Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Super-Cold Winter Predicted for Eastern U.S. Means More Electrical Outages

The Old Farmers Almanac, the New Hampshire based chronicler of climate, planting information, celestial calendars, folksy advice, and funnies, has predicted a colder than average winter for the Eastern two thirds of the nation in 2014. Using over a hundred year old formula that includes the position of sunspots and other meteorological data, the editors at the almanac have had a notorious success rate of nearly 80% over its lifetime. The organization also predicts that while Florida will have a wetter than average winter, the Southeast will see less rain. While the prediction of a colder winter may cause panic in some peoples minds, the change in average temperature will only be about 2 to 5 degrees.

The projected frigid winter will undoubtedly mean more strain on the nations electrical grid. Even a slight decrease in temperature can mean the difference between rain and freezing rain on power lines and where they terminate into residences. More power outages are expected as a result. One of the most often damaged components electricity delivery to a home is at the weatherhead, which is the point where a power line attaches to a home. The service line then leads from the weatherhead down a conduit to the meter base. When power lines go down, they can often pull down the weatherhead to the home. Contrary to popular belief, repairing a damaged weatherhead, conduit, or meter base is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the power company. An experienced electrical contractor should be contacted in the event that any of these components are damaged.

With more severe winter weather expected to put greater stress on the electrical power grid this winter, many homeowners are considering a backup home generator to keep critical electrical systems, such as heating or kitchen appliances, running in the event of an outage. Often running on natural gas instead of backup batteries, these systems provide a constant supply of electricity to the home over longer periods of time. Gas powered generators that can be purchased at any home improvement store do not generally provide as much electrical power as larger, permanent systems, and also require constant refilling of fuel to maintain constant power supply. More permanent, natural gas powered systems provide uninterrupted power supply for weeks, but typically require the training and knowledge of an experienced electrician to safely install at a home.

Beco, Incorporated is a preferred Generac™ generator dealer, providing recommendations on various sizes of permanent generators for residences or businesses, with expert installation and maintenance.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Energy Efficiency - State Standards Raise the Bar

In an article featured in June’s edition of Electrical Contractor magazine, Rick Laezman explains that despite all the current hype about alternative-energy practices gives the movement all the momentum it needs, there is still a long way to go. Rick points out that in reality, the movement is a long way from self-sufficiency, so government incentives, whether positive or negative, is still necessary.

North Carolina electrical policy is a good example. Incentives created by the state attracted huge energy users like Google and Apple to set up large solar farms within the state to fuel their server farms and customer service centers. These policy moves brought many jobs to the state, while also making North Carolina 4th in the nation for installed solar capacity in 2013 (see previous post – North Carolina Ranks in Top Ten for Solar Power Generation). As one of the very few installers of solar power systems in High Point, North Carolina, Beco understands the promise of this technology. Other states, however, make the argument that alternative energy caused a burden on the electrical grid. Oklahoma just passed a law that forces homeowners to pay a fee for the right to remain connected to the local power grid, although most of those homes are actually contributing solar generated power back to the system.

The Electrical Contractor Magazine article uses an April report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy to point out that 26 states who adopted standards that encourage utilities in a variety of programs saved enough electricity to power 2 million home for an entire year. The ACEEE report added that if the 26 states continue these standards, savings will be equivalent to 6.2 percent overall electricity sales in the US in 2020.

No matter what alternative energy policy does for the overall economy, energy efficient practices save businesses and homeowners money. The professionals at Beco Electrical can make recommendations on products and practices to make your home or business more energy-efficient, as well as provide an estimate for a solar power generation system.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Growing Trend: Safety Lighting

An effective lighting system cannot only provide a feeling of safety; it can also deter possible wrongdoers from your residence or place of business. While any light is nice for security, it is important to have a well-planned, well-designed system of lights for the best possible result.

However, there is a difference between lighting for safety and lighting for security. When lighting for safety, it is key to have enough lighting, to prevent visitors and workers from tripping on curbs or bumping into objects. Where as lighting for security, lights should provide facial recognition as well as determining intent of a person from over 30 feet away. In the application of security lighting, vertical foot-candles carry much more importance than horizontal foot-candles.

