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Category: Electricity

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint: Part 1 of 3

Now, more than ever, our world is being impacted by climate related mega disasters, due to extreme climate change. We as a whole, need to act quickly to lessen our carbon footprint to save the planet, otherwise there will be dire consequences.

Over the past two weeks, five areas across the United States alone, have experienced flooding that happens once every thousand years. Areas in Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, Mississippi and southeastern Illinois have been inundated with historic levels of rainfall. According to the Washington Post, this amount of rainfall usually has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; it has happened in five different areas in less than two weeks!

This type of flooding and other massive natural disasters is not uncommon for people to experience anymore. Natural disasters have been gradually getting worse while becoming more frequent as global temperatures continue to rise, in fact the United States experiences the highest number of natural disasters every year.

Carbon FootprintTo reduce the number of natural disasters and lessen their impacts, we need to balance the carbon equation. Per the Paris Agreement, the United States has pledged to eliminate its emissions and work towards capping the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 before climate change turns calamitous. If we fail to reach this goal the natural disasters happening around the world will be amplified to biblical proportions.

There’s good news though, we as consumers and businesses can help to reach this goal! It will require radical and rapid changes across the entire American economy, but by working together to reduce our ecological footprint we hold the keys necessary to counteract climate change.

According to Seth Godin, best-selling author of The Carbon Almanac, states that “it’s not too late.”  He believes we can start to solve the problem of reducing our carbon footprint with businesses leading the charge in sustainability and ecological innovation and technologies. With businesses spearheading this revolution, consumers will start to follow suite until it’s a normal idea to support companies that are backing green initiatives.

Building businesses that create more demand for carbon-zero products or services is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but there are ways you and your company can quickly take steps in the direction of reducing your carbon footprint. By supporting sustainable causes and ideas, we can all start building a sustainable and hopeful future.

In today’s blog post, we are going to look at the first two ways you and your company can start reducing your carbon footprint!

1. Buying Electric Vehicles

Our first way to help shrink your ecological footprint is to look into switching fleet vehicles your company currently uses from gas to electric, especially if those vehicles put on a lot of miles in a year.

Transportation is a growing source of global greenhouse emissions that is helping drive climate change. A PBS article on global warming states that, “in 2019, 23% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from transportation and contributed to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”

Not only can switching to electric vehicles cut emissions by 60% over fossil fuel vehicles, but they can also save an average of 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide! Since electric vehicles do not have tailpipes, they emit nothing when operating, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most models can go more than 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

In other great news, EV batteries can now be recycled! The Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched the first lithium-ion battery recycling center, The ReCell Center, in hopes of creating a profitable method to improve recycling rates and reduce the reliance on supplies from foreign countries. Recycling EV batteries reduces the production costs by 10 to 30% along with reducing emissions, waste, and the need for new materials.

Outside of government incentives that lower the price of purchasing electric vehicles, they also have a lower operating cost. The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center states that “the operation and maintenance costs of EV’s averages about 3 cents per mile and they achieve their best fuel economy during stop-and-go driving conditions.”

While some companies don’t need a fleet of vehicles; the ones that do have fleet vehicles should take consideration into moving the company fleet to electric. There are a wide range of electric vehicle options available from your typical run of the mill electric vehicle to off-road EVs, forklifts, mowers, tractors, school buses, and public transit.

If we work towards transforming how we fuel our transportation needs, electric vehicles could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 80 to 90% of current levels by 2050!

2. Installing Solar Panels

The second way to reduce your carbon footprint is to harness the suns energy by installing solar panels. What’s cool about solar energy is that it’s completely renewable and one of the cleanest sources of energy out there.

The best part about shrinking your carbon footprint with solar energy is the reduction for demand of fossil fuels and less greenhouse gas emissions are produced. By going solar, users can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also found that widespread adoption of solar energy can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions.

Solar energy is becoming one of the fastest growing sources of sustainable energy. According to the International Energy Agency, “solar and wind energy account for almost 10% of total electricity generation.” The U.S. is now the third largest market in the world for solar energy. 23.6 gigawatts of solar were installed in the U.S. in 2021. The United States receives so much solar energy that an array of solar panels in the Mojave Desert could generate a year’s worth of our energy needs in a single day.

In fact, solar power will account for almost half of United States’ new electricity generation this year. At the beginning of 2022, The U.S. Energy Information Administration expected solar generating capacity to grow by 21.5 gigawatts, which would surpass last year’s 15.5 gigawatts of solar capacity additions, with many of these additions in Texas (6.1 gigawatts, or 28% of the national total).

