Solar Update: June 2009, solar stats and PG&E’s SmartAC program

Well folks, we are definitely in full swing with the summer season.

The weather in the Bay Area has been scorching these past couple of days. I am reminded by those that I have spent time in other parts of the country that at least we should all be grateful the heat is not teamed up with humidity. Yes, that we can all be grateful for.

The exciting news on the energy front this month actually has nothing to do with our solar system which is humming along nicely these days. Instead, the latest gadget around our home is PG&E’s SmartAC thermostat.

I was on PG&E’s site several months ago looking for any news on energy-saving tips and I came across their SmartAC program.

This program offers homeowners the opportunity to install a SmartAC thermostat or a SmartAC switch which will communicate with PG&E and adjust consumption of energy for powering air conditioners during a state or local energy supply shortage. By detecting energy issues earlier, preventative measures can be taken to ensure there isn’t a complete brownout or blackout.

During energy emergencies, the SmartAC control will control the air conditioner to switch between 15 minutes of cooling air as it regularly does and 15 minutes of just having the fan on to circulate the cooled air.

smartac_PGEI was hesitant to sign up for it as I wasn’t sure what the catch was. Participation is free and in my case, I chose the SmartAC thermostat (retail value of $300). Cost of the thermostat unit and installation by a technician was also waived. Actually, participation is better than complimentary, PG&E also offers a $25 rebate for participation. You can see my hesitation…it seemed almost too good to be true. Did I mention any maintenance on it is also complimentary?

(Note: The benefit of the SmartAC Switch option is that it can be installed without someone being at the home when the technician arrives. Otherwise, I personally think the SmartAC thermostat is a slicker piece of technology.)

It did take a couple of months before PG&E finally called me. By that time, I had forgotten I even signed up for the program. The appointment was scheduled a couple of weeks out and the installation went smoothly. The technician was very friendly, knowledgeable and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the program and his job.

So far the thermostat works great. I did have a builder standard thermostat that never seemed to work properly and I was thinking of replacing it for a while. The new one has a complete digital touch screen.

The program is open to homeowners, small businesses and property managers. There is also an “opt-out” for the day option where on a particular day you can call in and opt-out for the day. Nice manual override should the temperature get too uncomfortable. In the Bay Area, I really doubt it will be a problem.

To get your very own SmartAC system, you can visit PG&E SmartAC here.

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