Solar Power is becoming a more commonly used form of green energy every day. This field has grown drastically over the last 20 years, and become more efficient as a green energy source every year. The cost has also drastically dropped with the increase of government subsidies as well as improved production techniques.
One of the most fundamental reasons for the change in cost and efficiency of solar units involves what it is used for. Originally, solar power was intended to be used for very specific purposes, and situations. How things work Solar electricity Now, there is a surge of usage in almost every sector.
This increased demand for solar energy from a myriad of sources caused there to be significant reason to research and develop new, more efficient technology. With a notable demand in this field, individuals are continuing to gain knowledge through such degrees as masters of electrical engineering and masters of civil engineering.
With the advent of usage in the home, the necessity for solar energy to become affordable to the layperson increased dramatically. Because of the dependence the world has on ever decreasing amounts of fossil fuels, the possible alternative of green energies has cause a huge surge in business.
What This Means for the Consumer – Past and Present uses of Solar Energy
What this means for the consumer is that currently solar energy is one of the most affordable forms of green energy. This is because there has been significant investment in it, and solar panels can function very well in homes.
This more affordable option, as it has become available to purchase has surged wildly in demand. This caused several companies to grow significantly and quickly. This allowed them to develop better manufacturing techniques and cut costs further for consumers.
How Household Solar Panels Affect the Market
The household solar panel can help to significantly lower people’s electricity bill. This direct impact on the pocket of the consumer is very encouraging to the green market, and beyond this government subsidies lower the initial cost of this product even further.
The Benefit of Solar Panels
Beyond impacting the monthly cost of one’s electricity bill people often are concerned with upkeep costs associated with solar panels.
This is where the advances of the last 20 years come most strongly into play. With the increased efficiency of solar panels, they can be smaller than previously possible and installed on roofs.
The obvious concern with placing a panel on the roof is potential maintenance. Current green technology makes the solar panels that are available for purchase much more durable than ever before. The lack of moving parts within a panel makes for a piece of technology that very rarely has problems mechanically.
The surfaces of panels do occasionally need maintenance, but the cost to do this has decreased dramatically over the last 5 years. Now that a small part of a solar panel can be replaced, the cost is substantially lower than in the past.
Increased demand has also made it much more cost-effective to have dedicated solar repair technicians.
This growing field is one which green market demand was able to create. Without this option, maintenance is extraordinarily more expensive.
Solar Farms and Solar Power
Solar farms also help to drive down the cost of this green energy. The improved technology for solar panels allows for much more efficient farms to be created. This is particularly true in rural areas where land is inexpensive. These farms are becoming more common, particularly in sunny areas of the world.
They produce no pollution and can help to power more homes than ever before. The cost saving options with these farms is ever increasing and the farms themselves are expanding across the world. All of these options available to people allow for solar energy to become an option in ever increasing markets.
This is particularly true for 3rd world countries where getting electricity to villages was previously impossible. Because these technologies are becoming more affordable, it is becoming more of a possibility to get this technology to more places, helping more people without damaging the environment.
Impact of EV Solar Charging Stations on our Health
There’s no question that electric vehicles are the automobiles of our future. With Tesla Motors introducing quick and efficient charging stations, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are sure to continue to pop up everywhere with increasing popularity. To learn more about the benefits of EVs on our environment and health, check out our infographic “How EV and Solar Charging Stations Impact Our Environment and Health!”
Installing Solar Power: A Good Investment in This Economy
We all know that energy prices are going up globally, nuclear is being widely criticized, oil is running out and states are on strong pressure to lower their overall carbon emissions. The economy has been weakened for years now and will most likely continue to be frail for quite some time.
The good old economic stability has been taken away and financial margins diminished for many households. Slightest macro-environmental instability and change can have significant impact on normal households across the country. It can therefore be a very good investment to lower your vulnerability and start producing your own electricity by installing solar power.
Why Solar Energy is More Affordable
If you think solar energy is too expensive, then think again. Thanks to China’s takeover of the solar panel production industry, this green energy source is more affordable than ever. But how does this effect businesses in the United States? Speaking for US manufacturers, there’s Gordon Brinser.
He’s an Oregon native who says the company he runs there, SolarWorld, is not only green, it’s patriotic. “The mission that we have is to build products here in America, for America’s community, for America’s energy independence, and really leave the world a better place,” he says. Brinserfears China is threatening that patriotism by flooding the U.S. with cheap solar panels.
He worries that China heavily subsidizes its solar panel industry, yet uses only a small percentage of the panels it makes. “So obviously,” he says, “these subsidies have gone into the industry, and their full intention is to export and control markets in other countries.”
Solar Energy is More Affordable
That’s one side of the story. But consumers and environmentalists have another. “Everyone’s missing the real story and it’s amazing how brain dead some people are,” said Jeremy Rifkin, an adviser to the German government and European Union on climate change and energy security.
“It’s absolutely a positive thing that solar prices are dropping faster than anyone thought they could. “It’s actually a great success,” the U.S. economist told Reuters. “Those criticizing solar for that are being ignorant or disingenuous.
It’s a winnowing out process similar to what the computer and communications sectors went through. More companies that can’t stay ahead of the curve will go belly up.”
Brinser acknowledges that if his side wins and tariffs are added to Chinese imports, Americans will have to pay more for panels. “The prices will have to increase, you know, a little. They will find their new, natural balance in a competitive and legal environment,” he says. But before anything like that can happen, smart consumers are taking advantage of the price drop.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar power installations in the United States increased 67% in the 4th quarter of 2011. However, this growth is due to more than just falling prices. Government incentives based on the U.S. Treasury Department’s 1603 program, due to be renewed this year, also offer homeowners and businesses incentive to use solar energy.
