The Home Microgrid: Not Later. Now.

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What solar installer hasn’t seen a homeowner’s face drop upon learning that rooftop solar panels don’t spare the home from an outage when the electric grid goes down?

“I’ve invested in solar. I’m really excited because I’ve declared myself as independent from the power grid. I feel good because I’m a green citizen. Until I realize that as soon as the utility grid goes away, I stop producing,” said Farid Dibachi, CEO and founding partner of JLM Energy. “For a lot of new owners of a solar PV system, that’s a rude awakening.”

But a home microgrid can change all that. And JLM Energy is at the forefront of the market with its recent roll-out of the Energizr.

To be clear, neighborhood microgrids already exist that serve homes. What’s different here is that the home becomes a microgrid onto itself, complete with generation, storage and intelligence that allows it to island from the main grid during a storm.

JLM Energy’s home microgrid offers three compelling benefits, Dibachi said.

1. It generates and stores energy onsite for use when it’s needed. Eg. When a family gets home from work it can use battery power collected during the day from the solar panels.

2. The PV system continues to collect energy even if the grid is down.

3. The house has power even when a blackout leaves everyone else in the neighborhood in the dark.

What’s the market for the system? Only the rich folk? Dibachi says no, at least not in California, where the state self-generation incentive program (SGIP) can cut by 60 percent the system’s cost, which is otherwise $15,000 (for self-install) or $20,000 (installed). This doesn’t include the cost of the solar panels.

The anatomy of a home microgrid  

The basic Energizr is 4.4 kW with 8.8 kWh of storage (or multiples of that), designed to receive the maximum California incentive.

An energy management system connects to the bank of batteries, the grid, an optional  back-up generator, solar PV (or a wind turbine) and the home’s electric load — the refrigerator, lights, TV, microwaves, coffee makers, etc.

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The solar panels supply electricity to the home, and deliver any leftover power to the batteries. Or the grid can charge the batteries. If the system realizes the grid is not available, and the batteries are nearly drained, it turns on the optional backup generator to charge the batteries. The homeowner can choose to run the house off the Energizr or the grid.

“It treats the grid, the solar system and the generator as sources of energy. It uses what needs to be used by the load and anything leftover is stored in the batteries,” he said.

When a grid outage occurs, the system automatically switches to the battery storage in a way that is seamless.

“Not even a blink, not even a noticeable flicker in your light bulbs,” he said. “A lot of our customers told us an outage occurred and they didn’t even know there was an outage.”

When the system is in island mode, a sensor continually checks to see if the grid power has come back on, so that it can reconnect the house when the time comes.

The back-up generator and grid connection are optional; the system can work completely off the grid with renewable energy.

The system includes the smarts that allow for energy price management, particularly valuable if the local utility makes time-of-use pricing available. But the company discourages new owners from taking on the task until they know the system well.

The Energizr is designed as a retrofit for homes that already have solar panels or can be installed in conjunction with a new PV system.

The company will install the solar panels itself in some cases, but mostly works with about 200 dealers around the U.S. The product received UL certification in early 2014. The company then installed over two dozen systems in the homes of what it calls ‘early adopters,’ before recently releasing it to the broad market.

The technology opens the door for aggregating homes for the buying and selling of power and other services into grid markets. The company is in talks with dealers in PJM’s territory that are interested in these market possibilities.

Emotional appeal

Dibachi sees the home microgrid as more than just a practical appliance; it also taps into a desire for local energy.

“This gets you to a place where you can declare your independence from the grid,” he said. “You no longer have to be at the mercy or the control of a government sanctioned monopoly called a utility company.”

Why is this important?

When you buy grid power, you are paying that bill without being able to argue price, he said.

“Our economy is built on multiple suppliers competing for our business as consumers; yet we pay for one of the most important parts of our lives every day without the benefit of anybody competing,” he said.

So we knew it was coming and here it is: the home as its own power plant. The market is likely to be largely confined to California for now. Still, with both solar and battery prices dropping, and energy management systems growing both friendlier and more astute, expect to hear about additional companies offering home microgrids in 2015.

What do you think? Will the home microgrid be as commonplace someday as the microwave and air conditioner? Tell us your thoughts on LinkedIn at Microgrid Knowledge.


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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. John Wallace says:

    Hi Elisa,
    Thanks for an informative article! I am an energy auditor that from Smyrna, Ga that has recently moved to Port of Prince, Haiti.
    As a result of traveling to Haiti over the last 10 yrs, I have become very interested in energy management in a place where power is provided sporadically to residences and businesses. Most homes here are designed to receive power from the electric company when provided or have generators to charge battery systems. I also see PV system occasionally as well as water collection systems. I hope this catches on in the states. I have noticed that the energy efficiency movement is slow in the U.S., mostly because there is less of a feeling of urgency like there is in other places. I hope we can awaken from our complacency long enough to see the benefits of these types of systems.
    John Wallace

  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for the feedback. We agree, and are seeing that many islands are quick to recognize renewable energy benefits. Contact us if we can answer specific questions,

  3. Colin Beattie says:

    I’d like to get involved in promoting such systems in the UK and Australia – I have a particular interest in aggregated systems as my PhD research looked at decarbonising cities through precinct scale interventions focussing on energy systems. I’d like to be able to demonstrate how aggregating load demands from a mix of family ‘units’ will help to smooth out the overall load demand and thus, provide a load profile that has the potential to be met by a more cost effective system combination.
    Does anybody know of any research that is going on in this area?.

  4. I would like to mention here, that according to IEEE article,the rise of rooftop solar has resulted in a phenomena —the “utility death spiral”, and I think home microgrid will accelerate this phenomena,please read the details on this article and confirm or deny this hypothesis.
    Article:Rooftop Solar’s Threat to Utilities by the Numbers:

  5. The technology listed above sound wonderful. But let’s not lose sight of the importance of making buildings very healthy and energy efficient. Without having to spend exorbitant amounts of money on exotic construction techniques, we have shown (for over 35 years) that engineering a structure as a holistic system carries the benefits of as much as 80% reduction in energy consumption (guaranteed) for heating and cooling (the major contributor to your utility bill). A structure is like a bucket with holes in it that you are filling with water. Do you just get a bigger spicket to add more water? Or, do you first figure out how to slow down the leakage? Which results in smaller HVAC systems and smaller systems to power them. I applaud what you are trying to do, but I feel you should combine this technology with a holistic approach to energy efficient construction.

  6. The Energizr from JLm does not seem new to me, although it may be more compact. SMA has been offering this functionality for quite some time with its Sunny Island power management module, and I believe Victron offers inverters with some of this functionality.

  7. In regards to home systems I think the basic premise needs to be addressed with a new piece of the power distribution system and that is a solid state power distribution panel. That would have the ability to shed loads and tie in various generation sources when required based on usage and stored capacity. That stored capacity is the other piece of the system that has near term promise if we invest now.

    I think the issue needs to be taken up currently with the utilities is what the connection scheme will be. This issue will decide who controls the energy, the consumer or distribution operator. If the driver behind this is Consumer Choice or Energy Security then the choice should be to leave the grid connected to the homeowner as it is currently with Point of Common Coupling at the meter.

    There are many HAN and Energy Management Systems available and many generation types available, the hurdles are controlling the energy on and off grid and storing the energy.

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