Technology is growing in security lighting, the electronic components, controls, dimming capabilities, and advanced LEDs are all new factors to provide better security and safety in your lighting system. LED advancements make more lumens and less maintenance, while increasing uniformity to provide better visual perception. LEDs have low energy consumption, which help save the user money while providing stronger lighting.

As new policies and utility rebates become available, they help push the security lighting market forward. Many communities are utilizing the newest developments in the industry to provide their residents with safer way of living. Since cities in the Piedmont Triad are 24/7 areas, security lighting is of high importance.

Beco Electrical Contractors provides commercial and residential security and safety lighting to its customers in the Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, and Burlington area. With over five decades or experience, Beco is knowledgeable of all of the latest trends and newest advances in the lighting industry. If you want to install lighting to keep your place of business or residency safe, remember . . .

It’s Best to Call Beco!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Backup Power Needed for Safety in Mission-Critical Facilities

Emergency backup power is key for any facility in the Piedmont Triad to remain operational during a natural disaster. Keeping systems operational such as phone lines, fire sprinklers, air ventilation, and lighting are not only important for typical business operations, but for the health and safety of workers and customers.

Usually when thinking of backup power, one thinks of larger facilities such as power plants, data centers, and hospitals. However, many businesses that do not require backup generators legally are beginning to understand their value, not only for convenience, but for the safety of their customers an inventory as well.

The trend of backup power is surging through the East Coast, including central North Carolina. Many states are pushing legislation that would require gas stations and convenience stores to have generators. That way, they would still be able to serve gasoline in case of a natural disaster. Florida has already passed laws that require gas stations along hurricane evacuation routes to have backup power. While most of these examples are providing essentials, many small businesses are starting to understand the importance of being prepared for these types of situations.

When designing an emergency power system, it is key for the electrical contractor to equally prioritize installation and system function. In addition to the main installer, qualified electrical contractors should be a highly involved advisor during the entire build. Trained and knowledgeable on backup power system design, they should also understand the logistics that will make or break any project.

For decades, Beco has been providing backup generator installation for businesses and residences in Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, and Burlington. Be sure to speak with a electrical contractor with generator experience when considering a backup power system for your business or home.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ten Electrifying Facts About Electricity

Electricity is an incredible force we use everyday across the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. It powers our lights, computers, phones, and even in some cases, cars. Even though we use electrical service in our daily lives, how much do you really know about it? Here are eight facts that may ‘shock’ you about electricity!

1. The Ben Franklin Myth – Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin did not discover electricity; however he did discover that lightning is a form of electricity. It was actually the Greeks around 600 BCE who made the first discovery of this force of nature by rubbing animal fur and amber (fossilized tree sap) together. While this wasn’t enough to power anything, it was the first discovery of static electricity.

2. Solar Power – In just 15 minutes, the sun radiates as much energy as we use in an entire year. Solar Power is one of the most ideal ways for efficiently using electricity. Beco Electrical is the only Solar installer located in High Point, North Carolina, and hosting a working solar farm that serves both to produce power and educate Triad area schools about solar power.

3. First in Flick (of a switch) – The first lighthouse to use electricity was the Statue of Liberty (Yes, the Statue of Liberty used to function as a lighthouse!). The first bridge to utilize electricity was the Brooklyn Bridge and in 1882, the first power plant opened in New York City. The plant, located in the lower part of Manhattan, was named Pearl Street Station and was owned by none other than Thomas Edison. When the plant first opened, it had one generator that could power 800 light bulbs.

4. Inventor Edison – Thomas Edison is easily one of the first people you think of in the history of electricity. He invented the first light bulb, but did you know that he invented 2,000 products needed for the use of electricity in our homes? These inventions include fuses, switches, and sockets.

5. Nuts and Volts – A bolt of lightning measures about 3 million volts, while a small spark of static electricity measures up to about 3,000 volts. Meaning 1/1000th of a lightning bolt is equal to one shock of static electricity! An electric eel’s shock can produce up to 600 volts.

6. Holiday History – Driving through any Piedmont Triad neighborhood in December, it’s hard to find many houses that aren’t decorated in bright lights. However, in the early 1900’s, it was quite the opposite. Christmas lights were so expensive they were usually rented instead of bought. At that time, a tree covered in electric lights was actually a status symbol of wealthier households.