“Extension of this worthwhile program will allow taxpayers to reap the significant economic and energy policy benefits associated with the expanded deployment and use of solar energy,” SEIA writes.
“The 1603 program has helped leverage over $24 billion in private sector investment in for a wide range of clean energy projects, and extending the 1603 program will create an additional 37,000 jobs in the American solar industry in this year alone,” President and CEO Rhone Resch states.
Right now, the market is great for consumers, but not so great for solar panel manufacturers in the US. Increased tariffs could flip that around, so get solar energy cheap while you can!
Why US Solar Panels Tilt West
Solar panels in the northern hemisphere should generally tilt south to maximize the generation of energy. But in the US, solar panels are installed with a slightly westward tilt. Why? Because the power of physics is trumped by the power of economics and finance.
Electricity rates in the US are generally higher in the afternoon. A kilowatt-hour (kwh) generated by your solar power system in the afternoon is worth more than a kwh generated in the morning.
So it makes sense to generate more kwhs of solar power in the afternoon, even if that means your solar power system loses more kwhs of potential generating capacity in the morning.
Yes, we are being intentionally inefficient when capturing the sun’s power because that inefficiency generates more cash.
This is yet one more reason why the future of green and sustainable energy depends as much on economics, finance and government regulation as it does on the development of new technologies.
Indeed, as we will discuss in future blog posts, government regulations that effect the economics and financing of green and sustainable energy will determine whether or not inventors can attract the investments necessary to develop new technologies.
Solar Energy Environmental Impact Statement Released
If renewable energy is to generate a considerable portion of our electricity, regionally appropriate sources need to be developed. We’ve talked about this before (i.e. wind in the Great Plains, solar in the West/Southwest, wave power – if it is viable – along the coasts).
The federal government has taken a step in this direction with its publishing of the PEIS (Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement) for solar energy installations in the southwest. Included in the study are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, all states with abundant open spaces and sunshine.
According to the press release from the Department of Energy, the PEIS “represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.” Using public lands has seen a big push under the current administration.
In the past 3 and a half years, the Department of “Interior has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects that, when built, will produce nearly 5,900 megawatts of energy—enough to power approximately 1.8 million American homes.”
Many of the issues surrounding these types of development center on the environmental impact, which shows that even renewable projects are not entirely without the possibility of degradation. The most suitable Bureau of Land Management acreage was identified in the PEIS for potential future solar energy installations.
A total of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) covering roughly 285,000 acres of public space were singled out as being “characterized by excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.” California, the largest state in the study, accounts for more than half of the land (153,627 acres).
Beyond this space, an additional 19 million acres were included as possible development sites. All told, the SEZ and additional lands could produce 23,700 megawatts, which would power approximately 7 million homes.
4 Affordable Ways to Keep Cool this Summer
Though you might be tempted to replace your old air conditioning unit or upgrade to energy-efficient windows, there are many cheaper ways to keep cool during the summer months while increasing your home’s efficiency.
Awnings- One of the simplest ways to keep your house cool is to prevent solar heat gain—in other words, block direct sunlight. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), window awnings can prevent solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows.
When choosing window awnings, you should look for ones that are light-colored, tightly woven, and contain openings along the top or sides for ventilation.
Drapes and blinds- As with awnings, several factors determine how well indoor window treatments reflect solar heat. Medium-colored drapes with white-plastic backings have been shown to reduce heat gain by 33 percent.
To maximize their potential, they should be installed with a cornice, be mounted as close to the window as possible, and sealed at both sides.
However, blinds have been shown to be even more effective. Those with highly reflective backing can reduce heat gain by 45 percent while retaining the possibility for indirect lighting. During winter months, window treatments should be retracted to allow as much sun into your home as possible.
Caulking and Weatherstripping
These methods will help seal air leaks in your doors and windows. Caulk should be used in gaps less than a ¼ inch wide between stationary building materials, while weatherstripping is suited for moving components. There are a lot of different products to choose from, so it’s a good idea to look over the DOE’s chart of caulking and weatherstripping compounds to suit your needs. And, before you start, DOE recommends to first detect air leaks and assess your ventilation needs to ensure healthy indoor air quality.
Ceiling fans are one of the best ways for occupants to keep cool since they effectively create a draft throughout the room. This means that the thermostat can be raised 4 degrees without causing discomfort. The University of Florida says that lowering the thermostat by just 2 degrees can save between 4 and 8 percent in cooling costs. However, ceiling fans should be turned off in vacant rooms as they will offer no cooling benefit.
In addition to cooking with smaller appliances like your toaster or microwave, it’s beneficial to cook outdoors. This will prevent your oven from heating your home and forcing your AC to work overtime. When you do cook indoors, it’s best to do it during the coolest hours of the day and with your exhaust fan switched on.
Battery Stored Solar Power Owner Sparring with Utilities
California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators.
Edison International (EIX), PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy (SRE) said they’re putting up hurdles to some battery backups wired to solar panels because they can’t be certain the power flowing back to the grid from the units is actually clean energy.
The dispute threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power. People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all, said Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at Mainstream Energy Corp., which installs solar systems.
