Saving Energy with the Laundry

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Posted by David | Posted in Appliances and Cars, Energy Efficiency | Posted on 04-12-2012

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Doing the laundry is a part of life. We have to wear clothes and we have to keep them clean. Even if you are one of those people who will wear a pair of jeans multiple days, it will need to be washed eventually. According to the EPA the average family washes about 300 loads of laundry per year. In our endless struggle to reduce the nation’s energy use we will today turn to that never-ending chore. As I see it, there are three ways to cut back on energy use when it comes to washing your clothes.

Laundry for less energy

  • Clothes Line: Instead of using the dryer every time you wash your clothes, consider a clothesline while the weather is nice. It is entirely free and it gives you and excuse to step outside during your chores. This will save you about $45 with an electric dryer and $150 if you own a gas dryer.
  • Wash with Cold Water: Instead of washing your clothes with hot water, consider the savings with cold water washing. As it turns out, heating the water accounts for 90% of the energy used in the washing cycle. By using warm water you can cut this cost in half, and by using cold water you can drastically increase the savings.
  • Laundromat: Try going to the laundromat instead of washing at home. Commercial washers and dryers are much more efficient than home units, and it won’t increase your energy bill a dime. Bring a book with you and let the hum of the units put your mind at ease.

 Every Penny Counts

I know these strategies don’t seem like they save all that much money. I know 40 bucks a year to hang a clothesline doesn’t seem worth it, but this is a compounding process. Combine these savings with all the cuts to your heating bills, to energy efficient lights, to Energy Star appliances and suddenly you are saving a lot more money every month. There’s no need to spend so much on your energy bills, with a little know-how and presence of mind, it can be easily done.

Save some Money. Save the Planet.

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Posted by David | Posted in Energy Efficiency | Posted on 27-11-2012

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Why We Do it

In a recent Quora debate, someone questioned energy efficient strategies. “Why should I have to cut back? I pay for this convenience.” This was specifically in reference to vampire energy use, but his concerns apply universally to energy efficiency. Why do we do this? As I see it there are two reasons to be energy efficient and they are intentionally the tagline to this blog.

Save Money: The less energy you use, the more you save. Who doesn’t want extra cash in their pocket?

Save the Planet: No matter who you are or where you come from we are all subject to the infrastructure of the country in which we live. We need electricity to power our economy and without it we would be living in a very different world. Like it or not, our resources for electricity are not unlimited and will eventually run out. Renewable energy will not be ready to bear the burden of our energy appetite for decades, but if we can lessen our use we accomplish two things. We curb our energy appetite making it easier for renewable energy to reach a level where it can satisfy our needs, and it staves off that eventual energy crisis. Ideally, we’ll still have some gas, coal, and oil left when solar and wind power the world.

Why Wouldn’t you want to be efficient?

Furthermore it is easy. The strategies I outline here take very little time and hamper the convenience of our electronics very little. How long does it take to unplug the coffee machine in the morning? To turn off the lights when you leave a room? To open the curtains to cut your heating bill? Save some money, Save the planet.

Guest Blogger: R value measurement – Know your Insulation

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Posted by David | Posted in Energy Efficiency, Guest Bloggers, Insulation | Posted on 20-11-2012

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R value: What does it stand for?

What does R value measurement stand for? Like many of us, you have probably encountered different R values marked on insulation products packaging or you at least heard your contractor or insulating products manufacturer bragging about certain insulating materials high R values, without even asking yourself what does it mean, what does “R” stands for. Well, we believe that it is very important to know your insulation, without any high expectations of you becoming an expert in insulating your home, which is neither likely or necessary. Still, there are some basics that you should be aware of when choosing and installing insulation, which can not only make your choice easier but also help you make the right decision.

 R value is a thermal resistance measurement used in building and construction to calculate and determine the thermal resistance, that is how well does certain (insulation) material resists the heat transfer. It is used to determine specific insulating product thermal performance, regardless of its acoustic and sound insulating properties, by using a simple formula expressed as m2xK\W. Here, m2 presents size measurement unit of the insulating material, K stands for the difference in temperature through the material, expressed in Kelvin and finally W presents the amount of heat that passes through the material, in watts. Simply put, R value measurements are calculated by simply dividing the thickness of the material with its thermal conductivity, or as previously explained, the amount of heat that flows through the insulating material.