7. Bird on a Wire – Ever wonder why birds never get electrocuted while standing on telephone wires? There is actually one safe wire birds can stand on. However, if they stand on any of the other ones, this would cause the bird to complete the circuit and become electrocuted.

8. Google Power – Google makes up 0.013% of the world’s energy consumption. While this may seem like a small number, it is enough energy to continuously power 200,000 homes. The amount of energy it takes to run 100 searches on google.com is the same amount as running a 60-watt light bulb for 28 minutes.
While these facts about electricity are quite interesting, Beco Electrical has been providing High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Burlington residences and businesses with knowledgeable electrical service and repairs for over 50 years.

Friday, May 23, 2014

10 Tips to Leave Your Home Safe this Memorial Day 2014

If you are like many of our neighbors in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Memorial Day 2014 means a long, well-deserved weekend in the cool mountains or on the sunny coast. As we leave our homes for an extended period, here are a few helpful tips to keep things safe while we are away.
1. Get a Friend to Help Out – For peace of mind while traveling, it’s nice to have a
friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you are away. If they do not live on your street, ask them to drive by your home once a day or so to check on the place. Give this person a key, so they can collect any newspapers, mail, or door hangars that would tip off that you are out of town. They should also have your contact information and where you can be reached while away. If there is more than one person visiting your house while you're away, tell them about each other!
2. Get Timers for Lights – While leaving lights burning seems like a good idea to keep would-be burglars away, it can actually tip them off that no one is home. Electrical socket or light switch timers are inexpensive, and will turn the lights on and off at preset times. It will also keep your electricity bill lower!
3. Don't Announce Your Departure on the Web! – Many excited people broadcast on social media that they will be going on vacation. In a recent Nationwide Insurance survey, 41 percent of homeowners aged 18 to 34 years post photos and updates on social media while they're on vacation. A Department of Justice publication notes that burglars often know their victims. They may be neighbors or even friends or relatives of friends, aka Facebook friends.
4. Lock Your Windows and Doors – It seems obvious, but in springtime when the nights are cool, we often open our windows at night. While it won’t stop a break-in, making sure to lock all the windows and doors in your home makes it less attractive to opportunistic burglars. If you don't make it easy, there's a better chance they will move on.
5. Unplug the Vampires – Disconnecting the power to some of your electronics, like your desktop computer, printer, coffee pot, and television can save on your electrical bill while you're gone, as well as protect them from damage in electrical storms. Turning off your garage door is also an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote. Don’t leave a portable GPS in your car when you leave your car at the airport. It will give thieves a convenient map to your house.
6. Turn up the Thermostat – As we pointed out in last week’s blog post, for every degree that you turn up your thermostat above 72 degrees, you will save from 1% to 3% on your electricity bill. When you are away for the weekend, turn your thermostat up to 85 degrees. Just be sure to think about pets when keeping the temperature up while you’re away!
7. Install Added Security Features – Installing a home security system or exterior lights that run on timers or motion is a good way to ramp up security and make your house safer whether you're around or not. Beco Electrical can help you to select the system that is right for you, and professionally install it to suit your budget and lifestyle.
Beco Electrical can help you make your home more energy efficient and safe. Our trained electricians can suggest energy saving products, security features, and/or our 20+ Point Safety Check to ensure that when you are out enjoying the peace and quiet this Memorial Day weekend, you can also have peace of mind.

Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Ways to Save Electricity this Summer

As they travel around the Piedmont of North Carolina performing electrical services, Beco electricians are often asked by customers “How can I save money on my electrical bill during the hot summer?”

