Levll is an entry point to smart home technology. By starting with energy management, it generates a simple payback for the end user, which can be significant with time-of-use or other variable rate structures. Here are some key points to know:

  1. Levll is powered by Home Assistant, an open-source home automation software.

That means it is easily compatible with many things. Home Assistant software makes energy automation easy.

Here is an example automation to turn the thermostat on and off between 6AM-8AM, which prevents the air conditioning system from running during those times.

The thermostat is programmed to turn off at 6AM, wait for two hours, and then turn back on at 8AM.

2. Levll does not require internet access or a subscription to function.

The Home Assistant software uses its own “Z-wave plus” wireless network to communicate with the Levll kit sensors. It’s usability is improved with internet access, but internet access is not required.

3. Levll is compatible with Amazon Alexa and OK Google for a $5/month subscription fee.

If you already own a Google mini or Amazon echo dot, these can easily work with a Levll kit.

However, a $5/month subscription fee is required, paid directly to the non-profit which maintain’s the Home Assistant software used by Levll to run its home automations. If you don’t want to pay this subscription fee, that’s fine. It is possible to program around for the technically inclined. Voice commands are optional.

If you are using Amazon, you will need to open the Amazon Alexa app and then enable the Home Assistant skill. Google Home as a similar process.

Levll’s devices will then be pulled into Google Home or Amazon Alexa app and voice services will work. Turn on and off the Levll devices by voice command, make thermostat changes, or ask the status of any device.

4. HVAC systems hould be fully turned off before swapping out thermostats.

Levll is intended to be installed by an electrician.

The entry level kit has no light switches to install, but does involve a thermostat replacement. Even that can get complicated fast if the installer has no wiring experience. Levll can refer you to a local contractor for installation with a suggested installation budget.

If a thermostat is removed from a wall without a power down, it can blow a fuse in the indoor air handler, such that the fan will not turn back on after the new thermostat is installed. These kinds of things are avoided when using a competent service technician who remembers to do things safely, like powering down electrical equipment before servicing.

The installer will need to determine the type of heating system onsite, including the difference between an electric furnace or an electric heat pump as the primary heating source. Wiring the actual thermostat can be tedious but is usually straight forward.  The Levll thermostat is a low energy thermostat. A powered “C-wire” connection is encouraged but not required (unlike for a wifi thermostat).

5. Time-of-use rates enable an $80 smart thermostat to save more money than a $300 proprietary thermostat.

The advantage of the Zwave thermostat is that it can be programmed for each hour of the day for each day of the year, as well as take into account other energy automations which can even exceed the value of a fancier wifi thermostat which might not communicate to other devices, such as the $300 Rheem econet.

But if you happen to already have a thermostat you want to keep, then we will swap it out with an equivalently priced 40A heavy duty switch for additional energy controls.

Levll is used by its founder to take advantage of a time-of-use electric rate. The summer peak rate is from 3PM-6PM Monday-Friday, excluding holidays. The winter peak is from 6AM-8AM  whereas my winter peaks are from 6AM-8AM, with the same weekday restrictions. Levll provides a thermostat which can be programmed to this level of detail and more. This is not because it is an expensive thermostat. This is because it is an “internet of things” thermostat using the Home Assistant open-source software.

6. Smart wall plugs make otherwise dumb devices smart.

Sometimes the dumber the better. A dehumidifier or electric kettle which turn “on” as soon as power is connected are perfect for wall plugs. A push button on the side serves as a manual override.

Smart wall plugs are similarly programmed, allowing the user to turn the “otherwise on” dehumidfier off during peak times. The refrigerator can turn off for peak hours as can an electric hot water tank. Water for coffee can be programmed to turn on precisely ten minutes before peak hours.  

Controlling energy in this manner can have substantial savings. Using load-shifting tools to optimize variable electric rate structures is the best way to reduce an electric bill. Levll does this by selectively targeting the heaviest non-critical electric loads and reducing them during peak times. Up to 30% savings can be achieved on an electric bill, with very few substantial lifestyle changes made.

7. The Raspberry Pi, with its limited computing power, is good enough for instantaneous monitoring, but there are limits in energy visualization and data logging, as well as hard drive space and start-up speed.

A Raspberry Pi is sufficient unless you have other computer needs, such as a media center or security server, at which point Home Assistant could be incorporated directly into the build. For a little more money, a mini-pc takes its place.

Storing those numbers requires some programming. The end result is something cheaper or nicer than what previously exists. InfluxDB and Grafana are built into the Home Assistant Hassio software but push the limits of the Raspberry Pi. A mini-pc is suggested for better data logging. 

How the network is designed is important, to ensure functionality over complexity. It may seem like a good idea to fill a smart home full of data collectors. However, a smart home doesn’t do anyone any good if it isn’t functional. A device capable of sensing multiple inputs should only be used when those sensors serve an identified purpose, such as detecting humidity to drive a fan as well a motion to turn on a light. Otherwise a purpose-built device is a better choice than a generic device, in general. The use of battery-powered devices as well should be kept to a minimum.

8. Levll uses full lightswitch replacements, which are better than behind-the-switch control boxes.

Levll typically selects Aeotect-brand devices unless there is a clear reason not to. However, we currently use GE Zwave plus lightswitches to be contractor friendly. This improves workmanship and safety for a slight increase in cost. Lightswitch installations should be installed by a professional.

9. Energy monitors can be installed inside the electric service panel itself, or adjacent to it if there is not enough room. They can be powered by a service panel breaker or a wall outlet. They communicate wirelessly over the hub’s Zwave network without connecting to your internet. It can then be monitored within the Home Assistant software and used for energy automations.

So far as NEC goes on service panel monitors, the consumption monitors can only go inside service panels if they do not fill more than 75% of a cross-sectional area of the box, typically a depth constraint. They can be located next to the service panel, if possible.

10. Digital Loads can improve solar and batteries, but neither are required to save big with time-of-use metering.

Electric loads can get spiky. One heating element inside an air conditioner can be 10kW. A residential electric service panel is 50kW. In grid-tied mode, Levll helps push around electric loads to optimize the user’s electric rate structure. This is the primary intent of Levll – to enable smart home functionality while saving the user money.

But Levll can add value to existing site storage and solar power systems, especially during a power outage. The Tesla PowerWall can only output a small amount of power, not enough to power an entire house. Levll energy automations can prioritize heavy electrical loads to reduce total home power demand, enabling more of the home to be backed up by the same amount of battery storage. This means the user no longer has to choose between powering the hot water, refrigerator, garage, or air conditioner on a backup load panel.  

If you want to take a closer look about what money can buy you:

If you want to learn more about the design philosophy behind Levll, you can take our 2 hour smart home course for free over at Community.Solar https://community.solar/classes/smart-home/

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