Not only is solar energy great for the environment, but it’s beneficial to its users too! Solar energy is the most affordable source of energy in the world and the coast of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008. In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt; it’s renewable counterpart—wind—was $1.66/watt.

Aside from solar energy being extremely affordable, there are also incentives to switch to solar power. Users can receive 30% system costs back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit, along with receiving Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by selling any excess energy produced to utility companies.

In order to reach our goal in 2050 set out by the Paris Agreement, almost 90% of global electricity generation needs to come from renewable sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70%.

 

Now that we’ve covered the first two ways you and your company can decrease your ecological impact, come back Saturday for the second portion of this post! I’ll be detailing three and four in how to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Here’s How to Go Green: 5 Easy Lifestyle Changes to Implement Today

So you want to go green? Living an eco-friendly lifestyle that is both personally rewarding and environmentally viable is all the rage these days and for a good reason. You’ll see your carbon footprint decrease, electricity bills go down, and property value skyrocket. If you’re looking for compelling ways to live more green this year, SUNTEX breaks it down below. 

 1. Start with Your Home

GreenIf you’re shopping for a new home, this is the perfect time to start your eco-friendly mission. Look for specific features in potential homes that will support your sustainable ethos. For example, homes that come with Energy Star appliances are a good sign, as these appliances conserve energy and power. Next, consider the home’s building materials. Are the materials used eco-friendly? For example, pre-cast concrete and recycled steel structures will lower your gas usage while reducing the negative impact on the carbon footprint (you can learn more about how pre-cast concrete helps with carbon foot-printing by visiting Informed Infrastructure). Lastly, look for pre-existing LED light fixtures, which are great for reducing energy consumption.   

2. Go Solar 

 According to Solar Power World, one out of every 600 U.S. homes are installing solar panels every quarter. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint and reliance on depleting resources like fossil fuels, going solar comes with significant economic benefits. solar power can cut down on your electricity bill by half each year, and the government also offers solar tax rebates and incentives if your home is powered by solar energy. For more information on adding solar panels to your home, connect with SUNTEX today. 

 3. Watch That Insulation 

 Be sure to check for drafts in your new home. Drafts are a good indication that your insulation isn’t working as it should, which means you’re using more energy for heating and cooling. Patching up any holes or leaks in insulation will be critical here, but luckily, the fix is simple with a little bit of caulk. You could also spring for a complete renovation to overhaul your insulation system to a more robust, eco-friendly option (if you have a bigger budget). 

4. Green Up Your Landscaping 

Green

Growing a lush, green lawn is the dream of many homeowners. However, traditional lawns are high-maintenance, requiring regular watering and fertilizing. They can also be damaging to the environment, as chemical runoff from lawncare products can pollute waterways. For a more sustainable option, implement eco-friendly landscaping in your yard. Opt for drought-friendly plants or native flowers, add more hardscaping, and ditch the sprinkler system. If you need help pulling this off, connect with local landscapers that get top marks for eco-friendly design and execution. Start by reading online reviews and customer testimonials to find the ideal provider in your part of town.  

 5. Look at Those Small Details

Last but not least, watch out for those small details. It doesn’t quite add up if you’re using solar power but also cleaning your home with toxic and harmful chemicals. Create an exhaustive list of all the products and items you use regularly, and consider more environmentally-sound swaps. You can also cut back on consumption and waste starting by swapping paper towels for reusable rags or ditching plastic baggies for beeswax wraps. Consider powder detergent over giant plastic bottles, and purchase refills instead of buying new hand-soap containers. You can even start composting on a small scale.  

Green

Going green is more than implementing a few strategies around your house. Instead, it is a holistic lifestyle that you will need to practice in all your decisions for it to make a difference. Start by working toward solar power, or update your landscaping to avoid water waste. Implement a kitchen composting system, and change out your cleaning products. The good news is that consistent effort in the eco-friendly department can stack up to real and tangible environmental benefits, so keep on keeping at it!

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Emma Grace Brown. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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How You Can Keep Your Energy Bill Affordable in the Winter Months

Winter Energy Bill

The winter months bring with them a lot of things. They bring holidays, times of togetherness, and cold temperatures. Along with those things often come some skyrocketing energy bills. Not only does it cost more to keep a home or living space comfortable as the temperature plummets outside, but there are other considerations, as well. The holiday months tend to involve quite a lot of social gatherings, which can also have their own energy-bill-related consequences.