Turns out there are several things homeowners can do to shave dollars and cents off of their electric bill. Here are our top ten energy-saving suggestions for Triad homeowners:
1. Turn Up Your Thermostat – For every degree that you turn up your thermostat above 72 degrees, you will save from 1 to 3% on your electricity bill. When you are away for the day or longer, turn your thermostat up to 85 degrees. For convenience, you can install at “thinking” thermostat that learns your life patterns and automatically adjusts the thermostat accordingly.
2. Turn Off the Energy “Vampires” – Many household electronics still consume small amounts of energy even when turned off. Combined, all of these electronics add up to higher cost. Unplug electronic devices and chargers when they aren’t in use, and turn computers and printers off at the power strip.
3. Use Ceiling Fans Properly – Ceiling fans help to circulate air within the home, bringing the ambient temperature down. The cooling “wind chill” effect on skin can make a room feel up to 8 degrees cooler. In the summer, make sure that your fan blades are turning counterclockwise in order to create a downdraft of cooler air.
4. Replace Air Conditioner Filters – Dirty filters in HVAC and window units make those systems work harder to pull air through by restricting airflow, requiring more electricity. Replace filters often and as recommended by the manufacturer of your system.
5. Install an Attic Fan – Properly installed attic fans will cool hot attics by drawing in cooler outside air from attic vents and pushing hot air to the outside. However, if your attic has blocked vents and is not well sealed from the rest of the house, attic fans will suck cool conditioned air up out of the house and into the attic. Beco offers a SolarAttic Fan that runs on solar power and may qualify for tax incentives.
6. Use ENERGY STAR® Products - Whenever replacing an appliance, lamps, light bulbs, or other electrical device, look for the ENERGY STAR logo on products you buy. These products are specifically designed to use less energy to perform the same job, thus reducing your electric bill.
7. Plug Your Homes Leaks and Seal Ducts – As cooled air escapes, even the smallest leak in a home can waste electricity. Weather-strip, seal, and caulk leaky doors and windows and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers. Leaking ductwork accounts for 25 percent of cooling costs in an average home, so have your ducts tested and have any leaks or restrictions repaired by a qualified contractor.
8. Air Dry Dishes and Clothes When Possible - Turn off the dry cycle on your dishwasher and allow the dishes to air-dry instead. Line dry clothes whenever the weather allows.
9. Operate Swimming Pools Efficiently – Consider reducing the operating time of your pool filter and automatic cleaning sweep to four to five hours, and only during off-peak times. Always check with manufacturers recommendations for operation.
10. Get Outside! – Its summer, after all! More time spent out-of-doors conditions our bodies to tolerate higher temperatures,so slightly higher settings on your thermostat will feel cooler when you are used to the heat. Pools are a great way to cool off in the hot of the day, and activity promotes greater circulation and health.
The electrical professionals at Beco are happy to consult with Triad homeowners to keep their electricity costs down during the summer and all year round.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How Do Solar Panels Work? An Electrician’s Simple Explanation

For the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about the advantages of renewable and clean solar power for both businesses and residences in the Piedmont of North Carolina, where BecoElectrical operates, and beyond. Many have asked “How exactly do solar systems convert the photons from sunlight into electricity to run appliances in our homes?”

Solar energy has been used to power satellites and other space vehicles for decades, but only recently has it become more economical and available for residential and business use.  This energy is generated by the use of solar panels, which are photovoltaic (derived from the Greek word photo meaning light, and volt for a unit with electrical potential). Materials that are photovoltaic capture light and convert it into electricity.

The photovoltaic cells contained in solar panels are made primarily of silicon, which is an excellent conductor of electricity (and thus why they are widely used in computer chips). Inside each cell, there are two layers of silicon. The top layer contains many electrons, while the bottom layer contains empty spaces with fewer electrons. In simple terms, when sunlight strikes the cells it causes the excess electrons in the top layer to overflow into the bottom layer, generating electricity.

The electricity generated by photovoltaic cells is called direct current, or DC. However, in order to provide usable power to residences or businesses, the DC must be converted to alternating current, or AC. The piece of equipment needed to convert DC to AC is called an inverter, which allows homes and businesses to connect solar generated electricity directly to appliances and equipment through a fuse box.

In order to store electricity for use when sunlight is not available, direct current solar generated power is sometimes stored in a battery, where it must then still run through an inverter to convert to AC. More often, homes or businesses using solar power are connected to the electrical utility grid so that they can have power around the clock without the need for battery storage. In peak times, the electrical utility will often pay these establishments to feed inverted AC back into the electrical grid.