“The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Peters said from his office in Sunnyvale, California. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”
California is the largest of the 43 states encouraging renewables by requiring utilities to buy electricity from consumer solar installations, typically at the same price that customers pay for power from the grid.
The policy, known as net metering, offers a way for households to reduce their bills. It underpinned a 78 percent surge in the state’s residential installations in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Solar systems with batteries attached have gained a foothold in the market as costs fall, allowing customers more flexibility for using their own power at night or when local supplies fail.
The systems average about $12,000 to $16,000, adding about 25 percent to the cost of rooftop power plants, according to Outback Power Inc., an Arlington, Washington-based provider of battery-backed solar systems.
Matthew Sperling, a Santa Barbara, California, resident, installed eight panels and eight batteries at his home in April.
“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” he said in an interview. Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid even though city inspectors said “it was one of the nicest they’d ever seen,” he said.
“We’ve installed a $30,000 system and we can’t use it,” Sperling said.
Utilities say the storage systems open the possibility of fraud. The issue is whether all the electricity being sold through the net metering program is generated only by renewable sources, as required.
Consumers in theory can fill the batteries with power from the grid and then send it back designated as renewable energy. With the solar-battery systems, there’s no way to determine the source of the energy. Solar suppliers say that’s not happening.
Power-market regulations and the industry’s ability to monitor flows from solar systems haven’t kept pace with the technology, said Gary Stern, director of regulatory policy at Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.
“Our rules are not really caught up to effectively include issues with energy storage,” Stern said in a phone interview from Rosemead, California.
The company doesn’t want to “discourage solar” and is working with regulators to come up with “reasonable policies” for battery-storage systems, said Vanessa McGrady, a Southern California Edison spokeswoman.
State regulators are aware of the problem and are working on guidance to offer both solar installers and utilities, according to Terrie Prosper, a spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.
“There have been some complaints from developers in Southern California Edison’s territory that Edison has inconsistently applied the benefits of net energy metering to energy-storage projects,” Prosper said in an e-mail. The commission is working with all three utilities “to provide formal direction on these issues in the coming months.”
The utilities said they would approve systems that have panels and batteries if they had two meters to verify that only solar energy is sold to the grid. Such a configuration would boost installation costs by at least $1,300, according to Neal Reardon, the state utility regulator’s interim supervisor of customer generation.
The dispute is expanding as California promotes wider use of batteries. Regulators in June proposed that the top three utilities procure 1.3 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2020.
The state has set a goal of obtaining 33 percent of its power from renewables by 2020, the nation’s strongest requirement. With more electricity coming from intermittent sources such as wind and sunlight, storage systems will be an important tool to manage the grid.
Demand for the systems may grow as prices decline. Battery costs are forecast to fall 57 percent to $807 a kilowatt-hour in 2020 from $1,893 for a kilowatt-hour of storage capacity now, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The global market for solar systems combined with energy storage will rise to $2.8 billion in 2018 from less than $200 million this year, according to Boston-based Lux Research Inc.
About 391 megawatts of solar panels were fitted at customer sites across the state last year, according the California Solar Initiative. The price to install residential projects has declined 15 percent to $3.71 a watt in the second quarter from $4.35 a year earlier according to the Washington-based trade group SEIA.
Battery systems are the latest innovation that’s unraveling the traditional monopoly utilities have enjoyed in supplying consumers with electricity. Two decades ago, federal regulators opened the system to independent power producers, eating away at the utility’s control of generation. The battery systems will put more customers out of reach.
“What we are seeing now as a fairly rare event may be more common by the end of the decade,” said Southern California Edison’s Stern.
Mainstream began hearing in May that Southern California Edison was rejecting some of its clients from the net metering program. As many as 60 projects with panels and batteries have been turned down by California utilities, the company estimated.
PG&E Corp. (PCG), the owner of California’s biggest utility, has also rejected standard net metering applications from customers with both panels and batteries, and referred them to another program that requires an interconnection fee.
“The key is that the full retail net energy metering credits and subsidies are only available to renewable facilities,” Lynsey Paulo, a PG&E spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
San Diego Gas & Electric, a unit of Sempra Energy, said it hasn’t received any such applications, and it would deny them if it did. Sempra slipped less than 0.1 percent to $85.43 at the close in New York. PG&E climbed 1.5 percent and Edison gained 1.1 percent.
‘State of Flux’
“Technically, a customer who now has a combined system that includes both rooftop solar panels and battery storage, the battery storage may not qualify for net energy metering under current rules,” said Stephanie Donovan, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric. “The rules are in a state of flux.”
Mainstream’s Peters said Southern California Edison is now rejecting systems that are identical to ones it had approved in the past. The developer had been installing two to three solar-storage projects a week in Southern California at the start of this year. That’s dropped to zero in recent weeks, and some orders have been canceled.
“Net metering is the lifeblood of solar in America,” Peters said. “That’s why this seemingly inconsequential issue is getting so much attention.”
Solar panel owners aren’t trying to “game the system,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the San Francisco-based lobbying group Vote Solar Initiative. “The next step is that people with solar and batteries will find a way to make it work without utilities.”
Solar Energy is Paving the Way for Better Healthcare in Haiti
Photovoltaic solar power system at a Partners in Health clinic in Haiti
With Worldwatch’s Energy Roadmaps for the Caribbean work in Haiti, the Institute plans to create a comprehensive report that will become resourceful to the Haitian government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Haiti, and other domestic stakeholders in transitioning the present energy system to one less dependent on fossil fuels in the future.
