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Category: Holiday Weekend

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12-20-21: Let the Christmas Countdown Officially Begin!

Christmas Tree

Yes, yes, I know all those who celebrate the Christmas season have already been eating the chocolate out of your advent calendars and have probably had your lights up since December 1st (don’t even get me started on those of you that put them up prior, unless of course you’re celebrating Hanukkah with lights in which case – Happy Hanukkah to you and yours once more! To learn more about the origin of Hannukah, feel free to check out our blog post from 11/29 here: https://suntexllc.com/4200-2/).

That said, Christmas week is finally upon us! Depending upon how/whether you celebrate, this is the week you’ll need to look up how many hours in advance to take the turkey out to defrost (we’ve got you covered there, or I should say kitchn.com does: https://www.thekitchn.com/public-service-announcement-its-time-to-thaw-the-turkey-thanksgiving-tips-from-the-kitchn-213274), and dust off any other recipes you’ll want for Christmas dinner. Don’t forget about that last minute shopping and wrapping too – since the stores are likely starting to look a little bleak this close to the holidays – I mean, have you seen Jingle All The Way?! If not, and you’ve got some time this week, I highly suggest searching for it on your ideal streaming service (IMBD here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116705/).

In between turkey-defrosting and cookie-cutting, present-wrapping and other hyphenated holiday-activities pending on my chore list, I will still need to get a little work done, however this week will be pretty quiet in the office leading up to the weekend, when we will be closed Friday and Saturday during my favorite holiday of the year, Christmas!

While some may reasonably opt for the alternative, I always love when a holiday falls on the weekend. There is something special about the entire week leading up to a holiday weekend, and the excitement multiplies when your plans happen to align with others’ schedules.

Most offices and factories close on the weekends, so you’re likely already planning to have the day off, however unlike most Friday night through Sunday evening plans, this one includes people, gifts, songs, delicious food, and yule celebrations.

Personally, my family is meeting up at my parent’s house this year to celebrate – though my husband and I traditionally like to switch off visiting our folks for each major holiday, and admittedly COVID has thrown a wrench into that plan. This year however we’re happy to finally get together and have an almost normal Christmas celebration together, and only my favorite family members will be there so I don’t even have to fret about any drunkles or weirdo cousins creating any spectacles. We’ll have only ourselves to blame once the spectacles occur! Ha!

That said, I do hope your holiday shopping is done, you’ve memorized how to play your favorite holiday tunes on the piano for others to sing along to, and that your holiday meal plan is already written out – because there’s only a few more days before the merriment begins! You don’t want to be caught in the malls and megaplexes this week (do people even shop in person anymore?), and even holiday travel gets a little crazy so giving the present of your presence requires a little forward planning, the magic of Christmas can finally begin.

Unless of course your family sucks, then good luck. Also, feel free to leverage Holiday Tips for the Introvert in tomorrow’s post (link).

Kwanza this year will begin on the 26th, and last through New Years Day! Thus, for roughly half of this month, this year at least, if you say “Happy Holidays” to someone, you’re probably not wrong, so try it out. We’ll explore the origin and meaning of Kwanza in more detail on the 26th.

In the meantime, Ho ho ho and a Merry Christmas Eve⁵ to you all!

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Home Gardens and Cold Fronts don’t Mix

You might be surprised to hear me say that in addition to the doom and gloom climate change undoubtedly brings, there are a couple of areas that will benefit from hotter temps. One thing I was extremely grateful about this year, was that our garden has absolutely Loved the humidity we’ve seen in central Texas! We’ve grown okra into December – see photo on the right of our latest blooms on 12/18/2021 – and you might also see the small green pepper behind it, and basil plant growing strong as well.