Consumers interested in having solar power installed in a home or business don’t have to understand the physics of photovoltaic systems. While some may have the knowledge to install these systems on their own, its important to understand that the slightest change in angle of an installed solar panel can drop its efficiency by up to fifty percent. The installers at Beco Electrical, the only solar installer located in High Point, North Carolina, are trained experts on how to get the very best efficiency out of your residential or commercial solar system.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Go Solar, Piedmont Triad?

We have written about how North Carolina is one the nations leaders (see previous post - North Carolina Ranks in Top Ten for Solar Power Generation) in solar power installation. While solar farms for technology companies such as Apple and Google are leading the way in making North Carolina’s energy portfolio more diverse, its not just businesses that are moving towards cleaner, more sustainable solar systems. Homeowners across the Piedmont Triad, as well as the rest of the state, have begun to realize the advantages of what a solar installation in their homes can provide:

  • Selling Your Solar  - In most cases, your public utility will actually PAY YOU for your generated solar energy. Net energy metering (NEM) is legislation that requires utilities to credit solar-generating customers for the full retail value of the energy they produce (called SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Certificates). But because solar is an intermittent energy source, and would require a large storage system to be truly independent, solar producing homeowners remain connected to the electric grid 100 percent of the time and use the utility to help meet their electricity needs 24/7. As a result, there are construction regulations and inspections on installed solar systems that homeowners must understand. 

  • Offset Rising Energy Prices – Many solar systems, such as the ones provided by Beco Electrical in High Point, NC, have manufacturers warranties and estimated lifespan of 25+ years, meaning that as energy prices continue to increase over time, your solar system will continue to offset the cost for decades to come.

  • Tax Credits and Rebates for Installing Solar Power Systems – To help offset the cost of installing solar power systems, North Carolina has one of the most generous tax credits in the nation, set at 35%. In addition, the Federal tax credit for installing solar is 30%. For Beco Electrical customers that are in the Progress Energy service area, the utility is now offering rebate program of $500 per watt for residential solar installations.
  •  Increase Your Home Value - Residential solar installations increase the value of your home, but do not increase your property taxes.
  • Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – Solar is a clean, silent, and renewable energy source that has ZERO emissions. No matter how you contribute carbon in other ways, your footprint will shrink with the use of solar.

With solar tax credits, rebates, buy back programs, and construction requirements and regulations, trying to understand the advantages of installing a solar system on your residence can often be overwhelming. That is why Beco Electrical has solar installation professionals who can guide you through the process and help you to understand the cost and benefits of a solar project for your home.

Friday, April 11, 2014

North Carolina Ranks in Top Ten for Solar Power Generation

Thanks to recent moves by both private industry and state government as well as the local power utility, North Carolina now ranks third nationally for installing the most solar electric capacity in 2013. The designation is no small feat, considering:
  • More than 138 solar companies employing approximately 3100 people throughout the state installed 335 Megawatts of solar electric capacity in 2013 (SEIA).
  • The State ranks 4th in the nation for installed solar energy capacity, enough to power 52,900 homes.
  • North Carolina investment in installing solar in homes, businesses, and utilities increased by 156% from 2012, totaling $787 million.
  • The average price for installed solar photovoltaic systems in North Carolina has fallen by 29% in the last year (compared to 12% nationally from 2012).
  • The solar installed at data centers throughout the state produce enough energy to power over 213,000 computers.
There are a couple of notable reasons for these prestigious and encouraging statistics for the state. The first started back in 2007 when then Governor Mike Easley signed into law Senate Bill 3 - making North Carolina the 25th state, and the first in the Southeast, to enact a mandatory renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard (REPS). The law, known as Session Law 2007-397, requires North Carolina electric utilities to include renewable energy and energy efficiency in their electric generation portfolios. They must do this by ensuring that a percentage of the electricity they sell is created through the use of renewable energy resources (such as wind or solar) or energy efficiency measures.