Another goal of Worldwatch’s work is to complement the existing work of other NGOs in Haiti to advance economic and infrastructural growth for a country in much need of development. Highlighted below are some of the projects other NGOs are working on to ensure sustained public health services in Haiti.
In modern medicine, electricity provides the backbone for any functional medical center. In a country where the infection rates of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) are extraordinarily high, electricity is essential for medical technologies such as lab analysis, medical equipment, and diagnostic testing at hospitals and clinics.
An estimated 1.9 percent of Haitian adults live with HIV, while out of every 100,000 Haitians, 306 are infected with TB. Moreover, vaccines that help to prevent other communicable diseases, such as pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus, require refrigeration as they need to be kept below room temperature.
Haiti’s immensely unreliable electricity grid and its high dependence on diesel generators have been impediments to the improvement of its fractured healthcare system. In 2007, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program in Haiti requested the expertise of a team of engineers and energy specialists from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) energy program to assess the impact of Haiti’s poor energy infrastructure on the nation’s ability to treat HIV/AIDS patients.
According to the report released in 2008 by USAID’s energy team, “Many health facilities receive only a few hours of power per day with prolonged outages of up to a month not uncommon in some locations.” Upon soliciting USAID’s help, PEPFAR cited that, Haiti’s unreliable energy services lower the nation’s ability to store “cold chain dependent blood, laboratory reagents and HIV rapid test kits” and can lead to “damage to laboratory equipment and jeopardize the accuracy of sensitive laboratory tests.”
USAID published a report, Powering Health: Electrification Options for Rural Health Centers, in 2010 as a resource for public health professionals, particularly for those in developing countries whose intent is to provide more reliable energy services to their health facilities. In this document, USAID discussed the use of photovoltaic (PV) systems as an option for providing electricity.
Subsequently, USAID provided workshops and training sessions to equip Haitian hospital technicians with this knowledge. The table linked below is an excerpt from the USAID publication; it categorizes health clinics by their energy demand and describes the cost estimates for the adoption of particular energy technologies. Health Clinic Energy Needs
Since 2006, Partners in Health (PIH) – a non-profit health care organization working in Haiti – has collaborated with an international development aid organization, Solar Energy Light Fund (SELF), to bring solar PV power to the country’s hospitals and clinics. Harnessing solar energy has played a key role in providing electricity to rural areas and their health clinics, often located in mountainous regions of Haiti.
Solar installations in the rural communities of Boucan Carre, Thomonde, and La Colline, as well as one at a women’s health clinic in Lascahobas (combined capacity of 85 kW of solar power in all four clinics), have all benefited from the work of these organizations. SELF reported about the PV installation at the Boucan Carré clinic, “Not only did this system secure critical loads and improve health care at the clinic, but it also significantly reduced PIH’s need to run a diesel generator for power.”
PIH was able to reduce its diesel imports by 7 barrels per month, a reduction of 64 percent. The successes of PIH, SELF, and USAID illustrate how solar energy, in addition to other forms of renewable energy, can greatly benefit Haitian health development by decreasing clinics’ dependence on fossil fuels and shielding clinics from an unreliable electricity grid.
Last year’s cholera outbreak left 6,000 dead and another 300,000 cases of the illness further crippled the Haitian economy and its workforce. As Worldwatch has previously written, the impact of the outbreak could have been curtailed with better sanitation achieved through greater and a more reliable supply of electricity, providing yet another example of how vital electricity is to Haiti’s health care system.
Utilizing renewable energy resources like solar, wind, hydro, and biomass can help sustain a healthy population that is contingent on the availability of public health services, as these services ultimately depend on access to reliable electricity. Paul Farmer, PIH’s co-founder and a noted doctor and public health pioneer in Haiti, put it simply, “ Solar energy saves lives.”
9 Easy Ways to Conserve Energy
With escalating temperatures come escalating utility bills, and with the rise in energy costs, you may be wondering how you can save money on your monthly energy bill. Familiarize yourself with these simple tricks to save money and conserve energy.
1. Turn the A/C Down
This seems like a no-brainer, but most people don’t turn down the air conditioning when they leave home. Studies have proven that turning your thermostat to 77 or 78 degrees during the day when you’re at work can drastically cut down on energy costs. Using this same method in the winter makes your combined, year-round energy cost savings around 10 percent.
2. Change Air Filters Regularly
Dirty air filters can decrease the efficiency of your cooling system by two percent and should be changed every three months. However, if you hear a whistling noise coming through your filter before the three-month mark, go ahead and change it. It’s highly likely that too much dirt and dust have gathered, putting unnecessary strain on your motor.
Additionally, those that suffer from indoor allergies in your family will receive some much-needed relief, as dirty air filters can contribute to increased allergy symptoms. On Time Air Filters is a great resource for those that tend to forget to replace the air filters on time, as customers can sign up once and have filters delivered as often as they’d like.
3. Use a Fan
An A/C unit uses 3,500 watts of energy when running compared to a ceiling fan, which uses about 60 watts of energy. Keeping ceiling fans on can decrease the temperature in your home by as much as four degrees, allowing you to save a tremendous amount while cooling your home. In the warmer months, make sure your fan is switched to the counterclockwise direction, which creates a breeze effect in your home.
4. Rethink How you Wash and Dry Clothes
Buy a specially formulated detergent that works in cold water and wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm.
To save even more money on water heating costs, only wash clothes when you have a full load, being mindful of how much detergent you use, as too much detergent makes your washer work even harder, increasing your energy usage.
