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Electrician Serving Pleasant Hill, Concord, Walnut Creek, LafayetteOrinda, Moraga & the Surrounding Areas

Jul
05
2017

How to train your thermostat to work for you

smart thermostatWi-Fi thermostats are an exciting evolution of heating and cooling control for your home or office. This state of the art technology builds upon the basic options of temperature control, scheduling and digital interfaces that existing programmable thermostats include, but with a much wider variety of added features.

The new features include increased savings through energy efficiency and feedback, remote access to programming and adjusting, geofencing, and alerts. Once your Smart Thermostat is synced up with your Wi-Fi router, you have remote access from using your phone, tablet or computer from across the room or the world! The future of heating and cooling comfort is now - no matter where you are, your Wi-Fi thermostat keeps you connected to your home’s environment with control right in the palm of your hand.

Check out what this exciting new technology offers as outlined on SmartHome.Com

Temperature Control

First and foremost, your thermostat should excel at controlling the temperature in your home.

  • Heating & Cooling Stages - Most homes only have a furnace and an AC unit. Some installations may have a more sophisticated setup that involves multiple heating or cooling stages based on the level of heat needed. Not all thermostats can control 2, 3 or more heating and cooling stages. Check your current thermostat and make sure you purchase one that is compatible with your heating and cooling system.
  • Temperature Swing - change in degrees that will turn the HVAC back on, the smaller the number, the more frequently it will come on, the larger the number, the more energy you will save.
  • Programmable Fan - if you use a whole house fan to cool your home this will be an important feature to consider.
  • Keypad Lock - a great feature if you want to prevent others from tampering with your settings.
  • Auto Changeover - allows the thermostat to automatically determine when to switch back and forth between heating and cooling.

Energy Management

If you're looking to decrease your carbon footprint - or simply your gas and electricity bills - some Wi-Fi thermostats are better than others. Various features help you conserve energy by only running your system when you are home or by learning your habits to automatically create a schedule.

  • Scheduling - classification of set points for 7 (same for each day), 5-2 (Monday-Friday & Saturday/Sunday), 5-1-1 (Monday-Friday & Saturday & Sunday), 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 (different each day).
  • Vacation Mode - the ability to quickly turn off all schedules when you are away from home or on vacation.
  • Automatic - if the thermostat learns and adapts to your use and automatically and turns on and off based on your use.
  • Feedback - ideal for monitoring energy usage and savings, some may even send you a text or email to let you know how you are doing.
  • Geofencing - will trigger your thermostat to turn your HVAC system on based on your GPS location (using your smartphone).
  • Target Temperature Time - a number of minutes of how long it will take your system to reach its target temperature.

Sensors

A thermostat in a dark and deserted hallway can only monitor the temperature in that hallway. Some Wi-Fi thermostats can use additional sensors spread throughout your home to more accurately heat or cool your home.â

  • Zones - relatively new to Wi-FI thermostat, temperature sensors can be placed throughout your home to determine if the system should be on or offive.
  • Weather - because a Wi-Fi thermostat is connected to the Internet, it can use local weather conditions to determine operation automatically.
  • Humidity - for those wanting to maintain a specific humidity, a built-in or communicating humidity sensor can be used determine if the system should be on or off.
  • Motion - limits the use of your HVAC system to periods when motion has been detected (ideally to detect when someone is home).
  • Status Indicators - a built-in diagnostic tool to let you know if your system is running efficiently; often a new filter can make a big difference.

Design, Aesthetics, and Support

The overall look and feel of the device, ease of use and on the device, and the remote control functionality from smartphone, tablet or PC should also weigh heavily. HVAC systems can be complex - even if their end goal is simple - so you should also consider the support that a manufacturer provides as well if your initial setup doesn't go exactly as planned.