Home Garden: Tomatoes

Home Garden: Tomatoes, 6-11-21

I know, I know, this topic is certainly nothing new to this blog – those of you that follow this blog already know, that “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live on a farm” (https://suntexllc.com/home-gardens-farm-to-table/). Likely you’ve even seen the plethora of other garden blogs we’ve produced, here: https://suntexllc.com/?s=garden. However, most of our previous posts have focused on the excitement of the harvest, whereas today we’ll explore a little more about the entire process itself, and how to keep your garden safe in the winter time.

Now, to be fair, in our own garden this year, the bell pepper, basil, and even the okra plant needed much more water than I gave them. The basil plant specifically, needs more consistent trimming), and while I like to think I’m much less neglectful of plants these days than say in my college years, when I killed a cactus I’d names Mike only a few months prior, they really didn’t get much water from me.

My saving grace was that the weather, while hot, had been plenty humid and we did get a decent amount of rain this year, as compared to years past. Check out the following link to compare rainfall from this past year, as well as 2020, and years prior: https://etweather.tamu.edu/rainhistory/

The only water I provided to my garden this year was from the humble rainwater catchment ‘system’ in my back yard – if you can even call it that – and a few morning waters (waterings?) just after they were planted months ago. So I think it’s safe to say that these plants were mostly on their own for survival! All joking aside however, I did follow a more strategic process this year in growing our garden than in years past, and if you’re interested in learning more about our experience this year, check out the full story below…

Our Home-Garden Process: To be more specific, I planted starter plants from the Natural Gardener (see details below, but the key factor here is that these plants were not started from seeds):

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in October, 10-16-21

In March: strawberries (which, I always struggle with, but love to eat so I keep trying to grow these), mint, oregano, thyme, tomatoes (featured in post), basil, sweet potatoes (from the store, although it is NOT recommended to do that – see why, here: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/potato/can-you-grow-store-bought-potatoes.htm), garlic, okra (featured, right).

Then in September, after the scorching heat ceased: bell pepper, brussel sprouts, a new basil plant (the summer basil unfortunately perished in the August heat), asparagus, arugula, and a new crop of sweet potatoes.

Home Garden: Okra

Home Garden: Okra in December! 12-18-21

Each of these plants grew from small starter plants from either the Natural Gardener (details below) or Lowes, to large, home-garden, veggie-producing plants harvested all summer & fall. In both seasons, we were able to pickle the okra using vinegar and canning jars, and had basil whenever we needed it – making pizza, or one of my personal favorites, bruschetta – without buying a whole bunch at the store just to see it go bad in my fridge a week later.

The other plants did grow and produce, however they weren’t nearly as big of a success in all honesty, and something kept eating the strawberries before we could, though we never really solved that riddle. And, though there are several other recipes that call for okra and basil, I don’t cook with these often, hence my eagerness to plant and use only as-needed.

Beyond the base need for more water, we had built raised beds in the back yard to support the garden. We built 5 boxes in an area with plenty of sun – using a simple, 4 by 3’x4”x1” base design (for more detail: we also added 3 of these squares for additional height, adjoining each layer with a support block inside, screwed into each corner of the interior of the raised beds). We even added a lid with chicken wire so that our dog, Earl, couldn’t eat everything as soon as it started to bear fruit (also helped with the squirrels). 

We filled the 12-16” tall beds with the following:

  • Compost!!! If you’ve seen previous posts on composting, you know that I am a fierce advocate for the breaking down process. Check out more details, here: BLOG 1, 2, 3
  • Organic Top Soil specifically designed for outdoor gardens (check it out here: )
  • Black mulch (to capture moisture longer, and ideally to prevent weeds)
Home Garden: Raised Beds

Home Garden: Raised Beds

Please note, there are much cuter and likely easier to follow designs online, not to mention a more thorough explanation of the need to mix fertile soils together – so be sure to check them out as well if you’d like to learn more about this process: https://joegardener.com/, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home, https://www.thespruce.com/raised-bed-garden-ideas-4172154

Alas, this design worked for us and still left us with a cute path through the garden, in the sunshine, that we were able to collect from March – July (for the 1st batch), and then again from September – December (mostly for arugula, as several plants in the second batch have not bloomed yet).