When drying your clothes, be sure not to overload the dryer. Most people think loading the dryer down with clothes saves on time, but it really increases the amount of time to dry your clothes and makes them come out wrinkled. Another great way to save energy is to adjust your dryer to auto dry, which should prevent from over-drying clothes.
5. Invest in Window Shades
Keeping window shades down during the hot summer months can help to combat increased energy costs. Window shadescan reduce the solar heat gain coefficient by 20 to 70 percent.
Typically, the lighter the shade the better they are at keeping the heat outside. Furthermore, for optimum performance, make sure the shades are mounted as close to the glass as possible, thus maximizing the shade’s sun-blocking capabilities. Double cell shades, like ones that can be found at Payless Decor, come in a wide variety of colors and work double time by providing superior insulating power while aiding in the reduction of your energy costs.
6. Unplug Chargers
These days, with all the gadgets we carry on a daily basis, it’s easy to get lazy and leave the chargers plugged into the wall continuously. Leaving your chargers plugged in still drains power, wasting time and money, so unplug your chargers when not in use.
7. Evaluate your Light Usage
How many times have you walked through your house only to find that virtually every light bulb in every room is on? Electricity costs $0.10 per kilowatt hour. When you leave a room, turn off a light. Next time you get ready to close the door to your house with your hands completely full and you see two lights on, quickly do the math—it’s better to turn the lights off and save money on electricity.
8. Buy LED or CFL light bulbs for your home. These types of lights can be more expensive but last much longer and can save a bundle on energy costs. Don’t brush this idea aside too quickly – there’s good news for those of you that don’t like the bright light effect they typically produce: energy efficient lights that produce a muted look are now available! How Does Energy-efficient Light Bulbs Work
9. Turn off Electronics
Keeping electronics on constantly can obviously increase your energy usage (phantom load) , but we rarely think of this when we leave the house. An easy way to turn electronics off when not in use is to use a power strip. If you tie multiple electronics into a power strip, you can simply turn off the power strip before you leave the house or go to bed and watch the savings add up.
Many of these tips apply not only at your personal residence but also your workplace. Conserving energy for a business is very fiscally prudent and rewarding both personally and for the bottom line. But to do so economically, we suggest seeking expert help. And if this type of work is of interest to you American Trainco has many HVAC, Maintenance Training, and Electrical Courses.
The (Air) Drying Chronicles
Several years ago, in an effort to reduce my ever-increasing electric bill, I challenged myself to break a bad habit. Instead of dropping my laundry in the energy-guzzling dryer, I would become an air-dryer. That’s right: After years of wrapping myself in the warm fluffiness of a just-dried towel, I would embrace a towel dried with nothing more than the breeze flowing through my Brooklyn backyard or through my kitchen window.
My efforts were assisted by the knowledge that the dryer is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in the average household, clocking in just under the refrigerator. Ditching the dryer for an electric-free alternative would reduce my monthly bill and save valuable natural resources. I would also earn bonus eco-points by washing my clothes in cold water with a detergent designed to maximize cold-water cleansing, which cuts back on the energy used by the washing machine.
However, not all air-drying is created equal. Here’s what I’ve learned about drying au natural:
- Don’t skimp on the rack. Invest in a solid drying rack that gives you lots of space to hang clothes of all sizes and won’t collapse under the weight of a wet sweater or blanket.
- Shake before hanging. Giving clothes a quick shake before hanging helps reduce wrinkles.
- Leave space between items. Clothes need air to dry. Allow space for that air to flow.
- Be patient. You can’t hang your wet jeans up in the morning and expect them to by dry by dinner. Leave adequate time for items to dry completely, factoring in additional time for items made from dense or heavy fabrics, like denim.
Should air conditioning become uncool?
The facts and predictions about the environmental impacts of air conditioning are shocking. First of all, about 500 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year result from air conditioning of buildings and cars.
Then there are other considerations:
- In 2010, 50 million air conditioning units were sold in China alone
- Within 15 years, Saudi Arabia could consume more oil than it exports “due largely to air conditioning”
- By 2050, world consumption of energy for cooling a heating planet could expand ten-fold
Even if you think that scientist and author Stan Cox’s estimates on future air conditioning use could be a little alarmist, there is no doubt that the number of air conditioners across the planet will increase as wealth grows and as people’s willingness to pay for convenience and comfort increases. More people moving to cities globally means more people living and/or working in stuffy interior spaces all day under the shade of concrete, instead of more traditional wooden houses or even trees.
Bear in mind also that the difference in the Global South, as opposed to most developed countries, is that the “need” for cooling can be an economically and environmentally costly 12-months-a-year pursuit.
Just as refrigerators and washing machines have been, and continue to be, a mark of entrance to the global middle classes, so have air conditioners become a status symbol that signify that families, businesses and even government and non-government organizations have “made it”. People often make sure to point out that “air conditioning is included”, whether it’s when selling a car, staying in a hotel or welcoming a guest to a home.
Those of us working in industrializing countries will be familiar with the normalization of air conditioning and the strange phenomenon, particularly in the tropics, of people said to be “used to the heat”, now enjoying frigid 16-degree temperatures all day long. And there are other costs that are coming to light including increases in respiratory diseases among people who use air conditioning, whether in the United Arab Emirates or in your country. Have you noticed a link between your health and the amount of time you spend in front of an air conditioner?
