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Monday, September 20th, 2010 | Author:

In states that have deregulation, there are many options with regards to energy suppliers.  As you look to select a supplier, whether it’s IDT Energy or another company, you’ll want to keep a number of ideas in consideration.

Ask those that you know to find out which company they use and find out about their satisfaction levels.  Find out how long each company has been in business to see how solid their reputation is.  Learn, as well, about the financial strengths of parents of the suppliers you might consider.  Find out if each company is a public company.

Other ideas include visiting your state’s PUC website and check for the number of complaints against the supplier.  Make sure, as well, to take into consideration the number of customers the company has when looking at the importance of the number of complaints.

You’ll feel more comfortable and confident making a decision about an energy supply company after taking the time to research into your various choices.

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Friday, July 09th, 2010 | Author:

double glazed windowsPeople love their windows. Windows allow us to be in the privacy of our homes but still feel attached to the world we live in. Light comes into our homes through our windows, as well as the view. But that is not the only thing that comes into our homes through our windows. Windows are one of the poorest insulating materials in our homes, letting in unwanted heat in the summer and undesirable cold in the winter. So what is there to do about it?

Luckily, today there are several things a homeowner can do. IDT Energy suggests a few ways windows can be improved to help you save money.

1.    Windows can be certified by Energy Star. Used with curtains and shade you can save 10% to 15% on your cooling bill in the summer.
2.    Double-pane windows add a lot of insulating power to your windows. Add high performance glass, and you have a great combination. The higher cost of these special windows can be offset when building a home because with these windows installed a smaller heating and cooling system is needed.
3.    Improve performance of windows you already have. If the cost of getting new, specialty windows is too high, try attaching  heavy-duty, clear plastic sheeting on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of the window frames during the winter. Seal tightly for best effect.
4.    In the winter, open curtains during the day to let the warm sun’s rays into the house, and draw them closed at night to help keep the warm air in.
5.    Make sure the south facing windows are clean in the winter, to let in more of the sun’s warming rays.

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Friday, April 10th, 2009 | Author:

It’s almost common knowledge that the more batteries you have in parallel, the more difficult it is to evenly charge them. This is why we prefer the buss bar method of connecting batteries instead of the ol’ series-parallel method. Using buss bars distributes what I like to call, charge/discharge impact over more batteries so that they all are treated as equally and fairly as possible. Charge/discharge impact is the extra use and abuse of the batteries that the leads connect to for inputting and outputting power. The thing to understand here is that the batteries connected to the leads do most of the work, they cycle deeper and more frequently, while the interior batteries just replace what was consumed from the battery ahead of it. See the diagram below for a demonstration of this idea.

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Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 | Author:

If you own an old Trace Sun Tie, it’s time to turn that puppy in. Chances are, if you have one, you have had a miserable experience with it. One of our customers is on his third STXR which now seems to working fine. Trace’s Sun Tie inverters were recently de-UL listed for problems with islanding, whereby when the grid went down, they still continued to push power to the grid. This is dangerous for the line workers. This has since been fixed and they’re back on the U.L. Trace must live by the third-times-a-charm rule because the new one, as far as I can tell, works pretty well. The new units have MPPT which has successfully lengthened daily up time and power production.

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Monday, March 16th, 2009 | Author:

Max Power Point Tracking is a new technology that has the eye of all the major players. SMA Sunny boy inverters have it, OutBack has it in the MX60 charge controller, RV Power has it and obviously, so does Trace. MPPT is a digital slight-of-hand that trades off voltage or amperage in order to get within the operable range of the inverter. Based on IV curves we know that shading does not have a great affect on the voltage output of a PV panel, but it greatly affects the amperage output. We also know that cell temperature barely affects amperage but can greatly affect voltage. Based on this observation, with software and electronics, we can adjust the output of our panels to meet the minimum or maximum operating levels of our components. The blue area in the graph above represents the acceptable operating range of a given Sunny Boy inverter. In the case shown, the minimum operating voltage of the inverter is not being met (denoted by the “O”), so MPPT technology sacrifices amperage to pull the voltage up into range (denoted by the “X”) so that we can now get power production where we other wise wouldn’t.