I think it’s safe to say at least for this year, climate change helped my Texas garden. So while the most dire effects from climate change can be catastrophic, there are efficient, money-savings means of doing your part to mitigate it, and if you’re lucky, maybe even take advantage of the new tropical summers. 

That said, this winter, we’ll need to make sure we keep the ground as warm as possible when the temperature drops below freezing, and be sure to bring in any potted plants if we want them to survive into next year. For the outdoor garden, I may consider adding some extra tarp and/or sand on top of the outdoor plants in the ground that I want to make sure survive the winter, but we shall see.

I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated from time to time, so check back in a few months to learn more, and please do feel free to share any garden winter-weatherization tips in the comments below!

The Natural Gardener Nursery: Garden Blogger's Fling, Austin

Quick Natural Gardener insider tip –

If you have kids, or even if you don’t, definitely check this place out! They’ve got an expansive outdoor garden, and not to give away too many spoilers but there are also goats and chickens in the back part of the lot that you can check out!

Even if you’re in an apartment there indoor selection – within the greenhouse outdoors – is fantastic, and we have even managed to keep several of these alive and thriving for a few years since we moved in to our current home. The staff is also very knowledgeable about what to grow and when/how, and teaches classes in the summer time. For more details about this place or the types of plants they sell, check out their website here: https://tngaustin.com/.

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Look Out, Lock Your Doors! There’s a Cold front Coming This Weekend

Cold Front in Winter

Well, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m ready for the cold weather this year. This summer was fairly mild, however the warmer temperatures seem to have blended into the fall – since it’s still too hot to wear trousers in the great state of Texas.

Today for example, at least in my hometown in Texas, temperatures got up to a whopping 82º (F), which seems to be slightly above average for this time of year, at least according to weatherspark.com (see for yourself: https://weatherspark.com/y/8004/Average-Weather-in-Austin-Texas-United-States-Year-Round).

Weather.com even had the following to say about the average Temperatures in December:

“December lies during the winter with the average high temperatures in the 50°F (10°C) to 72°F (22.2°C) range and the average low temperatures in the cold to warm 31°F (-0.6°C) to 53°F (11.7°C) range across the state.” (https://www.weather-us.com/en/texas-usa-weather-december#climate_text_1).

It’s safe to say that I welcome the cold-front this week, and the cozy feelings of fall that will finally come with it! However the most shocking quote from the same article above came from a couple of lines down:

“The Gulf Coast has mild winters: Brownsville has average temperatures in the comfortable 53°F (11.7°C) to 72°F (22.2°C), and South Padre Island is between 55°F (12.8°C) to 71°F (21.7°C). Humidity is more in the coastal areas, and December is often above 75%.” (https://www.weather-us.com/en/texas-usa-weather-december#climate_text_1).

When we went to the gulf at the end of October (near South Padre, as referenced above) – in part because of the Seattle Seahawks bi-week, but also towards the end of the Texas Red-fish season (https://freshwaterfishingadvice.com/best-time-tide-redfish/) – we found that temperatures were still fairly warm in comparison to years past.

To my recollection, temps may have fallen to the upper-fifties at night, however it was warm enough to swim in the ocean during the day – and even reached the eighties 2/3 days we were there. Thus, as a native Texan my whole life, it’s safe to say the temperatures and humidity we experienced this year, in 2021, were not quite ‘normal,’ even if unsurprising as well.

I can remember growing up with a few hot winters here – one of the things I told my partner when we got married was that “Santa wears shorts in Texas.” He laughed of course, but in his last four years in Texas, it’s safe to say we’ve experienced some of our coldest winters. I won’t go into that for now on the winter storm for example, except to say that I will definitely be paying more attention to the weather channel’s advice when it comes to expectations of freezing temperatures this year – since my garden, and any other indoor & outdoor freeze-intolerant plants could die if we dip below 32° (F).

