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By Samantha Gamez

Before Light Retrofitting

Every year, Texas weather patterns bring waves of heat rolling over the Brazos Valley. Residents crank up the air conditioning and are rewarded with high utility bills at the end of the month. If you find yourself wishing you lived in an igloo this summer, Bryan Texas Utilities SmartHOME program is a great solution to a cooler summer and lower utility bill.

Introduced in 2012, SmartHOME rewards Bryan homeowners for upgrading to be more energy efficient by providing a rebate for projects completed within the fiscal year. There is a similar program for Bryan business owners. The idea behind the program is to reduce energy demands by installing energy efficient materials into older homes.

SmartHOME focuses on making what Senior Energy Accounts Manager Mike Connor calls the “building envelope,” or the outer shell of the building, more energy efficient. An energy efficient outer shell is more beneficial than simply installing an energy efficient appliance. “You can have the most efficient A/C unit that you can buy, but if the insulation in your home or if the windows in your home are not energy efficient then you’re kind of working against yourself,” says Connor.

The program has three categories that qualify for incentives: adequate wall or attic insulation, solar screen installation, and ENERGY STAR efficient windows. Each category must meet specific requirements in order to qualify. Ten to 25 percent of the project cost will be reimbursed once the project is complete and the application is processed and approved.

After Light Retrofitting

“People are often surprised by how easy the process is,” says Energy Accounts Manager Elisabeth Thompson. Interested homeowners need to fill out the application available online, take before and after pictures, and provide invoices for any material or labor used to complete the project. People can use a contractor or can complete the project themselves, they just need documentation. Once all the paperwork is submitted, it will take about four weeks to be fully processed and for any rebates to be decided and distributed.

During the summer, the most popular update is solar screen installation. Solar screens are mesh screens that are installed on the outside of windows. Up to 90 percent of solar heat is stopped from entering the house through the window, resulting in a naturally cooler house. Thompson says customers have reported feeling an immediate difference after installing the solar screens. Keeping the heat out of the house puts less demand on the A/C unit, resulting in a lower energy demand and a lower utility bill.

SmartHOME does not have a limit to the number of times you can apply for the program as long as you qualify. New homes built with up-to-date energy efficient windows and insulation do not qualify nor do mobile homes. Projects must be completed and submitted within the current fiscal year to qualify. Each fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

Solar Window Treatments

Business owners can get in on the incentives with the SmartBUSINESS program. Similar to SmartHOME, it provides incentives to decrease energy demand, but this program has more variety in what qualifies. Any technology that lowers demand by at least 20 percent can be used toward incentives, but often the reduction is much greater. For example, replacing every fluorescent light bulb with LEDs in a warehouse can reduce the demand by up to 50 percent, according to Connor.

Not only does the business get money back through SmartBUSINESS, but their utility bill can decrease drastically. This program requires prior planning with Bryan Texas Utilities before applying, and there is a $30,000 per fiscal year cap on each customer’s projects.

“If [you] do these things, there’s no way you can lose,” says Division Manager of Customer Operations Vicki Reim. “Everybody’s going to win.”

For general information on these programs, visit btutilities.com.

For questions or planning regarding SmartHOME, contact Elisabeth Thompson at ethompson@btutilities.com or
(979) 821-5772. For questions or planning regarding SmartBUSINESS, contact Mike Connor at mconnor@btutilities.com or (979) 821-5830.