The good news is that many of us experience higher energy bills during the winter because we don’t know how to avoid them. In reality, there are a handful of easy strategies that can help you keep your bill as manageable as it is in the balmy summer sun. Below, SUNTEX explores some ideas you should consider.

Move to a Different Place

This may seem like an extreme measure, but sometimes you may not have a choice. For example, if you live in a poorly insulated apartment and you’re having to pay a high electric bill each month, it might be worth your while to move. Fortunately, there are hundreds of apartments available in Forth Worth, all of which can be searched depending on your budget and the neighborhood that interests you.

Weatherproof and Seal All of Your Windows

The windows are a major source of energy leakage in the house, both literally and metaphorically. They can be hotspots for cracks and intrusions that let in cold air and let out the warm air. The glass in your windows can also be letting out warmth, causing you to need to heat your home when you should not have to.

Try adding a weatherproof film to your windows for higher energy efficiency. This can help them to retain more heat, allowing you to run the heater left often. It’s also smart to do a leak test and run the caulking gun around each of your windows, guaranteeing that they’re nice and tightly sealed against the colder weather. When it comes to keeping warm air in, every little bit helps you avoid running that heater.

Use Solar Panels to Help with Energy Costs

Solar panels are an excellent way to help reduce your money energy bills during those cooler months. Although solar panels can’t help reduce your gas bill, if that’s what you use to keep your home toasty all winter, they can still power everything else, from your electronics to your appliances. If you’ve always wanted to get solar panels for your home but had no idea where to start, get in touch with the pros at SunTex. Our high-quality products and superior services can get you going in no time.

Do a Draft Test

Windows aren’t the only intrusion point for air into the home. Drafts and cracks can form just about anywhere, so do a visual check of your home, both inside and out. Check places like corners, and joints (any place where two materials meet). Look closely at things like baseboards, electrical outlets, door frames, vents, and so forth.

Hiring a professional to do something called a “blower door test” is another great way to find small air leaks into your home. This is a process by which your home will be depressurized on the inside, letting an expert go from room to room, finding tiny cracks and leaks that might not otherwise be visible.

Watch Out for the Bathroom Fan

Believe it or not, your bathroom fan might be causing you some serious grief on your energy bill at the end of the month. While they might not seem threats, these troublesome little devils can actually mess with your energy bill in two ways.

The first is by simple overuse. A bathroom fan can seriously add to the cost of an energy bill, especially if it’s left running when it does not need to run. Secondly, a bathroom fan does a great job of pulling warm air right out of your house, which will only lead to more thermostat and furnace usage.

Finding easy ways to save money on your energy bill doesn’t have to be brain surgery. When those winter months set in, there are a few things just about any homeowner can do to make sure they’re saving as much as possible. Sealing windows, checking for drafts, and keeping an eye on ventilation fans are just a few of the ways to save on that energy bill during the winter months.

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Gloria Martinez. Gloria Martinez loves sharing her business expertise and hopes to inspire other women to start their own businesses and seek promotions in the workplace. She created WomenLed.org to spotlight and celebrate women’s achievements. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Switching Careers Later in Life? We’ve Got You Covered

SUNTEX logoWith the solar industry on the rise, and many people switching jobs currently to adapt to changes in the marketplace due to the Corona Virus, it may be time for you to consider a new career. What if I told you I knew of an industry that required no schooling, no experience, and would supply on the job training?

It sounds too good to be true, however this week we’ll explore a few positions in the solar industry, and at SUNTEX LLC, that fit that exact description. For a more detailed look at what I mean, be sure to check out our prior blog post on the different possible jobs within a solar company (here: https://suntexllc.com/what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up-industry-experts-are-here-to-help-you-find-out/), as well as the following interview from our friends at Ecotopian Careers about what we’re looking for in an employee (here, as well as below: https://www.ecotopiancareers.com/2021/10/12/employer-advice-from-suntex/).

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writers from Ecotopian Careers. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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What do you Want to be When you Grow Up? Industry Experts are here to Help You Find Out!

Solar Industry It really doesn’t matter if you’re 7 or 57, deciding what field you want to work in can be an exciting endeavor. Whether you’re interested in going to school, or going back to school, or if you’re better at on the job training and hand-on projects, learning a new skill while making money is a win-win.

I discussed the process of becoming a Master Electrician in a previous blog post (check it out, here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-wiring/), and there are a few really strong reasons you might decide to take on this endeavor: 1) the pay is excellent, and 2) you can start “green” as we say in the construction industry, apprenticing for someone with little schooling or experience required, and 3) once you become a Master Electrician, you can dictate your own hours, and decide which jobs you want to take – giving you lots of freedom in the later years of your career.

