entire building for weeks. Due to their ability to interrupt 100,000 amps with unprecedented speed, digital breakers effectively eliminate these risks, resulting in “the safest, fastest, most intelligent system to date.”