Categories: All About Solar Power, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Safety

09/02/16

  11:04:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton   , 631 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News, Pasadena Solar, PWP, Energy Efficiency, Residential Solar

Variable Speed Pool Pumps = Huge Savings

Going solar isn’t the only thing you can do to reduce your electric bills and your environmental footprint. In fact, the first thing you should consider is how you could make your home more efficient BEFORE investing in solar. Investing in a solar system that is bigger than you really need is just a bad investment strategy since efficiency upgrades are often much more affordable than the solar system required to offset the ineficient loads. 

Pool with SolarOne option is to hire a professional to give you a thorough energy audit which will help to pinpoint where your electrical hogs are and what you can do to improve efficiencies. Alternatively, there are a lot of relatively simple steps you can take if you know what to look for. Changing out your old light bulbs to LEDs is an obvious and easy fix for example. But one of the biggest and often under the radar culprits that I’m here to tell you all about are pool pumps.

Pool pumps can have such a big effect on your electric bill that we always discuss it when doing a solar site evaluation at any home fortunate enough to have a pool. Of course we don’t recommend eliminating your pump altogether as they are necessary to keep your water filtered and clean. So what is the solution? There are all sorts of newer “efficient” pool pumps out there and likely your pool guy/girl will happily install if you say you’d like an upgrade. However, what you really need if you want to make a dent in your electrical load is something called a “variable speed” pool pump.

A variable speed pool pump is exactly what it sounds like… Rather than pumping water with a consistently high speed you really only need max power at the outset to get the water moving. Once its moving the variable speed pump then downgrades the output power to keep the water moving since less energy is required to keep something moving than to get something going from a standstill. This reduced speed equals reduced energy loads! 

We have heard clients who installed variable speed pumps have seen reductions on their bill on the order of over $500 per year!

The downside for these pumps is often the price is much higher than regular pumps. But I come bearing good news! Many utilities offer rebates and incentives for Energy Star qualified pool pumps. In our home turf of Pasadena, California we are fortunate to have a very proactive utility, Pasadena Water and Power, striving to help residents lower their footprint. They normally offer a rebate of $400-$450 off the sticker price for a variable speed pump. However, I was just notified that PWP is running a promotion on all of their energy efficient appliance rebates through October 31st, 2016: 

“PWP is offering a $900 (bought outside Pasadena) to $950 (bought locally) rebate to all PWP residential electric customers who replace their old pool pump with a new energy efficient variable speed or variable flow pool pump and motor. Replacing older inefficient pool pumps with new efficient models will not only help you reduce energy use but save you money. With the summer heat and the possibility of rolling blackouts, PWP wants to make sure you do your part to conserve energy." 

We couldn’t agree more! Check PWP’s rebates listing for a list of other rebates to take advantage of. The listed prices on the website include the current promotion. 

If you’re not in PWP’s service area, never fear! You can check if your utility has rebates on the Energy Star website

After you’ve addressed all the drafty windows, switched out your lightbulbs and upgraded all your appliances, then it is time to give Run on Sun a call (626-793-6025) and we’ll help you offset the rest of your energy needs!  

08/25/16

  05:48:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 657 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

Velvet Dallesandro - Electrician and Solar Jedi Master

I love conducting solar site assessments and having that first conversation with a potential client. Often we spend far more time discussing all the ins and outs of going solar with the property owner than is necessary for the solar assessment measurements. One of the questions we always spend some time on is: “How exactly is Run on Sun different than other solar companies?” Here in sunny Southern California this is an important question as there are so many people offering PV solar services. Of course I describe how the products we use are selected for their high quality, warranties, and trust in the manufacturers. I also explain how as a small company with a mission focus, we take a very honest and ethical approach to helping people green their energy. But one of the major ways we stand above all the rest is also a feature that is hard to convey in that first conversation. Hence, the theme of this blog post…

My best answer to the above question, “We have Velvet Dallesandro as our Chief Electrician.”

The work that Velvet does connecting the power of the sun to your electric meter is akin to an art form. But alas, the art of a solar electrician is often hidden behind dead plates and easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention. So here are a few examples of Velvet’s work. She may not be in a Los Angeles art gallery but her work is providing people with beautiful, safe, and emission-free energy across the county! 

 

Service panel

Disconnect

If you’ve ever looked behind the dead plate on your electric bus (where all your breakers are) you likely were frightened by what you saw. A mess of cables, cobwebs, and sometimes outright dangerous circumstances - like the time I saw one missing its main breaker entirely. However, if Velvet is re-wiring your service panel it may look more like something you could put on your wall with rainbows of color coded wires and perfect 90 degree bends. (Service panel shown at left by Velvet, solar AC disconnect work at right by Ralph Carillo.)