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Sunday, February 01st, 2009 | Author:

The OutBack Power Systems engineers have outdone themselves from when Trace paid their mortgages. That’s right, many of the members that are reinventing the stand alone system got their experience at the little company now known as Xantrex. The Outback FX inverter has quickly become our favorite inverter of all time. The design, features, simple operation & price will put a smile on your face. If you’ve ever seen one first hand, you know that pictures aren’t worth the thousand words that can be said about the FX. If you are hesitant to go with OutBack, as we tend to be with newer products, don’t be, they make great stuff. From the MX60 charge controller with Max Power Point Tracking (MPPT) to the safely enclosed FX inverter with separated controls (the MATE), to the roomy DC & AC power centers, OutBack has given us just about everything we need for a solid, code compliant system. With the OutBack FX you get all the features of the SW series, but much more. The ease of installation, durability, expandability and other advanced features make this inverter a champion. Also remember that Trace has owned up to 98% of the inverter market share, and we all know that a noncompetitive market breeds noncompetitive prices. As OutBack and others gain support, we will soon see more favorable pricing all the way around.

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Monday, April 14th, 2008 | Author:

I’ve heard one way to help balance a series/parallel bank is to connect the leads to interior batteries but I’ve also been told that it’s best to connect the leads to the outer, opposite cornered batteries. Yeah, two completely conflicting arguments that I would rather stay out of by simply using buss bars. In case you haven’t noticed by now, equality is the name of the battery game. So we tend to keep all battery cables and the positive and negative leads equal in length. Obviously it will take more cable to properly perform the buss method but the cost of bars and a few extra feet of cable is more than justified. The buss method looks neater, makes troubleshooting easier, allows us to place batteries in a wider variety of configurations for easier access and/or for location specific restrictions and as I’ve generically demonstrated, distributes charge/discharge impact over more batteries. Batteries and buss bars can be great friends.

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Wednesday, March 05th, 2008 | Author:

Now, I’ve been told by reliable sources that soldering lugs onto battery cables is actually unnecessary. It’s been said that crimping really is “good enough.” I wish I could agree because it would save us time and a little bit of money on our systems, unfortunately I can’t. When we install a renewable energy system, the goal is that the system will remain working for at least the lifetime of the purchaser. Although we know batteries must be replaced eventually, nothing else in the system should, barring improper installation, defects or abuse. This lifetime goal includes the battery cables. When you only crimp lugs to battery cables you leave room for corrosion to snuggle in, build up and eventually create a point of resistance. This corrosive buildup over time can loosen the crimp by eating away at the cable or lug and may actually allow the cable to be pulled out of the lug or worse. Surely we all have made plenty of bad crimps, some we knew about and some we didn’t, soldering eliminates any question of a bad crimp. When you solder the lug to the cable, you make them “one” or as close to “one” as reasonably possible. There should be no argument that soldered connections are better than crimped connections. Ok, so is it cost effective? If you count the cost of the solder rig needed then maybe not, but our prices on custom length, crimped and soldered cables with heavy duty lugs is right in line with popular catalog company prices on generic length cable with low budget crimped lugs. They’re certainly cost effective in these terms.

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Tuesday, February 05th, 2008 | Author:

Another thing that you should be aware of when we’re discussing battery care and maintenance is battery cell contamination. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but it definitely should be. Some time ago I watched the video “An Introduction to Storage Batteries for Renewable Energy Systems” with Richard Perez. One of the many points he made clear was how hydrometers hold a very real potential for cell contamination. Hydrometers are rarely kept sterile, in fact they are rarely even kept clean, so when you are testing the specific gravity of a cell, there’s a good chance you could be contaminating it. If you contaminate a cell with foreign substances cell damage is likely, and we know if one cell in a battery goes, usually they all got to go. Open your batteries up only when absolutely necessary, and definitely avoid sticking dirty things in them.

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Saturday, January 05th, 2008 | Author:

Richard also made this point in his video. You should never wipe your batteries down with some kind of neutralizing agent like baking soda. If sulfur can work its way out of the battery in the form of corrosion, then the neutralizing agent can work its way in. This of course would not be good. Simply use water and a rag to clean the tops of your batteries and avoid any chance of accidentally neutralizing your batteries. Of all the components and manufacturing processes involved with renewable energy systems, batteries are appropriately considered to be the most environmentally offensive. This could be the main reason to do the best you can to take care of them, to make them last as long as possible, but the fact that batteries are really expensive just helps to drive that point home.

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