The second reason for the increase in solar energy is due to the state’s cheap and reliable power, along with its aggressive tax incentives. North Carolina has emerged as one of the newest mega data center clusters in the United States, attracting business from big hitters like Apple, Google, Facebook, and AT&T among others. Many of those companies, notably Apple and Google, have insisted that Duke Energy provide sustainable and clean-energy as part of its supply. Apple has built several solar farms to provide its data centers with electricity, sending unused power back into the electrical grid. This has prompted Duke Energy to step up its attention to solar power, even so much so that it formally asked state regulators last year to be able to sell clean power to large corporations that asked for it (amazingly, this was previously prohibited).

The solar energy industry is taking off in the Old North State. With the utility provider now on board to provide cleaner energy to businesses, falling prices and tax incentives provide new opportunity for smaller businesses and residents of the Triad to enjoy the benefits of solar power. Beco Electrical is proud to be one of the 70 installers of solar electricity across North Carolina, and the only installer located in High Point. The solar farm located at our home office on Surrett Drive has provided over 100 Megawatts of clean energy since its construction, and is designed to serve as a clean energy learning center for residents, schools, and businesses across the Piedmont.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bright Ideas Will Look Very Different Thanks to CFL and LED Bulbs

You may not even have noticed, but on January 1st, the United States no longer manufactures or imports incandescent light bulbs. You know the ones, the classic bulbs that appear above your head when you have a bright idea. You might still find them in stock at stores, but that will be the last of them. While this transition may seem “mandated” and unnecessary, the truth is that even with the electrical cost savings these energy-efficient alternatives provide, most people had still not yet made the switch.

The main reason for this slow adoption is up front cost. An incandescent light bulb costs as little as $ .70 each, whereas CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) cost up to a couple of dollars each, and LEDs (light emitting diodes), can cost from $10 to $20. Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient, using 90% of their electricity for heat, and only 10% for light. According to Energy.gov, electrical bills can be 25% - 80% less with energy-efficient bulbs. Incandescent bulbs also don't last as long as the new alternatives, lasting only 1000 hours compared to 10 times that with CFLs and nearly 25 times that with LEDs.

So why haven’t Americans made the switch? The answer is that lighting is a relatively small portion of our home electricity bill. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, while an office building may use as much as 21% of its electricity for lighting, an average household only spends about 13%. According to a study done by Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, the energy costs for an LED added up to only $30 over a 22-year life span, whereas electricity consumed by an incandescent over the same period of time cost $165. With a little over $6 a year in savings, that is hardly enough to alter buying habits, especially considering the up front retail prices. However, when considering that there are about 15 – 20 light bulbs in the average house, the savings begin to add up.

There are other reasons that Americans are slow to adopt energy-efficient light bulbs:

  • Color – Incandescent bulbs are known for their warm light, whereas the original fluorescent and LED bulbs have gained a reputation for casting a harsh, “bluish” light. They now come in a variety of colors that match the classic light exactly, but perceptions still remain.
  • Life span – Some consumers complain that the new bulbs don't last as long as they claim. CFL bulbs are fragile and can become overheated in the wrong application. Beco recommends using these in well-ventilated fixtures.
  • Time to light – CFL bulbs are notorious for taking a few seconds to come on and emit peak light. In American society where instant gratification is becoming a pre-requisite, this can be a “turn off” for many.
  • Mercury content – CFL bulbs do, in fact, contain harmful Mercury. But the energy saving they provide puts less Mercury from power plants in the environment overall. Each CFL bulb contains only about 4 milligrams each, and unless broken, do not pose any threat. While not an environmental or health disaster, care should be taken when cleaning up broken bulbs.
  • Strange appearance – Human beings naturally resist change, even if it is for the better. The new “twisted” look of CFLs is troubling for some consumers.
  • Cost of fixtures – Some consumers with recessed lighting, and businesses with commercial lighting fixtures, fear the cost of new fixtures required for these new lighting technologies. But read on…

There is an answer to the cost of getting new LED light fixtures in a home or office. Beco Electric offersinstallation of a new “retrofit” system that actually uses existing lightfixtures to install LED lighting. The cost of these new systems are comparable to standard light fixtures, and come in a variety of styles, and with a variety of features, for home and business alike.