Lucky for those in the central Texas area however, this week and next, the temperature is expected to only get down to the 40’s, so hopefully everything outside will be okay. I’d recommend bringing in any inside plants temperamental to temperature changes – otherwise any fall outdoor plants should be just fine to survive the forty to eighty-degree (F) temps this week.

The real reason for my concern: my outdoor garden. Yes, I know, if I want to be serious about gardening in Texas I’d better build a greenhouse or at least invest in a growing light so I can transfer plants to the garage if and when a Texas freeze does occur – particularly since we get at least one or two each year (life threatening polar vortex storms aside). However this weekend, I’ll be taking a chance with my garden and leaving the non-edible plants, such as the jasmine and rock rose, as well as a few edible plants, like the okra, basil, and green pepper, out in the cold.

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s blog post for more information on home gardening and climate change, and some of the benefits my family at least has experienced so far this year from both! And in the meantime, also be sure to grab a blanket and some hot cocoa this weekend to enjoy the fall weather that has finally arrived, just a few days before the official start of winter.

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Solar Panels in the Winter: Myths and Motivators 101

It may not be surprising to you that when the sun is further away from the earth, ie during the fall and winter months in the northern hemisphere (Nov-Feb), less sunlight reaches the earth’s surface.

So, it would stand to reason that less sunlight is hitting your roof-top during this time-frame than the remainder of the year.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore this phenomenon in more detail, as well as some of the myths about producing solar energy in the winter, as well as a couple of reasons why you might still want to make the purchase anyway, to take advantage all year long of energy savings.

Solar Panels

Myths 

  • Solar panels do not produce energy in the winter.”

False. In fact, solar panels produce on average produce 35% of their overall annual energy production in Texas during the winter time (“On average, 65% of our local solar system’s annual energy output is generated between March 21st and September 21st of each year. The other half of the year, between September 21st and March 21st, accounts for the other 35% of annual solar output.” https://www.lighthousesolarny.com/blog/2017/february/the-seasonality-of-solar-energy-production/).

During the winter storm in February of 2021, Texans learned first-hand just how helpful solar panels can be in an emergency winter storm – check out the following article from Pecan Street’s Chief Technology Officer, Scott Hinson, here: https://www.pecanstreet.org/2021/02/solarstorm/.

  • Solar panels are less efficient in the winter, because of rain and snow.”

This one is partially true, if you live in Seattle or Greenbay, where rain and snow in the winter time should come as no surprise at all. However in Texas, with average rainfall reaching 27.25″ (https://learn.weatherstem.com/modules/learn/lessons/182/19.html#:~:text=The%20average%20annual%20rainfall%20for,climatic%20regions%20of%20the%20state), and average snowfall typically in the ‘none’ range, it’s safe to say that your solar panels will absorb energy as efficiently in the summer months, if the distance of the sun were negligible.

  • The further distance of the sun during the winter months means that your panels will produce less energy than they would in the summer months.”

True, but only if you live in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere the sun is actually closer to the earth, and therefore would produce more solar energy in what American’s would think of as “winter time,” and if you don’t believe me, just check out the following link which explains this exact phenomenon: https://solarcalculator.com.au/solar-panel-orientation/.

Motivators

Winter Solar Panels

Even if you live in the northern hemisphere, where solar production may dip in the winter months, you’re still likely to produce some extra energy – as we saw in myth buster #1.

Additionally, if you were to perhaps accompany your solar system with back-up battery power and/or a generator, you could also keep your heat on should say a winter storm hit and take down the energy grid in your neighborhood for 4-5 days. This is a huge incentive to start looking into solar power generation from your home, because outside of a zombie-apocalypse occurring, you’ll want to start preparing to save money and keep your home well insulated against the negative effects of climate change as well, and having solar energy & energy storage could make a difference if the grid in your area is shut off.