  • Looks - this product will sit on a wall, likely in clear view - do you want it to blend in or stand out?
  • Installation - can you install it yourself or does the product recommend a professional HVAC technician perform the installation?
  • Integration - does the product have a standalone app, does it work with other devices, or is it a part of a total home automation system?
  • Local Control - can you control everything you want directly on the thermostat and how easy obvious are the controls?
  • Mobile Application - do you want to be able to program everything from your app, or simply turn it on or off?
  • Support - What is the warranty, are there any online forums, email support, phone support, live chat?
Jun
01
2017

Should I get a fully electric car or hybrid? Pros and cons of each.

chevrolet volt electric car hybridThinking of making the switch from gas to hybrid or electric? Well, we’ve scoured the internet to find the most in-depth coverage of each type of car, including their benefits and drawbacks. Read up on what the experts have to say at Autotrader:

Before we cover the advantages and drawbacks of EVs and plug-ins, it's important to understand the difference between the two vehicle types.

Plug-in hybrid cars are exactly what their name suggests: They're hybrid cars that can be plugged in. Examples include the Cadillac ELR, the Chevrolet Volt, and the Toyota Prius Plug-In. Mostly, plug-in cars use two different powertrains, both of which can drive the wheels. 

There's an electric motor that lets drivers go a certain limited distance (often between 30 and 40 miles), and there's a normal gasoline engine that kicks in once the electric motor is depleted.

Electric vehicles, on the other hand, are fully electric, meaning they don't use any gasoline. Popular examples include the Ford Focus Electric, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, among others. Because electric vehicles use electric power alone, there's no backup engine to help you out when the batteries run out of juice. But usually, they have more room for batteries since they don't have to make space for the gasoline engine. That means EVs offer a longer electric-only range than plug-in hybrids.

Electric Vehicles: Benefits and Drawbacks

Electric vehicles offer several advantages over plug-in hybrids. The main attraction is that electric vehicles help the environment more than plug-in hybrids since they don't use any fuel at all. That's a problem for shoppers looking to minimize their carbon footprint as much as possible.

Additionally, electric vehicles help drivers save more money than plug-in hybrids do since they don't use any fuel. They also offer a longer electric-only range than plug-in hybrids. That means drivers who want to cruise for as long as possible without using a drop of fuel will be better served with an EV than a plug-in.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to EVs. By far the largest is range: While a plug-in hybrid can usually travel 30 or 40 miles on fully electric power and an extra 200 to 300 miles on gasoline, most electric vehicles are limited to 60 to 70 miles of total range. That means drivers with a long commute, or those who routinely travel more than 60 to 70 miles without overnight stops, would be wise to consider a plug-in hybrid instead of an EV. An exception is the Tesla Model S, which can travel well over 150 miles between charges. The Model S still doesn't have the range of most plug-in hybrids, however, or the ability to refuel as quickly.

Plug-In Hybrids: Benefits and Drawbacks

Of course, plug-in hybrid cars also offer their  advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantage is described above: range. While an electric car can only travel as far as its batteries allow, plug-in hybrids use gasoline engines in addition to their electric powertrains. The result is that plug-in drivers get the best of both worlds: electric-vehicle efficiency around town, and traditional car range for longer trips.

When it comes to disadvantages, the biggest drawback endured by plug-in hybrids is variety. There simply aren't many models to choose from, as most automakers have instead decided to offer fully electric vehicles instead. This is large because drivers interested in an electric car tend to want the full experience, using no fuel and benefiting the environment as much as possible. In fact, today's crop of plug-in hybrids is limited to just a few models (the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In are the most popular) compared to a larger offering for EVs.

Taxes and Other Savings

If your primary purpose for buying a new car with a fuel-efficient focus is gas-pump savings and tax rebates, don't worry: Both plug-in hybrids and EVs will benefit you. While plug-in hybrids still need to be filled with gas occasionally, fuel costs are still much lower than traditional cars. Moreover, federal income tax rebates apply to both plug-in hybrids and EVs, as do most state tax credits. Even states that allow alternative-fuel carpool use tend to allow both plug-in hybrids and EVs. In other words, you won't go wrong when choosing an EV or a plug-in hybrid; you'll just have to choose the one that works best for your situation.