Chandler Conduit 

Wiring is far from Velvet’s only art form. How do installers bring solar power from the roof to the electrical service? While the most visually appealing is to hide the magic completely by going thru an attic space and inside walls but sometimes that just isn’t possible. 

conduit

Velvet doesn’t just throw flex conduit around willy nilly to get the job done quick like some installers. It takes a lot of creativity to make the wiring run as attractive as possible. First and foremost, she always uses galvanized conduit for outside wiring as opposed to flex - it lasts for the long run and it is much more difficult to punch a fire axe through than flex, making it much safer. Second, Velvet avoids piecing together conduit as much as possible. Her goal is to make whatever crazy runs are necessary as seamless as possible - think avoiding possible leaky weak spots at seams. This means she has become a jedi master at bending conduit. Eight bends in one stick of conduit paralleling windows, gutters, or that pretty bush you don’t want to disturb? Not out of the question when Velvet is on the job (or her prodigy apprentice Ralph for that matter). 

 

Beyond the art she’s also an all around rock star. Check out this classic; pulling wire for a 45kW job at Chandler School…(That’s her on the right pulling wire through at least 30 feet of conduit on a 100+ degree summer day.)

Pulling her weight

She more than pulls her weight! So if you’re looking into going solar take note, there is an art that goes into the details. And the details really do count! Velvet’s wiring is the safest you will find and truly built to last. A rarity in an industry where most companies are trying to race through projects at lightning speed. Bottom line…we are so thankful to have Velvet on our team!

Velvet

07/30/16

  08:33:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton   , 428 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

2016 Top 500 Solar Contractors: Still on Top!

Solar Power World Top 500 ContractorsIt’s the time of year again when we hold our breath and hope to be included in the Solar Power World Top 500 Solar Contractors list. As more and more companies come into the solar sector it becomes more and more of a real honor to be included in this prestigious list of the best in the industry.

Run on Sun made the cut!

We’d like to thank our friends at Solar Power World for the valuable work they do delivering well-rounded information on the solar industry to the wider public. They also provide a very important service helping our solar community to share information, best practices, and continue to thrive and grow. This is our fourth year running on the list which has been published for the last five years.

Beyond the Top 500 list, Solar Power World also gathered some data about the industry as a whole through their annual survey. Some interesting facts from the results include:

  • Solar continues to provide valuable jobs: Top Solar Contractors employed 133,707 people in 2015, up from 124,967 in 2014.
  • Residential markets provide most solar jobs: 287 contractors worked primarily in the residential market; 154 worked primarily in the commercial market
  • California continues to lead: 130 companies were headquartered in California
  • Many companies are investing in rigorous solar education: 355 companies had at least one NABCEP-certified principal on staff. (Run on Sun is proud to have all principals NABCEP certified)
  • Most solar companies are local businesses: 77% of companies reported doing most of their business within its state of headquarters
  • Many solar companies are small businesses! 119 contractors reported have 10 or fewer employees; 236 reported having between 11 and 50

While the majority of solar electricity is produced at large utility-scale solar power plants, the majority of jobs are actually located with local small to medium sized companies that service residential and commercial clients. 

“No one can deny that local companies are supporting the growth of the industry. Our Top Solar Contractors are the face of the industry—meeting homeowners and business leaders on doorsteps every day.” - Kathie Zipp, Managing Editor Solar Power World

When you support solar, you not only benefit the environment but with many solar contractors you are also supporting small local businesses that provide jobs and put money back into our local economies. It’s nice to know Run on Sun is in good company and that we have great people like the team at Solar Power World backing our efforts to build a clean-energy future for all. Congratulations to all the top 500 solar contractors of 2016! 

Run on Sun having fun at SPW's Intersolar Booth

Run on Sun’s Laurel Hamilton and Josh Sanchez enjoy the Solar Power World booth at Intersolar 2015

07/23/16

  12:57:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 1594 words  
Categories: Residential Solar, Ranting, Energy Storage, Net Metering, Intersolar 2016

Intersolar 2016 - Bests & Worsts of the Hottest Solar Event of the Year

Its been a week since we returned from the most epic solar event of the year - Intersolar North America in San Francisco. Now that we are caught up on the backlog of emails and calls we can take a moment to reflect on key highlights from the event. 