However, if you’re not interested in saving money, or want to save money and carbon emissions in the most effective way possible, going green has really never been easier with solar! Harvesting energy from the sun is renewable and there is a lot of sun to go around, however unlike geothermal heaters or wind turbines, the set up for rooftop solar is fairly simple, and will only require a few months of planning and execution before you’re able to enjoy energy credits on your utility bill from your solar production.

Finally this brings us to the #1 motivator to go solar: Net Metering. If you don’t know what this is, we’ve discussed it on earlier blogs so be sure to check those out (here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/, and https://suntexllc.com/electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common-part-2-of-2/ – to reference just a couple, feel free to uncover more using the search feature).

Net metering is the icing on top of the solar cake that makes this technology feasible in modern every-day life. Net metering works exactly how it sounds: your meter is typically upgraded to a smart meter so that you’re able to measure not only energy consumption, but energy production as well. Therefore, when your solar array produces energy to send to the grid, your utility company can then take the “net” or difference between what energy was consumed and what energy was produced and apply energy production credits to your utility bill. These credits are applied to your energy bill each month and deducted (in simple terms) from your total energy bill, thus making your energy cost more affordable.

So, if emergency planning, saving money, reducing carbon emissions and gaining energy credits on your utility bill haven’t convinced you yet of the benefits of solar, I’m not sure anything will, but feel free to share some additional comments in the section below, and hopefully we can help get those myths busted, and those panels installed!

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The Energy Cost of Holiday Lights

Holiday LightsNot to be a Grinch or anything, but each year I am curious as to just how much energy is used by Christmas lights. I generally add a few strands to my rooftop, and any extra lights to the oak tree in our front yard, however my energy bill is comparatively low to the rest of the year, especially when compared to the summer months (when we turn on the ac to keep cool).

However given the fairly mild winter weather in Texas, we generally don’t need to use a heater initially, and can simply enjoy the 50º Fahrenheit weather indoors and out. So it makes sense why even with several strands of lights our home would still use less energy overall than it does in warmer or cooler months, when our energy usage would fluctuate even more.

Of course, it certainly depends on how many Christmas lights you use to decorate – from lining your rooftop with a few strands, to all of Zilker Park with a few thousand! According to AustinTexas.org, “From November 27 through December 31, 2021, Zilker Park transforms into a drive-thru winter wonderland as it’s lit up by more than 2 million lights, 90 lighted holiday trees and more than 70 other holiday displays and lighted tunnels” (https://www.austintexas.org/austin-insider-blog/post/austin-trail-of-lights/). Unfortunately in doing my research I wasn’t able to find out exactly how many strands of lights are used in this festivity, however I did find this:

Zilker Park Tree Lights“In 2016 Austin Energy restored the historic moontower. The project deep-cleaned each of the tower’s individual parts and repaired aging items. The restoration included new LED light bulbs that are brighter and more energy efficient, “saving approximately 131,400 kilowatt-hours annually, which is the equivalent of powering 11 average-sized homes year-round,” according to Austin Energy” (read more about the event and tree-lighting ceremony, here: https://www.austintexas.gov/department/zilker-holiday-tree).

Getting back to the question at hand however, how does one calculate just how much energy their Christmas lights will consume? Well, assuming you don’t likewise have thousands upon thousands of strands for your home, it becomes quite easy!

Holiday Lights

  Step 1: Determine the wattage of each strand of bulbs (this is usually found on the box they came in).

  Step 2: Count the number of strands used, and multiply it by the total wattage per strand you found in Step 1.

  Step 3: Determine how many hours per day you typically leave them on (this part of the calculation is generally much easier if you use a timer system, which powers the bulbs on and off at the same time each day).

  Step 4: Count the number of days that the lights are up and on. Using the number you calculated in Step 2 (wattage of each strand of light x the number of strands used), multiply then by the hours they’re powered on (in Step 3), and then by the number of days you will have them on (from Step 4). Now you have the total amount of kilowatt-hours (or kWh) you plan to use in order to power your Christmas lights.

