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Arlington, TX 76010

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Resources to learn more about the Energy Industry: ACORE, DSIRE, DOE, EPA, ISES, SEIA, and TREIA

If you’re doing your own research on the solar industry, and would like a few resources to point you in the right direction, feel free to check out this week’s blogs! We’ll be analyzing different national and international organizations that specialize in the modernization of the energy industry – with a high emphasis on solar and solar energy storage (batteries). While this is not an extensive list, the groups we’ll review this week include some of the best and brightest in the industry, and each has a ton of resources for you to learn more about each different facet of the green energy market, see the short list along with links to each, below:

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Product Deep Dive: Energy Efficient Windows

When I bought my first home, I remember asking the inspector whether or not there were any energy efficiency requirements for new homes, and whether or not our potential home had any of these upgrades (I know this is still fairly new territory in terms of construction and legislation, however I was mostly curious about two things: kill switches, and window energy efficiency. According to Instructables.com, a kill switch is “is a separate electrical AC switch to be used for cutting off the electrical power that is consumed by a device. This is convenient for reducing stand-by electricity consumption and for manually switching devices. In most cases, a luminous switch is being applied.” (https://www.instructables.com/Hack-a-power-outlet-kill-switch/) – though unlike the steps outlined in this article, I would not recommend modifying the kill switches in your home without an electrician present, this article does outline what they are and how they’re used, as well as how to disable the indicator light on your kill switch to make it even more efficient! My other home energy efficiency concern came from years of living through Texas summers with the AC on high, only to hear my mother shriek when the electric bill came in – so I knew energy efficient windows was something I wanted in my home one way or another. Typical to houses built prior to the 2000’s however, my windows were no where near efficient – and one even had a crack potentially letting the nice cool air from the AC unit escape in the summer time! We knew it was just a matter of time before we needed to replace our windows, and until having heard a few quotes we had no idea of the cost! Thankfully, SUNTEX was able to provide a bid that gave us the high-quality, energy-efficient (and easy to clean) windows at a much lower cost than we’d originally found, so owe decided to move forward with them! Here are some options below that you can consider for your window renovation project.

Because windows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it’s important to think about your dream home as well as your desired budget when considering a new window design. Typically custom windows are more expensive since they require additional labor, materials, and design work – though they can also add curb appeal and higher home value. The following links provide you with a range of products so you’re able to make the best decision for your dream home:

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Product Deep Dive: Microinverters

Just a few years ago, Micro-inverters were used almost exclusively with commercial projects. Their job is to optimize the amount of sun from each solar panel, convert the energy from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) that can be used in your home. It’s easy to confuse microinverters with power optimizers, so here’s a quick post from Energysage on the key similarities and differences between the two: https://www.energysage.com/solar/101/microinverters-vs-power-optimizers/.

Today however, microinverters and power optimizerrs are becoming more of an industry standard because of their increase in efficiency, and to some extent for their sleeker style as well (as compared to a string inverter system). Solar panels may be the most visible item, but it’s the inverter that does all the real work. Choosing the right inverter technology for your project is a critical decision you make when going solar. Luckily, there are a few products in the solar industry that make it easy on us, and our Company-favorite is the Enphase Microinverter. These microinverters offer the most advanced inverter technology on the market, which means higher production, greater reliability, and unmatched intelligence. Below are links to the Enphase Energy Microinverter website (along with the spec sheet for reference) that we use for solar installations:

ENPHASE COMPANY INFO: www.enphase.com

ENPHASE MICRO-INVERTER SPEC SHEET: https://enphase.com/en-us/support/enphase-iq-7-and-iq-7-plus-micro-data-sheet

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Product Deep-Dive: Solar Panels

Product quality is important to us, and luckily in the solar market, it doesn’t always counteract Product Cost. Using locally sourced materials and products are part of our company fiber.

Thus, we proudly use Mission Solar panels for most of our Solar-Panel System installations and we have provided their website for more information on how these panels are manufactured, with a special video featuring how they’re built with Texas weather in mind.

When Mission Solar Panels are not available however, we will substitute for other high-quality panels that are not manufactured in Texas, such as REC Alpha solar panels, or Hanwha Q-cells. For more information about these specific panels, please check out the following links from Solar Electric Supply:

If you’re curious to learn more, you know what to do – ask us for a free quote for your home, today!

