And so it begins…

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Thursday and Friday of last week were the first two days of fifteen that I will spend with Union Power Cooperative as part of my internship. As with the beginning of any new adventure, these days were a combination of information overload, physical exhaustion, and excitement about the possibilities.

Day 1 started with, appropriately, a safety meeting. The meeting covered both office space and work site safety, along with information about active shooters and a video provided by the Homeland Security Administration. I was struck by the similarity to the information and attention to this subject that we receive at school. While statistically schools are more likely to be targets than corporate offices, I was sobered by the realization that this is the reality of our society now. Another subject for a totally different blog some other day…

Day 2 began with a sit down meeting with the VP of Corporate Services, Numa Robertson. He guided me through his background and career with careful attention to the details of how math has contributed to his success and his ability to create procedures that help businesses be successful. His ability to apply mathematics to nearly every situation ignited the nerdy side of my brain, and nearly two hours of discussion passed in an instant! My hand cramped from attempting to write down all of the ways I could use this information in discussions with my students as myriad answers to the age-old question, “When will I ever use this in real life?”.

Following my talk with Numa, he led me and several employees on a hard hat tour of the new headquarters facility, currently under construction and slated to be complete sometime in early 2020. Again he brought our attention to the endless opportunities for applied math and a field trip excursion plan began to take form in my mind. More on that one later!

Mind-numbed and hungry, I then went on to meet with Jake Thomas and Billy Brantley of Energy Services. These gentlemen work closely with their members to ensure customer satisfaction. The information system used to track customer usage, aided by smart meters that report consumption back to the servers several times an hour, was impressive. After reviewing several different sample reports on a given member’s home, we went to lunch prior to driving out to meet with the member at her home. If you haven’t eaten at La Unica in Monroe yet, DO IT. Yum.

At the member’s home we met with the homeowner to discuss her concerns and review the consumption reports. Her concern was that her power bill had jumped to over $500 the previous month, and there were no major issues that she was aware of that would explain the additional consumption. After a thorough conversation with her, which included questions about any lifestyle changes that may have occurred, Jake and Billy led me through an energy audit of the home. We began with the HVAC system as that is responsible for over 43% (if memory serves me; I’ll verify and edit that number if needed) of a home’s energy consumption. We checked the temperature of the air coming from the unit in several different places. Ideally, a 15-20 degree temperature difference from the surround air indicates a healthy system. For example, if the room temperature is currently 73 degrees and the air conditioning kicks on, the air coming from the vent should be anywhere from 53 to 58 degrees. After verifying this was the case, we headed into the attic to inspect the upstairs unit. If you’ve ever been in an attic in North Carolina at the end of June on a 90 degree day, you’ll understand why I’m not sharing any of those pictures.

After noting a few air leaks in the attic where old duct tape had come away in places, we headed to the crawl space to review the downstairs unit and humidifier. Thankfully the crawl space was clean, well lit, and easy to maneuver or I don’t think I would have ventured all the way in! But I did, and more possible issues were discovered – primarily blocked ducts filled with water from the humidifier unit. Jake and Billy reviewed the findings with the homeowner with encouragement to have an HVAC professional check the units, and we were headed back to the office.

My final highlight of the day was driving the all electric Chevy Bolt back from the owner’s home to the office. I think I know what my next car is folks!

I wrapped up the day gulping ice water in my cubicle and attempting to dump all of this information out of my brain and into some sort of document format for future use. And voila! Here you have post #1 related to my internship.

I’m currently in Ohio visiting with my family for the week of July 4th. Next week I will be back at Union Power and ready to meet with Engineering, Staking, and the Linemen. Can’t wait to share it all with you!