  Step 5: Looking at your electricity bill, find the amount you’re charged per kWh (if your energy company uses surge-pricing, it’s likely you’ll have to use more than one rate and divide up the hours of usage accordingly, though because most people don’t use their Christmas lights until it’s dark, after roughly 6pm, it’s likely you won’t have too much variation in surge pricing and non-surge pricing).

Using the total number of kWh you found in Step 4, multiply it by the price per kWh your energy company uses and then voila! You’ve now calculated the total cost to your energy bill to power your Christmas lights.

For a quicker, and likely slightly easier solution, feel free to check out an online calculator such as the one found here: https://displaysales.com/christmas-lights-electricity-cost-guide/.

Hopefully the amount you calculated didn’t come as too big of a shock to you, no pun intended, however if you can’t afford to add lights yourself, be sure to check out the holiday lights in your area. There are lots of free ways to explore the holiday season and share in the wonderment of holiday lighting ceremonies. What are some of your favorites? Be sure to share them in the comments below, and Happy Holidays!

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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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Winter Is Coming

Winter is ComingWhile the air is finally getting chilly, the first official day of winder isn’t until December 21st, so it’s just around the corner, or as New Stark would say, “Winter is Coming!”

Though some folks have been experiencing the winter season already this year, with the first snowfall in Colorado in August (https://www.9news.com/article/weather/weather-colorado/colorado-snow-august-2021/73-e5645239-83f5-4505-8c40-421467f7ad2a), and with record low temps occurring in the south pole this year (https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/10/01/south-pole-coldest-winter-record/), it may be difficult for them to accept that we’re still in the fall season, at least in the northern hemisphere.

That said, working in the solar industry I often find myself talking about things many consider to be trivial – such as the sun, the season, the weather – but also learning things that those same skeptics would consider fascinating. For example, did you know:

  • Even though the Winter Solstice, on December 21st, is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, it’s actually the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, and in some places the sun never sets there at all: “That depends on whether you’re in the Southern or Northern Hemisphere! It will be the shortest day of the year north of the Equator—very little sunlight will be reflected back into space. It will be the longest day of the year south of the Equator—summertime” (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/solstice-solar-radiation/print/).
  • If you’ve ever considered putting a solar panel system on your home, you’ve likely heard the term “peak hours,” but what are they? Thanks to unboundsolar.com, we don’t have to speculate: “Peak sun hours differ from hours of daylight; the peak sun hour actually describes the intensity of sunlight in a specific area, defined as an hour of sunlight that reaches an average of 1,000 watts of power per square meter (around 10.5 feet). Although your panels may get an average of 7 hours of daylight a day, the average peak sun hours are generally around 4 or 5. Solar radiation peaks at solar noon, when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky. The number of peak sun hours you get per day increases the closer you are to the equator and typically during the summer months” (https://unboundsolar.com/solar-information/sun-hours-us-map).
  • Early 2021, the US saw the coldest temperatures on record in roughly 30 years? According to noaa.gov, “February 2021 brought the coldest air since December 1989 to much of the state. Several locations across central Texas — including Austin and Waco — broke records for the longest streak of below-freezing temperatures” (https://www.noaa.gov/news/us-had-its-coldest-february-in-more-than-30-years).

So what do you think, did you learn anything new just talking about the weather?

Winter sun

Learning more about the tilt and azimuth of your roof, as well as the latitudinal direction it faces can help you decide whether solar panels are “right” for you. For example, if you look at the chart within the link above titled, “Peak Sun Hours Map,” you’ll see that in the north-eastern-most and north-western-most parts of the country, there are only an average of 3.5 peak hours of sunlight per day (link here for reference: https://unboundsolar.com/solar-information/sun-hours-us-map). Whereas, the majority of the country has at least 4.5 peak hours on average per day, and Texas as you likely know from enduring the summer here, receives even more.