If you’re afraid of electrocuting yourself however (a valid fear indeed), there are tons of other jobs within the solar industry to choose from! Below I’ve outlined just a few…

 

Sales

Solar companies are A-L-W-A-Y-S hiring more sales staff to learn about the process of installing solar, and how it can save our customers money. The beauty of this position is that it does not require any schooling. Notice I did not say you won’t need to learn anything while on the job (too bad, right?), however it’s definitely something you can learn by doing, and as with any job, the more experience you have, the better you will be. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sold cell-phone batteries or luxury vehicles in the past, if you’ve got any sales acumen whatsoever, or if you just enjoy talking to people, it’s likely you’d be good at selling solar.

Because at SUNTEX we want to make sure our energy consultants and sales staff are experts in training homeowners the ways of solar energy, we spend a little extra time during the training process ensuring that you know exactly what you’re talking about before ever heading to a customer’s home for an energy audit. Unfortunately there are several bad players in the solar market that don’t do this, and the customer is always the one that will suffer for it. We’ve seen it in the past, and do our best to warn others of these types of companies, however because of this insight we know exactly what our team needs to know to be successful in their careers, and we strive towards it con ganas each day.

Operations 

Solar Industry

The operations side of the solar business, which is where my background in solar began, includes the entire process after a sale it made through installation. I’ll do my best not to get too into the weeds here, but the overall process of a solar system installation is as follows: 1) Design & Engineering, 2) Permitting, Interconnection Application, and Rebate Application, 3) Ordering Materials, 4) Scheduling & Executing the Installation with the same design as it was approved by the permitting office, 5) Inspections, and 6) Permission to Operate (PTO), when your system is actually turned-on and fully functioning.

The most important piece of this puzzle is the installations team! In order to install solar, you don’t need any education or experience necessarily, as you will get these with on the job training, however you do need to be prepared to be at work by 7:00 AM (or earlier in some cases), and work in scorching heat in the summer months (since roof-tops are typically about 15 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the daily temp, see what I mean here: https://sentryroof.com/news/how-hot-does-your-commercial-roof-really-get-in-the-summer/), and colder weather in the winter months.

Of course there are other pieces to this puzzle behind the scenes such as billing and accounting, manufacturing, and customer communication throughout, which is also generally included within the scope of the operations team. So it’s safe to say there are plenty of options to choose from should you decide to work within the Operations division at a solar company.

Tech

Another exciting experience you can glean working in the solar industry includes Information Technology, or more commonly known as IT. Depending on the size of the solar company you’re working for, IT department activities can include anything from building and managing the company website, to manufacturing and testing solar panels and accompanying equipment in a lab (admittedly, this may be nearer to the field of engineering but you get the idea)

It’s important that the entire Operations life cycle of each customer project is tracked smoothly, so you don’t skip any steps and so that you can keep the customer in the loop about what’s happening next, so as a solar IT expert you might also be responsible for building out the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools that help you track this life cycle, or any of the other online tools that can help a solar company grow sustainably (including tracking Sales calls and researching new potential markets for solar, or managing customer energy production data to ensure quality service throughout the life of a solar system, to name just a couple more).

Whatever your interest in tech – web development, database management, or integrated systems – there is likely a job waiting for you in the solar industry. Not to mention, I can personally attest to the fact that as this industry continues to rapidly grow and develop easier ways of doing things, there are plenty of new tech jobs opening up each day, and a ton of room for innovation.

Admin

With all of that said, there are people who must keep the ship afloat and running in the right direction, and that includes the administrative staff. People in these positions are like jack-knives, floating from sector to sector and providing help and insight where needed. Because they’re likely responsible for overseeing executive-level schedules and tasks, they have a good line of communication and visibility with company leadership. Communication skills and time management are therefore essential to their every day work, however this also allows for flexibility and diversity in their workload, and the work can often be done remotely as well. If you’re an organized individual and want to learn more about the solar industry – without working on a rooftop during installations, or deep inside of the code designing a software system – you might want to see what Administration positions are available in your area today.

 

As you can see, there really are a myriad of things to choose from. Interested in learning more? Give us a call today and see if you’re the ‘right stuff’ for SUNTEX!

