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.