So while there are still a lot of bright ideas coming to light out there, they just won’t look the same when they appear above your head.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recent North Carolina Weather Sheds Dim Light on the State of The US Power Grid

What was originally predicted to be two tenths of an inch of ice in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina on early Friday morning, turned out to be more like half an inch of ice, with 3 inches of snow and sleet. By the end of the day Friday, nearly 450,000 North Carolina residents found their homes without power. Even the friends and family of Beco Electrical Contractor who did not have a backup generator at their residence were affected. This blogger was without power until Sunday night. While Duke Energy crews still work feverishly to restore power to the remaining residents still without power, high winds threaten the area yet again on Wednesday!

This recent bought of severe winter weather has started a serious discussion about the health and reliability of the U.S. Power Grid. The Washington Post reports that not only is the power grid getting less reliable, but it’s also getting pricier to maintain and repair. U.S. electric customers are now paying 43 percent more to build and maintain local power grids than they did back in 2002. At the very same time, the grid is much less reliable, with blackouts taking 20 percent longer to fix.

In theory, this is solvable — though it wouldn’t be cheap. A recent study from the Electric Power Research Institute estimated that it could cost up to $476 billion over the next 20 years to establish a nationwide smart grid. But with a belt tightening Congress that can’t seem to agree on anything, relief does not look to be anywhere in sight. With government failing to provide a solution, the responsibility seems to fall upon us to prepare our homes for these ever increasing outages.

There are some things we can do. Automatic Standby Generators can supply homes with power during outages because they run on natural gas. Natural gas lines are typically buried and protected from strong winds and ice that commonly take down trees and power lines. Depending on budget and needs, back up generators can provide partial power for 8 to 12 circuits in a home for things such as a few lights, refrigerator, a microwave, and a TV, or whole home installations that would include HVAC units, water heater, stove, and washer/dryer.

Automatic Standby Generators provide continuous service on demand, with the ability to regularly running tests and provide mobile device notification to owners that their system is ready to go up when the grid goes down. This notification can be very useful for second homeowners, who need to know that their investments are safe in their absence. Portable, gas powered generators do not provide very much power, and require refilling, not to mention the noise that they cause for neighbors and owners alike.

Beco Electric has installed over 600 Generac and other automatic standby generators across North Carolina, providing residents on demand power when the grid lets us down. We can help you determine if an automatic standby generator is right for you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Smart Home Technology – One Electrician’s Point of View

Some readers may be a bit too young to remember HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer), the primary antagonist of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a sentient computer possessing artificial intelligence, HAL ran all of the systems of the spacecraft Discovery One. Learning that HALs astronaut associates are contemplating shutting it down due to an apparent error, HAL decides to kill them in order to protect and continue its programmed directives.

Over a decade after this epic tale was to have occurred, Smart Home Technology has come a very long way indeed. Forms of it are being installed in homes and businesses across the nation, and the North Carolina Piedmont is no exception. These devices are designed to create convenience while helping to save on electricity bills.  While they should not be technically considered Artificial Intelligence (AI), some are designed to “learn” about us in order to make us more comfortable. Does anyone get the irony here?

Yet the nightmare scenario of computers taking over our homes here in the Triad may not be as far fetched as you might think. Take Nest for example, the new technology that allows homeowners to control their thermostat, lights, security systems, and even smoke alarms through the use of tablets and mobile devices. The system even “learns” your living patterns, enabling it to adjust your thermostat when it expects you to arrive home or be away. While these technologies are amazing in their conception, some things should be considered when installing smart home components in your residence or business. Because these systems are often haphazardly connected to the Internet, security has been a struggle. A Forbes magazine staffer recently successfully hacked into eight smart homes from her living room. Calling each on their phones to inform them, she was able to control their lights, heating systems, and security systems.

I don't want to alarm you to a point where you shy away from these new, ingenious technologies that are available to us more and more every day. These homeowners made simple mistakes that lead to their vulnerability. But it emphasizes how important it is to have these technologies properly and professionally installed in order to protect the system and ultimately, its masters.

Beco Electrical utilizes and installs the devices often considered smart home technology. Lutron’s RadioRA, for example, is a lighting system that wirelessly connects control panels with existing and newly installed lights. No internal wiring need be installed in the walls, saving our customers money in installation time. Another convenient innovation, MobileLink, notifies customers via text messaging that their Generac™ generator is running efficiently. That provides peace of mind for home and business owners, especially those who have second homes with backup generator systems.