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Product Deep Dive: Owens Corning Insulation

Insulation is essential in the energy discussion, and can save you a lot of money on your energy costs. Particularly since Texas gets extreme weather in the winter and in the summer, proper insulation can trap heat in your home – even if your power is cut off – and will also keep your home cool in the summer – even during triple-digit days.

Insulation isn’t exactly one of the sexier topics in the Home Improvement industry since you’ll hopefully almost never see it, however I can’t stress it’s importance enough in keeping your house, well, insulated! If you decide you’re interested in allowing us to conduct a site survey, and hearing a quote, please check out the Owens Corning website and provide a free quote upon a site inspection – https://www.owenscorning.com/en-us/insulation/residential.

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Historical Figures: Insulation Inventors

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how on earth an American home – and all of the gadgets and technology within them – came to be. How did people learn to add weather stripping to the bottom of the door frame that would be durable to withstand being walked on, but also flexible enough to seal the door from air flowing in or out? How did we get from straw roof-tops to the asphalt-laden tiles you see on rooftops today? While I don’t have all of the answers, I did come across a few interesting inventions that brought us closer to the home improvements we see today.

For example, did you know humans used to use asbestos in homes, on purpose, for insulation?! It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Asbestos bans started cropping up all over the world, even though it is still used today in some projects in the U.S.: https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma-lawyer/legislation/ban/

Mud has been used as a natural insulator in buildings for centuries! In fact, mud homes are still popular all over the world today, including in India and other parts of the world where dry heat is common, https://www.downtoearth.org.in/indepth/mud-housing-is-the-key-30237, and in Ghana the industry for mud homes is even being perfected by the work of Joelle Eyeson and the team at Hive Earth, https://www.dw.com/en/in-ghana-new-updated-mud-houses-could-be-the-future/a-47536312 – how beautiful! 

One type of mud building you’ve likely seen before is adobe. This ancient technology is used all over the world, and has been for thousands of years – from New Mexico to New Zealand, https://www.solidearth.co.nz/earthbuilding-information/building-with-adobe-brick-technique/, and back again. For all you want to know about the construction of adobe and more, feel free to check out the following article for more information: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-adobe-sustainable-energy-efficient-177943.

If you’re more familiar with the pinkish foam-like substance between your walls, you can thank Dale Kleist for his invention of Fiberglass Insulation: https://www.pjfitz.com/blog/insulation-installation/home-improvement-history-lessons-insulation/#:~:text=When%20researcher%20Dale%20Kleist%20attempted,became%20popular%20in%20the%201940s. According to this article, in the 1940’s Kleist was attempting “to create a vacuum seal between two glass blocks, an accidental stream of high-pressured air turned some of the glass into thin fibers. These fibers became the base of fiberglass insulation.” This is just one of the few types of insulation we use today when installing Owens Corning products – check out our link with more information, here: https://www.owenscorning.com/en-us/insulation/residential.

Insulation is essential in the energy discussion. As we just saw in Texas during the winter storm, proper insulation can trap heat in your home – even when your power is cut off – and can keep your home cool in the summer during those triple-digit days. If you have questions about the insulation quality in your home, call us today!

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DIY: Energy Audits

If you’re curious about how much energy you’re currently using and where that energy is allocated, feel free conduct an energy audit! Our first step in creating a quote for your home is to conduct a customized energy audit of your home, and then try to determine how you might best save money, however you can also do so on your own by looking at your energy bill, particularly the section that includes your energy usage in kWh, or kilowatt hours (if you’re unsure how to translate kWh into kW, check out the following article which outlines the differences in these two measurements – hint: it’s not the number of kW per hour – https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/what-is-a-kwh-kw-and-kwh-explained.html#:~:text=A%20kilowatt%20hour%20(kWh)%20is,much%20energy%20you’re%20using.&text=It%20is%20simply%20a%20unit,up%201%20kWh%20of%20energy.)

When you look at this section of your bill, take note of a couple of things – 1) what is your average monthly kWh usage, and 2) what is the cost to you per kWh of energy usage? These amounts will help you to determine whether or not a solar system, new air-conditioning unit, new double-pained windows, etc. could help you save energy long-term.

For a guide in doing an energy audit yourself, and considering where you might be expending a lot of energy currently, check out the following: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-energy-audits/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits.

Doing these calculations ahead of shopping for energy efficiency upgrades will really set you up for success, because you’ll have a much better idea of where your energy usage currently stands – for any additional questions you have on this process, or about the cost of a solar system, give us a call today!