 As you are probably aware, the higher the R value, the better thermal performance of the insulation material. On the other hand, bear in mind that R values are reciprocal or inversed to so called U values which present the coefficient of the overall heat transfer and show how well the insulating material conducts heat, under some standard conditions, like certain temperature, humidity and wind. Properly understanding the given equation implies that high R values are good, just as low U values are good, so it is another thing to consider when purchasing your insulation material. Also bear in mind that there is a difference between added R value, which presents the thermal performance of the material itself and the overall R value, which measures the total thermal resistance of a building or a certain part and includes the added R value and the R value measurements of the air spaces and building materials. There is another difference between bulk insulation that has its own added R value, depending on the density and thickness of the material and reflective insulation which has overall R value, when combined with the building material or given air space.

 First of all, R value measurements depend on the insulating materials themselves, mostly on their thickness and thus the ability to resist heat transfer. There are some typical R values connected to insulating products and materials, where vacuum insulated panels usually have the highest R values, followed by phenolic foam insulation and polystyrene and polyurethane insulation to fiberglass and rock wool insulating products. In determination of the overall R values, the surfaces such as walls, floors or ceilings and their R value measurement is also taken into consideration. It will depend on the position of the surface, that is whether it is horizontal or vertical, on the direction of heat transfer (is it upward or downward) and finally is it an indoor or an outdoor surface. Commonly, indoor surfaces have higher R values than outdoor surface, while downward heat transfer direction on horizontal surfaces (such as flat ceilings) have higher thermal resistance than upward direction of heat transfer on horizontal surfaces or overall on vertical surfaces (like walls).

 Now that you are aware and understand some basic terms and thermal resistance performances of insulating products, that is their R value measurement, it will be easy to choose some of the products made by leading manufacturers of insulating products today, available at InsulationShop.co.

This article was written byVladimir Golubovic, professional writer and SEO expert.

The Basics of Energy Efficiency

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Posted by David | Posted in Appliances and Cars, Energy Efficiency, Energy Star | Posted on 14-11-2012

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What does it mean to be energy efficient? Does it require an ultra-tree-hugging conservative lifestyle without shoes and without the modern electronics we’ve become so accustomed to?

Of Course Not…

The basic core motto of energy efficiency is the similar to the same old green mantra you’ve heard a hundred times. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. For specifically energy efficiency I would alter it to: Reduce. Research. Replace.

The Basics of Energy Efficiency

  • Reduce: the first step to becoming energy efficient is to reduce. Turn the lights and your computer off when you leave the room. Don’t set your furnace to 82 in the winter. Don’t use your toilet as a garbage can. These are simple logical applications you can apply to your home today. All it takes is a moment to asses you own energy habits and try to think of ways to cut back.
  • Research: This is the first step to the next point replace. Do your research on the best ways to reduce energy consumption. Research products the are particularly energy efficient.
    • Did you know? Many power suppliers offer programs for their customers to purchase power from green sources. Sure it may cost a little more, but you can use it guilt free.
  • Replace: The final step to my new Energy Efficiency Mantra. Our energy is always used through the machines and appliances that occupy our home. So, one of the best ways to use less power is to make sure your household items don’t use much power to begin with. Here are some common areas where people can replace appliances.
    • Lightbulbs: Incandescent bulbs are huge energy guzzlers in comparison to LED’s and fluorescent lights. This is a quick and easy energy saving strategy. You could replace all your lights bulbs this afternoon!
    • Energy Star: Look for the energy star stamp of approval on any new electronic you buy. This is an independent organization which analyzes the power consumption of products and if the product meets or exceeds their energy efficiency guidelines, they receive the Energy Star stamp!
    • Heating or Cooling System: During the heating and cooling seasons, your system account for roughly half of your power consumption. Clearly this is a very important area to become more efficient. The HVAC industry is always making more and more efficient systems. Contact your local HVAC company to discuss a new air conditioner or furnace.

Money– The Great Motivator

It can be difficult to motivate people to take the pledge and become more thrifty with their energy. The problem is that the energy crisis feels very abstract and far away. The lights always turn on with the flick of a switch. It just doesn’t feel pressing when the product is always available.

However, the angle I have always taken is one than everyone can get behind. Saving energy saves money. You pay for every moment the lights are on and for every flush. Why not save some money every month? The savings you collect on each bill can be put towards your next energy efficiency project.

Top 3 Energy Efficient Televisions

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Posted by David | Posted in Appliances and Cars, Energy Efficiency, Energy Star | Posted on 06-11-2012

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Televisions have become a staple of the American home. Since the 1950′s families have gathered together to watch their favorite TV shows every night. From the Honeymooners to Game of Thrones, Americans love their televisions. Some homes have upwards of 5 or six televisions in the house. But just how efficient are these devices? If I want to purchase the most efficient model on the market, which one should I buy?