The great “air con”
The theme of air conditioning having moved from a luxury good to a status quo “necessity” was picked up recently by the Sydney Morning Herald. It reported that Australia, with a population of 22 million, has installed 1.7 million air conditioners in the past five years alone.
These and other examples of staggering growth are occurring in an era when we really should be reducing, not increasing our energy consumption, particularly in areas of our lives where it is easiest to do so (some use the expression “picking the low hanging fruit”) such as using more energy-efficient lightbulbs.
“It’s surprising how little the air conditioner boom has been questioned, considering its economic, environmental and social costs”, commented opinion writer Matt Wade. Wade’s statement seems reasonable. But is he right? Have you questioned the rise of air conditioning in your life?
Is it a need or just something some generations have become accustomed to? In this Debate 2.0, we ask whether we can realistically continue to be fans of air conditioning, especially in light of the climate challenge that is affecting us all? Or should we be re-conditioned to using simple fans for instance, which are dramatically more energy-efficient?
Cutting Costs Not Trees: 6 Ways to Go Green and Save Energy
Between the tough economic times and the concern over global climate change, there hasn’t been a better time to make green changes around your home.
Cutting back on your energy consumption in particular is a great way to save money and reduce your green house gas emissions. Let’s take a look at six simple ways to Go Green and Save Energy: cut your energy consumption and save money.
Switch to Compact Florescent Light Bulbs
Switching a single 75-Watt incandescent light bulb for a 25-Watt compact fluorescent bulb (or CFL) can save you $83 over the life of the bulb. CFLs are able to save you money because, unlike incandescent bulbs, most of their energy goes to producing light (rather than heat like incandescents).
Because they’re so much more efficient, CFLs use 75 percent less energy than incandescents and last ten times longer. This makes switching to CFLs the single quickest and easiest way to save money on your energy bill.BUY LED BULBS HERE
Unplug Your Appliances to Go Green and Save Energy
Did you know that simply unplugging your appliances could save you up to $200 per year? According to How Stuff Works, 25 percent of the energy used by your home electronics is consumed while the appliance is in the “off” position. This phenomenon is known as “vampire power” or “phantom power” and can be prevented by unplugging the appliance or gadget.
But, how do you know what to unplug? Anything with a glowing LED light is definitely still using energy. TVs, printers, computers, and chargers are some of the worst offenders, but if you really want to be safe plug everything into a power strip. That way, when something isn’t in use, you can just turn off the power strip.
Adjust Your Thermostat
According to energy.gov, you can save 1 percent on your annual heating bill for every degree you turn your thermostat down at night. So, if you normally set the thermostat to 70, turning it down to 60 during the night when you’re asleep will save you 10 percent on your heating bill.
Of course, with a manual thermostat this would mean you’ll wake up to a 60 degree home every morning — a chilly prospect. Don’t let that stop you, though. Invest in a smart thermostat and you’ll be able to set it to turn down the heat at night and then warm the house back up an hour or so before you wake up. NEST
Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
Unless you’re trying to get a stain out of your clothes, washing them all in cold water will get them just as clean and will save you a bunch of money. World Watch estimates that as much as 85 percent of the electricity your washer uses goes into heating the water. As an added bonus, washing everything in cold water means that you no longer have to separate out the colors.
Then Hang Them Out to Dry
Hanging your clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer could save your 5-10 percent on your annual electrical bill. If you have a yard, invest in a clothes line to save money; sun-dried clothes smell fantastic.
Or, if you don’t have a yard, invest in a drying rack. Drying racks are fairly cheap and extremely space efficient, making them the perfect way to go green in a small house or apartment.
Use Energy Star Appliances
The next time you need to replace an appliance, look for one with the Energy Star label. Sponsored by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Star program rates appliances for their efficiency and only the best receive the Energy Star label.
To make more energy saving choices, like picking out the perfect appliance for your apartment or home
As you can see, there are many ways to save money by going green. These six ways will get you off to a good start, but there’s always more you can do. If you’re really interested, get an energy audit to find out exactly where you’re using the most energy and then go from there. Good luck and remember Go Green and Save Energy!
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Energizer Battery Charger
Parents with small children may know that the amount of battery powered devices in their lives grows exponentially with the birth of their first child. Last year we bought Energizer’s battery charger to handle the AA batteries from our son’s music box, the C batteries from his music table, the D batteries from his swing, and AAA batteries for assorted other devices.
In the past we purchased a AA charger, but had limited success and were reluctant to spend $30 on a charger, plus a premium for rechargeable batteries. Click here for the entire rechargeable line from Energizer.
To ensure that we would use it enough, we purchased a charger that could handle all four types of mentioned previously batteries. The only style we have in the house that does not fit are 9 volt batteries. The other day I charged one set of batteries (4 C batteries) for the fourth time in a year.
The start-up cost of the charger and batteries ($11.95 for two C batteries) is high when compared to a 12 pack of conventional C batteries for the same price. However, because the device can charge five different types of batteries, and up to four at a time, we been able to justify the upfront expense. I have not sat down to calculate the total return on our investment. (What I can say is that we have not recovered the cost on all the batteries to this point, let alone the charger.
However, we have only had it for one year and the batteries seem to be charging completely, i.e. no loss of capacity). The high cost of larger batteries (C and D) makes the charger a worthwhile investment. Without these larger, more expensive batteries it may not be worth the cost of the charger.
The first unit I purchased from Energizer, which only charged AA and AAA batteries, does not make sense from a flexibility standpoint. In addition, it did not seem to work well. I don’t think the batteries were ever fully charged. However, the family charger (as mentioned below) includes an LCD screen indicating the state of the charge. When buying a charger, definitely consider one that can charge several types of batteries.