SUNTEX Careers Page: https://suntexllc.com/careers/

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Electrical Components: Smart Meters, Net Metering, and Data Monitoring – What Do They All Have in Common? Part 2 of 2

In yesterday’s blog post we explored Smart Meters and Net Metering in some detail (check it out, here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/), however today we’ll get to the heart of why any of this should matter to you. Of course, even if you’re not a data scientist, it doesn’t hurt to explore your curiosity in energy consumption to determine how your energy consumption currently looks and ways to improve upon it and ideally, reduce it.

Sometimes you need more energy (for example, during the holidays when you’re cooking a feast and need to power your electric stove a little longer) and you shouldn’t hold yourself hostage to a certain number of kWh per month. However having a good understanding of your energy data can help you improve your bottom line in numerous ways!

Data Monitoring

Now for my favorite piece of the energy management puzzle: Data Monitoring. While the “what is it?” question may be a little more intuitive to answer for data monitoring, there are a few other questions worth exploring here, such as: “Who has access?” and/or “What are they monitoring?” and perhaps most importantly, “How are they using it?”

Let’s explore these questions one-by-one:

Who has access to energy data? 

Data Monitoring

Typically your Retail Energy Provider (REP) needs access to your energy data for the very obvious reason of calculating how much to bill you each month for your energy usage. However, what might be less obvious but no less common, is that your REP will also send your data to the Electric Grid (managed by ERCOT, in Texas – for a very detailed look at the data ERCOT monitors, check out the Hourly Load Data archives here: https://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/load/load_hist), so that they’re able to forecast how much energy will be needed from the grid at any given time.

Ideally, this would also allow them to forecast additional energy needs from the grid during an emergency, however in Texas we know this isn’t always the case, or at least if they’re able to predict it, ERCOT still might not do anything to avoid energy outages (see an in-depth look at this problem in our prior blog post, here: https://suntexllc.com/texas-senate-following-the-bills-where-are-we-now/).

Beyond these two governing bodies, and particularly if you produce renewable energy on your property, it’s likely that your energy is shared with a third party monitor, such as the solar or wind energy company that installed your system. We’ll get into the nuts and volts of why they monitor your data in the paragraphs below, but it is a good practice to set this up as soon as your system is installed so that if there is any issue in energy production, they’re able to see it and fix it before you get your next energy bill.

What are these energy monitors looking for; and how are they using my data?

Data MonitoringWhile we briefly discussed the answer to this question above, it really depends on whom is doing the monitoring. For example, your energy company will use your energy data in order to bill you for the electric service they provide each month, however what if you have 100% solar offset on your bill, and thus your energy bill is $0 (or close to it)?

Even when your energy bill is offset by renewables, your REP still monitors your monthly consumption and production, and in some cases will also still charge a Grid connection or Transmission fee (so that they’re able to pay for services needed to make sure you’re able to remain connected to the grid).

While I don’t love the idea of paying for something I don’t use, it’s certainly helpful in the winter months or during a rainy week to remain connected to the grid since your solar panels won’t likely produce enough electricity on those days to completely offset your usage, and I certainly don’t want to pay for the total cost of running my own transmission lines to the local power plant!

Our energy grid consists of lots of moving parts. These moving parts must coordinate succinctly in order to function properly, and at a very basic level, ensure that there is enough energy production to meet the energy consumption demand in the marketplace. When they’re not failing miserably at this, which in all fairness is a majority of the time, ERCOT monitors your energy data in order to maintain Grid power and avoid grid failures. What does this look like? Check out their website to learn more about exactly what ERCOT does, and how it helps regulate the energy market in Texas:

https://www.ercot.com/services/client_svcs/acctmgmt

This leaves third party monitors. During my time in the solar energy industry, I’ve had the opportunity to see how this is done first hand, and I can safely say that energy monitoring has drastically improved over the years! Irig would imagine at some point in the past 150 years since public electricity was implemented, particularly since this came before computers were invented, there was some log book of energy consumption and energy production that power plants used to regulate energy distribution in their respective service areas.

Since then however, and in just a few short years, with the invention of computers, smart meters, and smart inverters, energy monitoring has gone from excel spreadsheets to master databases with rigorous privacy regulation.