If you are considering any of these convenient new technologies for smart home capabilities, it is important that they are professionally installed and tested to ensure security and safety. After all, convenience is only that if it does not cause additional problems down the road.

Monday, February 24, 2014

As Electrical Outages Increase, How to Be Prepared

You may still see remnants of snow in the corners, shady areas, and parking lots of your neighborhood, as the effects of one of the biggest snowstorms in our states recent history lingers on. State emergency officials estimated that there were over 133,000 utility customers without power across North Carolina due to the storm. Whether or not you believe climate change is contributing to more extreme weather episodes, there is no doubt that major electrical outages are becoming more common across the United States - Major weather-related power outages have increased from 5 to 20 each year in the mid 1990s to 50 to 90 each year during the last five years. While changes in the electric transmission grid and maintenance practices might explain some of this increase, there is evidence to suggest that more frequent weather and climate extremes are also likely contributing.

Electrical outages not only make homes uncomfortable in extreme temperatures, they also cause a great deal of monetary damage. Businesses that must shut down lose revenue, while costly damage can occur from frozen pipes and food spoilage. Water damage from busted pipes can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage if undiscovered in second and vacation homes. Here are a few tips that can prevent costly damage to your home or business during power outages:

  • Keep a flashlight handy.
  • Unplug sensitive electronics that can suffer damage when power is restored.
  • Use surge protectors to help protect your appliances and electronics. Keep in mind that not all power strips are surge suppressors, and different surge suppressors provide different protection.
  • Close off unoccupied rooms.
  • Keep your refrigerator or freezer closed as much as possible.
  • Turn off electric ovens, ranges or space heaters that may have been in use when the outage occurred.
  • Consider an automatic standby generator to maintain electricity to your home or business during power outages, keeping both contents and inhabitants safe.

The experienced consultants at Beco Electrical can help you decide whether you need a whole home generator or partial home generator, and offers a variety of standby generator systems to fit your individual needs. From Generac exterior natural gas powered generators to interior battery powered generators, the newest technology will send real time operational updates to your mobile device, so that you know your generator is there when you need it. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Electricity, Technology, and Rethinking the American Dream

As a provider of electrical services in the Triad of North Carolina, Beco is continually coming across emerging technologies that are designed to make life simpler. If it generates, runs on, or saves electricity, Beco is interested in how it works, and how it can make the lives of our business or residential customers better.
From the most basic tasks to the way we communicate, work, play and pretty much every other aspect of our lives there has been a constant stream of new technology. It seems to be constantly changing, but how has that had an impact on the way we view the products in our lives? How does that impact the way we live and want to live?
Take for example Postgreen Homes, an innovative company that rethinks the traditional way of how we look at living space:
“These are not your average American homes. Their focus is not on more bedrooms, more bathrooms or more square feet. They do not try to mimic the past. They do not aim for mass appeal. They are homes for people who want something different, something more responsible, something better.”
The unique Postgreen homes approach can be seen in the 100 K Home project, creating homes that place great emphasis on design and green certification, passive and active energy, water, indoor air quality, and quality construction. Here were the basic details of the project:
Here are some interesting highlights of the project:

·      New construction homes built on reclaimed infill lot of only 18 x 60 feet.
·      Each features 2 stories totaling just 1,000 square feet.
·      2 beds and a bath.
·      Cost of only $100,000 or just $100 per square foot!
·      Each unit is LEEDS certified as well as other
green practices.

Nobody likes change, but it is often because of fear of the unknown and fear of inconvenience. However, seeing is also believing, so providing someone an example of what you are trying to accomplish in your ideas and plans people will react more positively to a physical example. The 100k project is a shining example of this. Perhaps examples such as this will help some to rethink how we live and work with emerging technologies.
Beco is dedicated to providing exceptional electrical services throughout central North Carolina, but also at providing resources to make our customers lives more convenient and productive. Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring a series of electrical products that exemplify the best in innovative design, but have a real world application for homes and businesses.
Stay tuned for the next big idea...

For more on Postgreen homes,  click here.