Though there are several other factors – particularly ones we’ve discussed in subsequent blogs (such as these: Sunrise to Sunset: Important things to Consider Before Switching to Solar, https://suntexllc.com/sunrise-to-sunset-what-to-consider-before-switching-to-solar/; Electrical Components: Smart Meters, Net Metering, and Data Monitoring – What Do They All Have in Common? Part 1 of 2, https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/; SOLAR REBATES And LOCAL INCENTIVES, https://suntexllc.com/solar-rebates-and-local-incentives/), this is definitely an important factor in determining whether or not solar panels are a feasible way to save you money on your energy bill – the more peak sunlight hours on average per day, the better! Read along in this blog to learn more about which factors to consider before making the switch and “Going Solar.”

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“30 Days hath September, April, June, and November”

NovemberIn case you’re like me and forget the answer to this question each year, “how many days are in November again?” Mother Goose has you covered. Check out the original poem, here: https://poets.org/poem/leap-year-poem. If however, you’re like April from the beloved show, Parks and Rec, you might forget the poem, so to jog your memory you can also check out this hilarious episode which you (and of course Ron Swanson) are less likely to forget: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhulR_kJf7Y.

All joking aside however, now that the Turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers have been digested, and the food coma has worn off, it’s time to get back to business before the end of the year hits.

So break out those laptops, pens and legal pads, or whatever you use to be productive, and let’s get to work!

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Happy Hanukkah, to You and Yours from all of us at SUNTEX!

This year, Hanukkah begins in the evening of Sunday, November 28, and ends in the evening of Monday, December 6.

What is Hanukkah?

While I do know a little about it, I am by no means an expert on the holiday, more an admirer, so I turn to chabad.org to help me answer this question, and to learn more about the magic that is the “Festival of Lights”!

According to their website, “Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple” (check out the full link, here: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm).

Why does Hanukkah last 8 days?

Hanukkah

In the famous sitcom, “Friends,” Ross, or the Holiday Armadillo, explains a little bit about why this celebration takes place for eight days – and he does a decent job of explaining this in terms an 8-year-old can easily follow. For a slightly more cerebral approach however, I’ll continue to refer to a couple of other sources as well for clarification.

If you continued reading on in the chabad.org link referenced above, you already know why – “In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in God. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.” (https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm).

Of course, history.com also provides a helpful explanation of this sacred holiday, as well as some supportive detail around it’s foundation and the practices that followed – check out the full article, here: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah. According to their version of the origin of Hanukkah, “The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.”

This sounds very familiar to the version outlined above, however the article goes on to explore other possible interpretations of this holiday and how it first began, saying “Jewish scholars have also suggested that the first Hanukkah may have been a belated celebration of Sukkot, which the Jews had not had the chance to observe during the Maccabean Revolt. One of the Jewish religion’s most important holidays, Sukkot consists of seven days of feasting, prayer and festivities” (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah).

How is this day celebrated?

Again, for those who read the full history.com article this will come as no surprise, however I think it’s important to honor the Jewish culture and understand not only why this holiday takes place, but also how. To explore this question, I again turn to history.com to help me out: “On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah  prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.

Hanukkah

In another allusion to the Hanukkah miracle, traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are particularly popular in many Jewish households. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts. In recent decades, particularly in North America, Hanukkah has exploded into a major commercial phenomenon, largely because it falls near or overlaps with Christmas. From a religious perspective, however, it remains a relatively minor holiday that places no restrictions on working, attending school or other activities” (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah).

 

However you choose to observe this holiday, we here at SUNTEX hope you have a wonderful and blessed Hanukkah week this year!

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Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours

Fall

Warm wishes this Thanksgiving, from the SUNTEX team!

To our customers, partners, and business collaborators, our story of success would have been incomplete without you. May the upcoming year be full of many more opportunities for us to grow together.

We are so thankful for all that you have done, and continue to do to support us in our mission to provide affordable solar to all. Thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving day!

In observance of the holiday, our office will be closed on Thursday, November 25th and Friday November 26th. We will open back up on Monday, November 29th.

Hasta pronto!

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