In order to collect your energy data, third party monitors must obtain your permission, however it’s often in your best interest to grant it. I recognize that working for SUNTEX I may have some bias here, so don’t take my word for it, check out the following links to learn more about why sharing your energy data may be beneficial to you:

Of course, if you decide to go off grid with an energy system, generator, and battery storage option, you can avoid sharing your energy data with anyone, even though it will likely still be accessible online for your periodic review. While some energy monitoring devices are more precise than others, you’re typically looking for the following:

  • Annual consumption: how does the energy consumption for my home stack up against other homes of the same size? Could I save money by offsetting some of that consumption with renewable energy sources?
  • Monthly consumption: how does this stack up month-to-month and why? For example, in Texas we use a lot of air-conditioning in the summer months, so it seems likely that energy consumption during these months would be higher.
  • Hourly consumption: particularly if your Retail Energy Provider (REP) uses peak-hour pricing for your electricity bill, you might analyze your hourly consumption in order to determine whether or not you’re using energy in your home most efficiently, or whether this could be improved. For example, check out the Austin Energy electricity fee schedule here (keep in mind that your REP likely has something similar, so be sure to search “[REP name] + peak hours” if you’re curious to see what this looks like in your area): https://austinenergy.com/wcm/connect/1a559c04-2286-4e22-bd16-1cde50aff0ff/COA-RatesAndFees-FY22.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=nPpTOmF.

While we’re always happy to help if you have any questions about this process, or how to analyze the energy usage in your home, we are experts in this particular field! So give us a call for a free energy consultation, and even if you don’t go solar, we’re eager to teach home owners how to read their energy bill and manage their energy consumption. Give us a call today!

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Electrical Components: Smart Meters, Net Metering, and Data Monitoring – What Do They All Have in Common? Part 1 of 2

Smart Meters

With any new purchase undoubtedly comes new vocabulary, and buying a house or upgrading your home to include a solar-panel system certainly fits this rule. For any new homeowners out there, or for our customers whom are trying to learn more about these products, this week we’ve written a brief explanation of some of the electrical components you see in every home, and how to read these devices. Today’s blog will build upon your foundational knowledge of the electric meter (see blog post from earlier this week, here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-the-electric-meter/), and why understanding the difference between an analog electric meter and a newer, smart-meter might be important to you in the near future.

Smart Meters

Smart Meters (photo from Geopal.com – click here for more information)

As we’ve mentioned before, a “smart” component implies that it can not only serve it’s main pupose, whatever that may be, but that it also communicates data and information back to another device. For the direct quote, check out our previous blog on smart home components, here: https://suntexllc.com/product-deep-dive-smart-products/): “the term “Smart technology” implies an important distinction – that the appliance or electrical device can be controlled by an app, remotely.”

However understanding what a Smart Electric Meter is capable of is perhaps one of the most critical pieces of information for someone wishing to ‘Go Solar’ in Texas. Of course, for the expert opinion on the matter, we turn to SmartMeterTexas.com: https://www.smartmetertexas.com/home. Because we’ve already discussed what an Electric Meter does in the previous SUNTEX Blog Post mentioned above, I won’t go into too much detail here on what this equipment does (the short story is that Electric Meters measure your electric consumption, or how much energy you use in the home each month).

While this website mostly applies to those living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and thus some of the information will be irrelevant to you if you live elsewhere, there is a very helpful guide on how to read a smart meter, as well as a couple of important things to look out for, namely the ESID (or the Electric Service Identifier) and meter number (check it out here: https://www.smartmetertexas.com/Smart_Meter_Texas_Residential_User_Guide.pdf). Even just perusing the Glossary of Terms on pages 33 and 34 of this user guide will help you better understand what a Smart Meter is and why you might consider asking your Retail Electric Provider about upgrading your Electric Meter today.

If you’re still having trouble understanding the difference between a traditional Electric Meter and a Smart Electric Meter, don’t worry! Our friends at SmartEnergy.com are here to help with that exact quandry – check out the similarities and differences between these two types of meters, here: https://www.smartenergy.com/what-is-a-smart-meter/ (long story short, according to the article: “They [smart meters] provide up-to-date information and can do many things remotely that required numerous employees to handle in the past”).

Net Metering

Now that we’re experts on Smart Meters, we can move on to the most important question in today’s blog post: why should we even care about Smart Meters?!

If you kept reading beyond the chart within the SmartEnergy.com article, you already know at least part of this answer, for example:

“Shorter interims between energy readings allow you to see how much power you’re using at what time of day and where you’re using it,” AND, “All of the data is collected and analyzed by the provider in order to better understand usage patterns and how to better service their customers” (https://www.smartenergy.com/what-is-a-smart-meter/).

One of the largest advantages to having a Smart Meter however, is Net Metering. What is Net Metering and how does it work? For that question, we turn to our trusty source SEIA.org, who had this to say about it:

“Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on their roof, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods when the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use” (https://www.seia.org/initiatives/net-metering).

