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Arlington, TX 76010

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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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We’re Hiring! Discover the Magic of the Renewable Energy Industry for Yourself

We're HiringSUNTEX LLC is now hiring! We’re happy to report that we’ve had a pretty successful year, and with new projects on the horizon, and more home owners to meet, we’re looking to expand our energy consulting team. If you’ve ever wondered about solar energy, or renewables, or just want to learn more about the home improvement industry in general, be sure to fill out your information on our Careers Page today!

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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Let the Halloween Countdown, Begin!

Sweater WeatherWell kids, as SNL’s Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph would say, “It’s [finally] sweater-weather” (check out the SNL skit here for a quick laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2PuhzO_whY).

While some of you readers may know, I am a big proponent of holiday décor – it gives me something in the fall to look forward to each year, and of course there is an art to it: you must adhere to each specific holiday in a given month or week, so that you give them the proper honor and care they deserve. Of course, I’m lucky enough to have storage space to hold at least one (or four, in my case) holiday boxes.

So, while I genuinely try not to accumulate too much new stuff each season (a costly endeavor indeed!), I can take these boxes out each year, and spread around pumpkins and ghouls at Halloween, instead of buying disposable decorations and throwing them away at the end of fall.

When my husband and I first started dating, we were much more mobile (as youngins often are), and moved seven times in seven years before being able to purchase our first home. So it’s safe to say that holding onto this stuff takes real dedication, and closet space, which is a luxury not everyone is afforded. So, today’s blog will focus on some cheap DIY decorations for Halloween – whether you intend to store them and bring them out each year, or just want something fun for the kids to do instead of video-games. If you do intend to get rid of them afterward, just don’t forget about recycling your materials, or donating to local stores and shelters whenever possible.

Here are a few creative ideas on what to do to get ready for this spooky holiday season – keep in mind that some of these projects are spookier than others, so parental guidance is highly recommended:

Halloween

Now if you’re not into decorating, but still want to plan ahead for trick-or-treating, there are tons of low-cost ideas you can try – and we’ve got you covered there as well! Check out the following links to get your creative juices flowing:

Did you find any new favorites for your haunted house décor? How about a new costume idea you hadn’t considered? Please feel free to add any ideas and suggestions in the comments below! We look forward to helping you celebrate Halloween in style.

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Texas Senate: Following the Bills, Where are we Now?

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ve likely been following along as we attempted to analyze the events of the Texas winter storm in February, and what has been done to mitigate this from happening again in the future. If you need a quick refresher, feel free to check out the following links:

Texas SenateHaving read these posts, as well as a myriad of other news reports from February and the months following, you probably already know two main things: 1) that this winter storm was (hopefully) a once a decade type storm, though the intensity of winter storms, hurricanes, and other weather patterns may continue to intensify as the planet temperature continues to heat up; and 2) that the power outages, and resulting deaths from the winter storms, could have been prevented had the Texas grid been better prepared.

So what’s the government response to this issue?

“Texas natural gas companies will not be “weatherized” for the upcoming winter. Senators say they’re angry over the slow timetable and loopholes that allow the companies to opt out of improvements But those lawmakers OK’d the loophole in the law.” https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/28/texas-power-grid-loophole/.

Unfortunately, very little is the answer. Weatherizing the grid for winter is expensive, especially when it’s already prepared to handle the extreme heat temperatures we see in the summer time, and thus the major issue Texans face is mitigated since we’re able to keep the air-conditioner on even in the sweltering temps of June, July, and August. However it seems that the price of winterizing that same equipment – which cost over 400 people their lives in February (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/05/27/report-finds-hundreds-more-died-in-texas-winter-storm-than-state-says/?sh=7b3a86a352cc) – is just too high of a burden for Texas law makers to bear.

Instead, “some of the legislative moves are targeting renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, which experts and some lawmakers say seems more like a way to protect oil and gas interests than fix problems with the state’s beleaguered power grid” (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/19/texas-renewable-energy-oil-gas/).

Senate Bill 3, which was enacted and signed into law in June 2021, reads as follows (as it pertains to natural gas regulation and weatherization, for the full text of the bill, check out the following page, https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3): 

Texas Congressional Bills

“Sec. 81.073. CRITICAL NATURAL GAS FACILITIES AND ENTITIES. (a) The commission shall collaborate with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to adopt rules to establish a process to designate certain natural gas facilities and entities associated with providing natural gas in this state as critical customers or critical gas suppliers during energy emergencies. (b) The rules must:

(1) establish criteria for designating persons who own or operate a facility under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) or engage in an activity under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) who must provide critical customer and critical gas supply information, as defined by the commission, to the entities described by Section 38.074(b)(1), Utilities Code;

(2) consider essential operational elements when defining critical customer designations and critical gas supply information for the purposes of Subdivision (1), including natural gas production, processing, and transportation, related produced water handling and disposal facilities, and the delivery of natural gas to generators of electric energy; and

(3) require that only facilities and entities that are prepared to operate during a weather emergency may be designated as a critical customer under this section.”

Senate bill 3 (SB3) also states:

Texas Senate Chambers“(e) The commission may submit additional [subsequent] weather emergency preparedness reports if the commission finds that significant changes to weatherization techniques have occurred or are necessary to protect consumers or vital services, or if there have been changes to statutes or rules relating to weatherization requirements. A report under this subsection must be submitted not later than:

(1) March 1 for a summer weather emergency preparedness report; and

(2) September 1 for a winter weather emergency preparedness report.”

Full text for SB3 here: https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3

Alas, natural gas and retail energy providers must provide reports on weatherization and energy generation, however there is still no mandate to actually enact said practices to protect the people of Texas. That decision will still be left to appointed individuals to oversee said reports and decide the appropriate course, much like they did in February – hopefully in the future, these appointed people will make a different decision about what’s needed to properly weatherize the grid ahead of any winter storms.

Hopefully you’re in an area deemed “critical” so that you may turn on your heat if temperatures should dip below freezing and remain there for days at a time.

Hopefully, we will not see massive outages and resulting deaths.

Hopefully, someone will do something this time, before it’s too late to do anything at all.

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