Top 2 New Innovative Products to Watch

  1. BeamReach SolarBeamreachWhere do I start with this truly innovative new company?? Beamreach Solar unveiled a product called Sprint that includes the attachments, racking, and panel all in one. The panel frame and “racking” is entirely made of a composite plastic (material tested in automotive and other outdoor conditions for 20+ years). They demonstrated the installation of 6 panels in about 5 minutes! Designed for flat roof commercial projects, the tilt up back end pops out to click into a base which also pops out and sticks with a roofing adhesive to the roof. The front of the next panel then clicks into the base of the first panel and so on. The whole system is obviously much lighter (including a handle in the middle of the panel) and way faster to install than conventional ballasted systems. Best of all, no grounding required since there’s no metal to ground!
    While this is an awesome new product we have to wonder about a few things… 1) Do we have to powerwash the roof first for the adhesive to work? 2) What if a footing is incorrectly placed?! According to the great sales rep we spoke with… while the panels can be removed and replaced easily for maintenance, the footing is solid once it adheres to the roof so you’d have to essentially re-roof if you want to get rid of them. And 3) most roofs are nowhere near as flat as the surface Beamreach demonstrated on. How does the system deal with irregularities on the roof given the sticky feet are basically a flat square? We look forward to following this company as they work out the kinks in their exciting product. Keep your eyes peeled for a blog post where we dig in a little deeper on this.

  2. Photon - While we didn’t get to actually talk to the masterminds behind this new start-up the idea is spot on. Photon is a subscription based app whereby your smartphone (with the addition of a cheap lens from Amazon) can take a shade analysis on a roof. I don’t think many installers would shed a single tear giving up their SunEye or Pathfinders. We may just have to try this innovative new app out. 

Top 3 Developments from Existing Partners

  1. Energy Toolbase - These guys are the kings of data. We have been working with them since last year’s Intersolar to help us show our clients how solar will offset their electric bills with the greatest confidence possible. They are constantly adding more of the dozens of complex rate models around the country to their system. And now they’ve built in net metering 2.0 in anticipation of this huge change to California rates coming next year as well as storage into their models. Staying ahead of all the rate changes nation-wide is a huge undertaking but these guys are on top of it! 


  2. Life’s Good (LG) - While LG didn’t have a booth this year, Run on Sun’s CEO Jim Jenal enjoyed a breakfast where LG showed off their mammoth 375 watt, 72 cell panel. This is no surprise as LG continues to churn out higher wattage panels every year with their successful R&D department. Currently 320 watt, 60 cell panels (standard for residential solar) are available to us but it sounds like we can expect even higher efficiency coming within the year.  

  3. Enphase Energy - Storage beta installations are taking place in Australia where they recently mounted 4 units in just 45 minutes! Can’t wait to get our hands on them as many of our clients have expressed interest in storage. Looks like we may be able to get beta Enphase batteries in the coming year! Interested clients (especially those in SCE territory) please let us know if you want to be one of the first!

Top 2 Companies Trying too HardSmartFlower POP

  1. Smartflower POP - There was a lot of hubbub around this giant solar flower thingy. While I like that it has integrated storage and the dual axis tracker is great for increasing output in a big way…we couldn’t help but feel like this was way over engineered. There are actually several other solar flowers out there and I think solar-integrated art is a fantastic way to showcase to the public and get the social benefit when a solar system may be hidden on a rooftop. But take a look at this Smartflower. There’s some serious mechanics going on to make the thing open in the morning, track the sun, then close at night. Why it needs to open and close is beyond me and just seems overly complicated, heavy, and probably costly. (To be fair, we didn’t get the full spiel from the sales guys.)

  2. Ten K Solar - Sometimes its a fine line between being innovative and being overly complicated. When you decide to roll three “innovative” products into one maybe that’s a sign that you’ve crossed the line. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the concept of wiring in series and parallel - making each “half” cell operate independently, or more confused as to why they orient the system north/south and eliminated MC4’s. To be sure there are some exciting things about this product and the people at Ten K definitely have thought outside the box. Will be keeping an eye on them for sure.

Top 4 Most Amazing Moments

Battle of the Bands

Kendra Hubbard, Jim Jenal, Jeff Spies, and me at BotB

  1. BayWa r.e. Customer Appreciation - As many of you know, Baywa r.e. is our fabulous distributor for many reasons. Namely they share a similar ethos and dedication to quality solar and an accountable honest industry that we do. But beyond sharing similar missions they also treat us really well!
    This year BayWa hosted a customer appreciation “chill out” area throughout Intersolar. Anytime the crowds and meetings were too much we could go sit outside in the shade, get a chair massage, and enjoy a cold beverage or lunch! Yeah, you heard me…Chair Massage. Best distribution partners EVER!