Apr
27
2017

I have an electrical panel in a closet! Do I have to move it if I need to upgrade it?

electrical panel closetThe short, safest and most efficient answer to this question is yes. According to the national code, with relation to electrical panels in closets: NEC 240.24D Overcurrent devices shall not be located in the vicinity of easily ignitable materials, such as a clothes closet. However, there are a few issues to consider a bout the language of this code and how it applies to your specific situation.

A quick Google search on the issue brings up a widespread debate among the Electrician Community about what can be properly defined as the “vicinity” or what constitutes a “closet." Some electricians might suggest that a panel located on the opposite wall of a clothes closet is still within the “vicinity." Some electricians argue that the definition of a “clothes closet” (as described specifically in the code) can easily be changed by removing the clothing rod and making the closet a space that doesn’t store easily ignitable material.

The bottom line is your family’s safety. An experienced and professional electrician wants to give you an honest assessment of your situation. If you have an electrical panel in a closet used to store clothes, you’re already taking an enormous risk. If a loose connection occurs in your existing electrical panel, sparks, those simple sparks can easily ignite the clothes hanging in your closet, and in a matter of seconds, set fire to your entire home. 

Cutting corners to save money when it comes to electricity could easily be the worst decision you’ve ever made - electrical accidents are responsible for more home fires than almost any other cause. Upgraded and properly located electrical panels bring you peace of mind about your family’s safety, lower your electric bill costs, and increase your home’s energy efficiency. 

The benefits of making proper electrical decisions will always outweigh the convenience of taking the easy way out. 

Mar
23
2017

Why a Home Battery Solution is Heads Above the Rest

solar home batteriesRegardless of our station in life, we are all looking for ways to increase our savings and decrease our stress when it comes to the daily running of our home.

More often than not, electricity bills are one of the largest bills we pay each month and even after cutting corners, we find that we cannot seem to get it small enough. The home battery solution is a newer and more convenient alternative. These home batteries are quickly becoming a solution that fits every home’s need for lower utility bills. Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Home Storage Batteries maximize consumption of your power
    In a traditional solar panel power setup, the solar panels on your roof, and your home are backed up to the grid - this means that if you are not producing enough energy from your solar panels, you will still have power fed to your home from the grid. Typically, if you make more power than you consume, you can sell the excess back to the grid for discounts or credits on your electric bill. However, sell-back fees have changed quite substantially over the years and continue to be subject to change. Residential battery storage lets you control and store all of your excess power. If you have a solar panel system that’s giving you more power than what you use, these batteries store the power for you instead of selling it back to the grid. The power from these batteries is then availed for inclement weather or low sun conditions.
  2. Home Storage Batteries keep your home’s electricity resilient
    If you have solar panels, survival is possible until your solar power runs out and the grid takes over. However if the entire grid is down, you and your neighbors are left with no power at all. The home battery solution means as long as there is power left in your batteries you can continue using your home’s electricity at no cost.
  3. Home Storage Batteries reduce your carbon footprint
    Removing your home from the grid and making it self-sufficient is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. In the past, ‘going green’ was not a reliable way of living each day comfortably, especially concerning energy sources. Newer technologies like the battery backup system are both earth-friendly and dependable.
  4. Home Storage Batteries dramatically save on your electricity costs
    A home battery system installed into your home’s solar power system means your electricity bills will either be non-existent or so much more affordable than they were, you will barely notice them. The cost savings you will discover in your utility bill will more than pay for the home battery system quite quickly, and you will save hundreds, even thousands of dollars every year on your electricity bills.
  5. Home Storage Batteries are affordable to install
    Believe it or not, solar systems and home battery solutions are affordable to have installed in your home. There are government incentives to install a solar system, and the costs involved is outweighed by the amount of savings each year on your utility bills.

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