Basically, net metering is what allows people to ‘Go Solar’ since they’re able to produce energy during the day when the sun is shining on their panels, even though most of their energy consumption will likely happen at night (think lights, cooking dinner, AC/heat, and the numerous fans you have blowing while you sleep) when the sun is not shining and solar panels are not producing energy for your home. If your retail energy provider does not have a net-metering policy (or a Value-of-Solar policy that is similar to net metering), then solar may not be able to save you money in the long run. See the diagram below for a visual representation of how net metering really works:

What is Net Metering and How Does It Work?

Net Metering (photo from Solaflect.com – click here for more information)

Even if your home doesn’t have solar, net metering policies can help you determine when “peak hours” of energy usage exist and how to mitigate your energy use during those times and reduce your monthly bill. You might also want to review your baseline energy usage to see if there are appliances in your home that are consuming large amount of energy, and explore options for getting more efficient products.

While it’s not typically something you need to look at on a daily basis, it might not hurt to do some analysis and familiarize yourself with your typical energy cycle (especially on an annual basis, since this varies seasonally), since you might just be able to tell whether or not an appliance is broken and is consuming more energy than usual, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars in addressing the problem early!

Do you have energy insights you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below!

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Energy Components: Electrical Wiring

Electrical Wiring

Electrical Wiring (photo from Roman Electric Home – click here for more information)

I have been working towards getting my electricians license for years now, and while it’s a potentially a more lucrative position than getting a four-year degree and then starting to work, it is by no means an easy feat.

Electrical Wiring

Electrical Wiring (photo from GetBuilding.com – click here for more information)

You need two years of schooling to begin. Then, you can begin working as an apprentice electrician. After a couple years, and a few thousand hours logged in your work log, you can take a test and apply for your journeyman’s license, typically making a few more dollars per hour on each job. After a couple more years working as a journeyman (and a few more thousand hours), you can take your electrician’s license; subsequently (a couple more years working with an expert and logging a few more thousand hours…) you can take your Master Electrician’s license test.

For most people this test, as well as the entire process of obtaining a Master Electrician’s license, might take a few tries – even after having worked in the industry for eight+ years (minimum) already! However once you achieve this accolade, you are finally ready to work on your own, and since in many cases you’ll be handling dangerous equipment that could literally kill you, I guess it’s a good thing that you studied and practiced for so long before you set out to do the work on your own!

All that said, I am not yet a Master electrician (and when you come across one, you should definitely give due respect given what you now know about the process they took to get there), however I’d like to share with you what the professionals have to say about the wiring equipment used in solar panel installations; today’s focus: Wiring.

While any type of electrical wiring may seem daunting, and it certainly can be if you decide to DIY this component, when you’re working with a professional it becomes much easier. I’ve worked with electricians in solar panel installations for years, and with just a little bit of communication and creative problem solving, you can hide the necessary wiring components behind the walls, or within PVC or metal piping, while ensuring your project will have all of the wiring components connected efficiently.

Because I’m not the resident expert on electrical wiring of solar systems, or even simple appliances, I’d like to share with you a few links from the subject-matter-experts (SME’s) on the topic (click on the links below, or the images within this post to learn more also):

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Energy Components: The Main Panel and Breaker Boxes

How many times have you heard that when your power goes out you just need to “flip the switch in the main panel”? Likely you’ve never heard this before, since most people refer to these as “breaker boxes.” So what’s the difference?

What is a main panel?

Electrical Breaker Box

Typical Home Breaker Box (photo from The Prepper Journal – click here for more information)

Check out the picture to the right to get an idea – it’s likely something you’ve seen every single day without even really noticing it. I have many friends who vowed to hire electricians for everything when they moved into their first home, and in all honesty, this is not a terrible idea. Of course, there are a few things that you can DIY and hopefully this blog post will help you learn a little bit about how to do just that, or at least where to look as you get started.

How can we tell the difference between the main panel, and a sub panel? Take a look at the following link for a helpful explanation of the similarities and differences between the two electrical components: https://www.livewireelectricalcharlotte.com/2020/01/main-panel-vs-sub-panel-whats-the-difference/.

What is a Breaker Box?

This is another electrical component you’ve likely seen a million times before, but perhaps you never paid much attention to it before. Take a look at the photos within this post as examples – they’re often found within your garage, or laundry room, or outside of your home on the wall of the first floor – ideally somewhere that will stay dry even when it rains.