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The Psychology of Decision Making

You’ve heard it before: the more choices you have, the harder the decision is to make. You spend countless moments the cereal isle – contemplating whether you’ll be in the mood for chocolate, fruity, nutty, or sugar-less cereal in the coming week – when you know you’ll be back soon to make the decision all over again.

The same can be true with choosing which type of energy efficiencies you might like to upgrade in your home, and then in choosing the right company to make said upgrades. For just about everyone that decides to ‘go solar,’ Total Cost is the #1 driver when considering which company to choose from – especially when the relative quality of solar panels is fairly consistent across the board (Panasonic 335W panels have ~20% module efficiency, LG 360W panels have ~20.8% module efficiency, Q-Cells have ~19.9% module efficiency); but let’s consider one fundamental piece of the decision making process: the Anchoring Heuristic.

According to the Association for Psychological Science (APS), “anchoring, is people’s tendency to stay close to a starting point when making an estimate — even when they know that the starting point could be way off the mark” – so, when considering bids, if the first solar company you meet with provides you with a quote for a $40,000 system with the highest efficiency panels on the market, you’re more likely to stay closer to that number than you would had you started with a bid closer to ~$30,000 (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/the-mechanics-of-choice). This is not to suggest that you should buy the lowest-cost system every time, because of course there are always caveats (like considering whether a company can achieve what they say they can in the allotted time frame), however it’s important to keep in mind when shopping around not only what you’re looking for, but why you’re making a certain decision. 

The article goes on further to discuss the two different “systems” in which we make decisions – fast and “gut feeling” decisions, and slow, “research-based” decisions. Both types of decisions have a role to play in our lives – fast decisions help us to survive whereas slow decisions help us to thrive. When you’ve made the decision to learn more about solar, we recommend you get more than one quote (ideally three) to really make the best financial decision for your family – but keep in mind that if you’re feeling pressure to make a decision quickly, you’re more likely to use your “gut feeling” than a “research-based” decision. When it comes to weighing out options, it’s important to consider who you’re working with, what they’re offering, and why their price differs from their competitor. Why am I telling you this? It’s simple: I know from my experience in the solar industry that our prices at SUNTEX are competitive, and that the customer is the most important aspect of our business – and even if you don’t decide to go solar with us, we celebrate your decision to go solar! At the end of the day we just want you to make the best financial decision for you and your family, and we would love the opportunity to help make that decision a little easier – the more information you have, the better.

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Get into the Habit of Developing Good Habits

It’s said that it takes 21 days to develop a habit, and unfortunately just one day to break one: see here. If you’d really like to get scientific, please read the following article from the Oxford Research encyclopedia on habit formation, and the variation between us, here

As we tackle the effects of climate change together, and as we learn more about the types of things that can prevent it, what are some of your energy habits that you need to break? What are some energy habits you could increase, or even promote?

For me, especially as I’m working from home, this includes simple things – like turning off lights/fans/air conditioners when I leave the room or the house – and more complex things, like completing an energy analysis using my utility bill. The more I learn now about my own energy habits and the fluctuations on my energy bill, the more prepared I’ll be to develop better ones, offsetting my utility costs and saving me a ton of money at the end of the day, literally.

If you would like for us to do an energy audit of your home, call us today! In the meantime, good luck with the 21-day rule – feel free to share your good energy habits in the comments section.

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Look at What the Neighbors are Doing Now!

One of my favorite quotes in life that I’m constantly returning to is the one from Theodore Roosevelt in which he says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s easy for us to look at our energy costs and think, “Well, it could be worse – look at my neighbor!” however it’s much harder for us to hold ourselves personally accountable, and even harder when that accountability is for the sake of the collective good versus an individual.

The problem with this of course, is that our needle is always moving. If we compare ourselves to neighbor A one day, and then neighbor A decides to purchase an inflatable bouncy castle that runs all-day, every-day (for example), then our perception of our own good energy management will change ever so slightly – you’ll still likely be better off than neighbor A, but you might start to ease up on your personal energy consumption and production goals because, neighbor A has eased up on theirs, and by default you have a little more “wiggle room.”

This article was written not to suggest that we should all be living in dimly-lit caves to save energy – though if you do, thank you for your sacrifice for the collective good – but to start to really look at our energy consumption on a personal level and ask, how could it be improved? Where can I save money? And, notably, will my actions even make a difference?

This week, we’ll explore some of the psychology and data in the energy sector, and what we can do to break some of those bad habits as we work to mitigate our own energy costs together.

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