Here are the features of the charger according to Energizer’s website:
- Charges up to 8 AA, 8 AAA, 4C, 4D or 2 9V NiMH rechargeable batteries
- Super safe – will only begin charging when the lid is closed
- Easy-to-read LCD screen shows the charging status of the batteries inside
- ENERGY STAR certified
How LED Lighting Can Help Save You Money and Help the Environment
Statistics show that now more than ever, Americans are going green by adopting environmentally friendly routines. The emergence of hybrid automobiles, xeriscaping, and solar panels all help society move toward preserving vital natural resources. LED lighting has been proven to be cheaper, more energy-efficient, and safer than other alternative forms of lighting.
Also known as LED lighting, this form of lighting has many benefits for the environment, as well as your home or business. Whether you choose battery powered LED lights or another type of LED fixture, here are some of the benefits.
LED Lights Reduce Atmospheric Pollutants
Billions of incandescent light bulbs crowd the landfills, leaking nuclear waste into the soil and atmosphere. Toxic chemicals, such as sulfur oxide and carbon dioxide, are emitted from used incandescent light bulbs and pollute the ecosystem. By switching the bulbs in your home to LED lighting, you can save nearly one half ton of carbon dioxide waste from leaking out into the atmosphere. Not only are you helping to clean up the environment, but you can save a substantial amount of money on your energy bill as well.
LED Lights Save You Money
Studies have shown that the cost of electricity, mainly from using incandescent bulbs, uses up nearly 25% of the average home’s energy budget. Although you may pay more at the store for LED light bulbs, they will save you money through the years. By replacing just one incandescent bulb with an energy-saving LED light bulb, you can save over $50 on your yearly electricity bill. Think of the possible savings you could have by replacing your entire home’s lighting with LED lights.
LED Lights Work More Efficiently
LED lights use only one-third the energy that is required to operate traditional light bulbs. Experts predict that if every home in America switched to using LED lighting fixtures, nearly 90 power plants that are currently in operation could retire. Currently, a number of power plants are in the pre-planning and early construction stages. Being able to actually stop the construction process and close existing power plants is an amazing feat.
LED Lights are Multi-Purpose
Not only are there LED bulbs for your standard lighting fixtures, but they have expanded to include other areas of your home and business lighting needs as well. If you love to decorate your home with holiday lights, consider purchasing the LED versions of your favorite outdoor lights. You will definitely see a difference in your electricity bill during the costly holiday season.
LED lights are also being introduced in flashlights and lanterns which make great camping accessories. They are also a perfect addition to your home emergency kit. You can be assured that the light bulb in your LED lighting accessory will last much longer than a traditional bulb, especially when you need them during a power outage or on a long camping trip.
Many people want to help save the environment and do their part to preserve the planet for future generations, but they simply aren’t sure how they can make an impact. Switching your lights to LED lighting fixtures is the perfect place to start. Not only is it easy to accomplish, but you are preserving a vital natural resource for your children.
Small Ways You Can Conserve Energy With Your Electronics
If you are looking for ways to cut back on energy, then there are several things that you can do right now to conserve energy. One of the fastest ways to begin conserving energy is to purchase electronic devices that are energy efficient. However, you can take many other steps as well. In addition to limiting how many electronic devices you and members of your household use at once, you should also unplug electronics that are not in use or being charged.
This is because electronics that are plugged in continue to consume energy even if they are turned off or not being charged. By following all of the tips discussed below, you will be on your way to saving money and conserving energy in no time whatsoever.
Conserve Energy by Limit The Number of Electronics You Use at One Time
Whether you are on your own or have a family, you are probably using more than one electronic device at a time. Most households have at least two or more electronic devices on at the same time. Other households have as many as ten or twenty electronic devices on at one time..
It is not uncommon for households to have the television, game consoles, smart phones, computers, tablets and Internet connections on all the time. By keeping these electronic devices on all day, you may be consuming more energy then you really need to consume.
If you would like to save money and conserve energy, then you should really think about limiting the number of devices you use at one time. If this is the case, then you should consider turning off some of the electronic devices that you have on in your home.
Shut Off Electronics Completely When They Are Not Being Used
Many people keep their electronics turned on even when they are not being used. Electronic devices like DVD players, game consoles and other electronic devices that are left on consume energy all day and night. By simply making an effort to turn off electronics when they are not in use, you will be able to conserve a tremendous amount of energy over the years.
Unplug Your Electronics Devices When Not in Use or Being Charged
“In addition to turning your electronics off whenever you are not using these devices, you should also pull the plug out from the electrical source or turn all of your electrical strips off”, says Karen Riccio of GreenGeeksTips.com. Electrical devices continue to consume energy even when the device is turned off if they are plugged into an electrical source.
Although the device is not consuming as much electricity as it would be if the device were turned on, electronic devices that are plugged in continue to consume energy when plugged in. This is true even after they have been completely charged. By unplugging your electronic devices or turning off your electrical strips, you can save a tremendous amount of money over time.
Purchase Energy Efficient Electronics
If you are thinking about buying one or more electronic devices, then you should take the time to do some research and buy electronics that are energy-efficient. Many manufacturers are now offering different electronic devices that are energy-efficient. Purchasing electronics that are energy-efficient can also help you save money and conserve energy at the same time, so you should always purchase energy-efficient devices.