What do Breaker Boxes do? To learn more about the purpose they serve and how to read them, check out the following links:

Another good source of information I came across while doing research for this blog was familyhandyman.com – check out the following link to learn more about breaker boxes, also known as circuit boxes, and how to connect/disconnect them safely: https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/breaker-box-safety-how-to-connect-a-new-circuit/.

Please, please keep in mind that if you plan to look into these items in your home, especially if you decide to make changes or turn on/off your breaker box, that you do so safely! I would definitely recommend reading through the links provided above, as well as consulting YouTube, before attempting anything yourself, since the consequences for not doing so could be dire!

Main Panel vs. Sub Panel

Example Breaker Box (photo from LiveWire – click on the photo for more information)

The good news is that once you know what you’re looking at and what you’re looking for, you won’t have to hire a Master Electrician for every little thing in your home, and of course electrical project sizes and complexity vary greatly.

For example, almost every time there is a storm in my neighborhood, our outdoor plug trips, and the pump I use to circulate and clean the water in my pond stops working. Initially, I thought it had broken and was not looking forward to the large bill I anticipated to get it fixed. After consulting the expert however (aka my dad), he recommended that I look for the outdoor switch and simply “reset the breaker.”

I told him he had once again started speaking in a different language, and that I would have to pray for the survival of my goldfish until he returned to help me out. He laughed for a whole minute before finally explaining to me how to do this, and now, after doing adequate research and a little bit of *safe* testing, I’m the expert! Every time there is a storm and the pump stops working, I simply go into the garage and reset the switch to the outdoor plug, and my fish once again have circulating water.

Check out the following resources to see these processes for yourself:

As always, be sure to consult the professionals when needed! This week’s blog posts should really include Tim the Toolman’s “Don’t try this at home!” disclaimer, and one that should be strictly followed! However there are a few things you should also know as a home owner, that could save you hundreds of dollars in avoidable fees – just make sure you feel completely comfortable before making any changes.

There is no shame in calling an electrician, especially if you want to avoid “electrocuted himself” as the cause of death at your funeral. Just be safe, read and watch videos ahead of time, and if you don’t feel comfortable with what you’ve learned, consult the experts for help! At SUNTEX we have plenty of Electricians and contacts in the field, so reach out to us today if you have an electrical project in mind!

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Energy Components: The Electric Meter

Electric MeterHow many of my readers could turn off the electricity to your home, without looking it up first on what a former colleague of mine would refer to as, “the Julliard school of YouTube”? How many of you would feel confident doing it after looking it up?

When we bought our first home, my husband and I did two really important and likely very annoying things: 1) we asked the inspector about 1,000 questions about the power, wiring, and electrical systems in the home, which he gladly pointed out to us. The second important thing we did, and were grateful to have access to, was ask our parents to help us learn a little more about these systems, and what we might need to do to care for them.

To this day, I regret not having taken a home-economics class in high school, because I would imagine home maintenance is covered as at least part of that course, and it’s safe to say we were complete novices when we moved in!

So to help my fellow home owners, or anyone that might be curious about home-ownership in the future, this week we’ll discuss the electrical components of your home, starting today with the Electric Meter.

There are a couple of important components within every home that measure energy consumption, and/or allow you to power your light-switches and electrical components: the Electricity Meter, and the Breaker Box. If you know how these work then you’re ahead of the game, but for a quick refresher on Electric Meters or how to read them, please check out the following link, as well as the photos below: https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Electric_meter .

Now that you know what it is, let’s take a look at how to read an Electric Meter (check out the link above for guidance, but I’ve pasted the main steps below):

“Steps

  1. Start at the far right dial. Record the digit that the dial is on, or if it is between two digits record the smaller of the two.
  2. Now read the dial to its left, again recording the smaller of the two if it is between two digits.
  3. Continue until the far left dial is recorded, then read the recorded number normally.”

Electric Meters vs Smart Meters This is the same process your energy company rep will take in reading your meter, so it’s a good practice to compare your readings to what you’re seeing on your monthly bill from time to time, just to make sure you’re on the same page about the amount of energy you’re consuming.

Sometimes your electric meter will look differently in the one featured above. No worries there! It may be that your meter is newer, or older, or simply a different model all together. Take a look at the following link to learn a little more about these electric meters, how to read them, and how to determine whether or not an upgraded might be needed in your home: https://www.citizensutilityboard.org/five-things-need-know-new-electric-meter/.

We will build on this foundational knowledge to discuss Smart Meters, Net Meters, and Data Monitoring in subsequent Blog posts this week– you won’t want to miss out!

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