  2. Solar Summerfest - It wouldn’t be Intersolar without an epic party or two! This year’s Solar Summerfest did not disappoint. From the variety of food spreads (loved the veg options!) and bars (wine, margaritas AND whiskey?!) to the awesome entertainment provided by professional break dancers… this was such a fun time to relax and get to know our solar friends and partners. As the night went on the real highlights were seeing BayWa’s Scott Snyder rock the karaoke stage and CalSEIA’s Bernadette del Chiaro cut a serious rug on the dance floor. And according to Jim’s pedometer Jim and I danced an impressive 7216 steps with our friends at Everest Solar

  3. DeloreanBattle of the Bands - And then there was the Battle of the Bands where solar companies show off their employees’ musical talents (and the Solar Tribe hangs out, like the four of us in the picture above). Solar folks really know how to party!  Special thanks to Jeff Spies for hooking us up with invite only tix!

  4. Delorean! - Did I forget to mention the Back to the Future Delorean was on display…and I got to sit in it? That was a pretty cool moment for an 80’s kid like myself. 


Top 2 Most Annoying Moments

  1. When that guy I met at SolarFred’s Solar Tweetup (which was a great event by the way) asked me how Run on Sun was different than SunRun and couldn’t wrap his head around how installation companies can be so different. Even when given the most perfect metaphor… “We are like a microbrewery making delicious quality beer for the benefit of the people in the most sustainable thought-driven way, and SunRun is like Coors. NOT THE SAME.” He still didn’t get it, sigh. 

  2. TalesunWhen I casually walked the exhibition floor looking for current and future partners working for the betterment of the solar industry and the world at large…and was confronted with a booth filled with girls dressed in what looked like playboy bunny costumes. Jim already described his take on Talesun’s display choices and their obvious lack of understanding for why they received such a negative reaction in another blog. But as a woman working in this industry with a rare position including answering phones, designing layouts, pulling permits, AND torquing bolts on the roof… I felt personally offended by Talesun’s decision to use misogynistic objectification to try to sell their product. Due to my many roles I feel I represent, or have an understanding of, a lot of different people in this industry.
    And I’m not alone, according to the 2015 Solar Foundation National Census women represented 24% of solar jobs, surely even more today! When a quarter of your clientèle are women why in the world would you use booth babes to market your products? Solar is supposed to be different than other male dominated construction industries.
    This is supposed to be an industry that makes the world a better place and values everyone equally for their contributions. That booth did not speak to me positively on any level in any of my roles as installer, administrator, customer service representative, saleslady, health and safety officer, or general solar ninja. On the bright side I was pleased to hear that the majority of Intersolar participants made it very widely known how unacceptable Talesun’s display was. This only solidifies my feeling that this is a great industry for women, despite a few bad apples who may never “get it".  

07/16/16

  04:21:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 405 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

Recom Redux: Talesun brings "Booth Babes" to Intersolar

In a throwback to Recom’s disastrous use of “caged” women to promote its booth, Talesun Solar revisited that PR debacle, featuring young women in Playboy-bunny costumes at Intersolar in San Francisco this past week. 

The response on the Internet was immediate and unforgiving in its damning of Talesun’s sexist display:

Talesun sexist booth babes

Talesun sexist booth babes

Kevin Christy implores, “Next year I hope you do better than this.” Tom (@SolarCurator) tweeted in amazement, “Talesun? Booth bunnies? What year is this? Didn’t u get the memo?” And Jigar Shah voiced what many of us hoped, “Glad to hear it, sounds like a sanction is in order for them and InterSolar organizers.”

To say that such a display has no place in the solar industry, should be self-evident, but apparently it (still) needs saying, so here I go:  This has got to stop.

After the firestorm, Talesun issued an awkward non-apology apology press release, resorting to that oldest of ploys, suggesting that they were shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone might have been offended. 

Talesun’s Marketing Team Manager was quoted as saying:

Having attractive booth girls for our booth in the solar energy industry is considered something normal, just look at the exhibition in Bangkok a few months ago, many major companies, were also hiring attractive booth girls.  We thought it wouldn’t be a problem here in North America since we considered it was even more open minded than Asia.  I guess we made a mistake and we just learned the lesson.  We apologize for this misunderstanding and we want people to remember what we did and how much we contributed to protecting our earth.

Actually, no, I don’t think you have “learned the lesson.” Let’s be clear, hiring attractive women (or men) to staff a booth is not the problem.  Dressing them up in sexist costumes is. 

And it isn’t that those of us complaining about what you did are somehow less “open minded” - it’s just that we reject sexist conduct in the solar industry. 

If Talesun really wants to tout all the alleged good they have done “protecting our earth” I have a marketing suggestion for them - produce a clever and engaging video and run that at your booth.  But dress your booth staff in a manner consistent with members of the professional organization you claim to be.  Then, and only then, will you have learned the lesson. 

Frankly, the rest of us are tired of having to teach it.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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