If you are looking for ways to cut back and conserve energy, then you should consider putting these useful tips to use. By purchasing energy-efficient devices, limiting how many electronic devices you use at once, unplugging your devices when they are not being used or charged, you will be on your way to saving money and conserving energy at the same time.
Current State of Renewable Energy: Solar Power
Renewable or green energy use is growing at a rapid rate, although it still accounts for only a small portion of electricity production in most countries. However, the growing scarcity of some of the easy-to-exploit fossil fuels and fears of climate change ensures that green energy will eventually provide much of our electricity. Below is a brief discussion of the state of some of the major renewable energy sources:
The use of solar power is increasing dramatically around the world. The price of solar panels has plunged recently and it probably will go even lower. In addition, thanks to continuing research and development, solar photovoltaic panels are getting more and more efficient. California, which is already a leader in solar energy generation, is bringing more solar plants online.
Other states are also building solar energy plants. Other countries, such as Spain, have been aggressive in building solar capacity. Real estate developers in Japan report that solar power is becoming popular with homeowners. The government of Japan may also increase the use of solar energy dramatically. Japan wants to move away from the use of nuclear power in the wake of the tsunami disaster.
Solar power analysts report that solar power is becoming cost competitive with conventional electricity generation, particularly when the true cost of coal and nuclear generated power are considered.
Current State of Renewable Energy
Current State of Renewable Energy: New Solar Power Technology
There are some exciting technological advances in the works that are going to make solar energy cheaper and more practical. Scientists are impregnating solar panels with nanoparticles, which is improving power conversion efficiency and increasing reliability.
Cheap, thin plastic solar film is also in development. This film is easy to install and can be placed on window panes, doors, and siding. Organic solar films are also being developed. A particularly intriguing product is cheap solar power generating paint.
The paint contains semiconducting nanoparticles that convert solar energy into electricity. Homeowners will be able to apply this paint to their homes and harvest electricity from it. Businesses can do the same thing. One pf the biggest impediments to the use of solar power is the difficulty in storing it.
Recently developed inexpensive, efficient, light-weight lithium batteries may soon alleviate that problem. Molten salt systems may make the storage of thermal solar energy practical, too.
Current State of Renewable Energy: The Artificial Plant
An entirely different solar technology that is under the radar right now may soon make a big splash in green energy. Plants use sunlight to power the chemical process of photosynthesis which, among other things, splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists in the United States and Great Britain are making significant progress toward developing an artificial plant that replicates the process of photosynthesis.
Fuel cells can use hydrogen to produce emissions free green energy. The problem is that there is no cheap, abundant source of hydrogen. Hydrogen can be most easily produced from fossil fuels such as gasoline. It can also be obtained from water, but conventionally produced electricity must be used to release the hydrogen.
An improved, efficient, cheap form of photosynthesis could allow homeowners and businesses to produce their own low-cost hydrogen to power their own private fuel cells.
Current State of Renewable Energy: Wind Power
Commercial wind power faces significant challenges today. Prices for natural gas have collapsed, making it difficult for wind generated electricity to compete on a cost basis with electricity produced with natural gas. Fracking technology is making it possible for producers to bring enormous new supplies to market, so gas prices will probably remain low for some time to come.
Furthermore, in today’s political and economic climate there is little impetus to extend subsidies for wind power. There is also little infrastructure being built to get electricity from the windiest part of the country to large population centers. In addition, windmills are under fire for causing a significant number of bird deaths.
There are proposals to put windmills on floating sea platforms where they can operate efficiently, but, for now, the idea is only being studied. On the bright side, there are a few positive developments for wind power. Until recently, wind power was considered a mature technology with little room for efficiency improvements.
New wind farm designs that place windmills closer together show promise for making wind farms more efficient. New wind turbines are also being developed that can produce up to fours times as much power as current turbines. Also on the plus side, small windmills to power individual homes are beginning to catch on.
In the near future we may see homes routinely powered by a combination of solar panels, windmills, geothermal energy, fuel cells and lithium batteries.
Current State of Renewable Energy: Hydropower
Hydropower is the cheapest, cleanest source of electricity available today. Th US Congress is considering a bill that provides incentives to utilities to build more hydropower capacity. Most hydropower is produced by damming rivers and using falling water to generate electricity. In most of the developed world, this type of hydropower has been nearly exploited to the greatest extent possible.
Furthermore, building dams has significant environmental and ecological impacts. But there are other sources of hydropower coming online today. Run-of-the-river plants use river and stream currents to produce electricity without the need for a dam and falling water.
Other water-based technologies use ocean waves, sea currents, tides and thermal energy to generate electricity. Unfortunately, these technologies, while very green, are in the initial stages of development and, thus, are comparatively costly.
Current State of Renewable Energy: Geothermal
Magma deep in the Earth continuously produces heat which can be utilized as an energy source. Its use is growing quickly and geothermal is a significant energy source in a number of countries. Geothermal plants produce electricity for a very low cost. However, there are some significant drawbacks to geothermal energy.
While production costs are low, initial costs are very high. Drilling a geothermal well is expensive. Furthermore, about 20 percent of wells fail. Geothermal’s green credentials are suspect, too. Geothermal wells can potentially release greenhouse gases and dangerous chemicals. Most geothermal plants are equipped to capture these chemicals and gases. Geothermal plants and wells can also trigger earthquakes.
A good way for homeowners and businesses to take advantage of geothermal energy is to install a geothermal heat pump. These heat pumps heat and cool very efficiently.