Energy Efficient Televisions

The first thing to recognize about these televisions is that they aren’t very large. If you are looking to cut back on energy costs, the smaller the screen, the more efficient the television. What I have assembled here are the most efficient televisions in three distinct brackets of size.

  • Insignia NS-15E720A12

    • Size:15.6 inches
    • Resolution: 1366 x 768
    • Display Type: LCD
    • Price:$129
    • Annual Operating Costs:$3

    Though small this television is remarkably cheap to purchase at $129 and even cheaper to operate. This television would be perfect for a dorm room or bedroom. If you are never far from your computer, this is the perfect size to double as a computer monitor! You couldn’t find a more economical television if you tried (and I did).

     

  • Panasonic TC-L37E3:
    • Size: 37 inches
    • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
    • Display Type: LCD
    • Price: $799
    • Annual Operating Costs: $8

    This is a mid-sized television perfect for any application. You could easily fit this in a dorm, apartment living room, or bedroom. With great resolution and a very low operating cost this is an excellent choice for your family. Unfortunately the extra size does come with a larger price tag, but considering televisions twice the size can cost way more than double the TC-L37E3, you are still coming out ahead.

     

  • ELITE PRO-60X5FD:

    • Size: 60 inches
    • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
    • Display Type: LCD
    • Price: $900.99
    • Annual Operating Costs: $15

    This is one monster of a television measuring at 60 inches! The amazing part about this TV is the extremely low pricetage for its size. While the resolution is the same as a much smaller television, the operating cost is still astoundingly low. If you are looking for a huge screen on a budget, this is the television for you.

 

The Important thing is to Lower Energy Costs

Televisions and computers are appliances not likely to go away any time soon. They are on, sucking up power, most of the day around the world. So, rather than just letting them suck up our energy, let’s take a moment and redesign them to be as efficient as possible. As technology continues to develop we will continue to see more and more efficient products out there. Energy Efficient Homes would like to take this opportunity to commend Energy Star for what they do. Companies are now striving to produce products that meet the coveted Energy Star guidelines. It is a simple, easy way to encourage consumers to be more efficient products.

Horse Hollow Wind Farm Trials

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Posted by David | Posted in Wind | Posted on 31-10-2012

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One of the world’s largest wind farms resides outside of Albilene, Texas. Built in 2005 in part by Blattner Energy, the Horse Hollow Wind Farm is composed of 421 wind turbines. Most of these turbines are 1.5 MW capacity built by GE, but some are made by Siemens with a 2.3 MW capacity. In total, the plant is able to generate 735 MW effectively powering thousands upon thousands of homes.

However, for all the good this wind farm does, there are still objectors to the glory that is renewable energy.

Horse Hollow Wind Farm Taken to Court

Plaintiffs living on 100-700 acre properties around the wind farm took them to court in a nuisance lawsuit. In June 2005, their complaint was:

  • Too Ugly! Yep, they legitimately brought the owner and investors to court because they thought the extremely expensive and highly useful wind farm (that is probably now powering their houses) was just too darn ugly.
    • Case Dismissed! The judge ruled that under Texas law, you can’t sue something because you think it is ugly. Rightly so!
  • Too Loud! After the ugly card didn’t work, the protesters resorted to complaints about the noise. To be honest, wind farms do generate a low hum as the blades turn, but…
    • Case Dismissed!The jury ruled that the wind-farms do not make enough noise to be classified as a nuisance. Renewable Energy wins again!

My Personal Opinion

Why do people seem to dislike the look of a wind farm? Why does that sight conjure up images of corporate greed and a ruined natural landscape? I think they are beautiful. Majestic white towers twirling in unison. At night they all bleep those red lights together.

The sight of a wind-farm should conjure up feels of connectivity. We are harnessing the natural energy of the world, without destroying it. That doesn’t mean we are bastardizing our land for corporate greed. We are growing closer to it. In the future, sights like this should warm your heart knowing that we CAN move beyond fossil fuels.

 

oh, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Serbia to Build World’s Largest Solar Park

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Posted by David | Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar | Posted on 24-10-2012

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Serbia has made a huge leap in the world of renewable energy. In May of this year, Serbia signed a memorandum to build the worlds largest solar energy park. The project is expect to begin next year at an estimate cost of 2 BILLION Euros. To put this in perspective, that translates to 2,580,000,000.00 dollars! The project is to be funded and managed by Securum Equity Partners, based out of Luxembourg.

Why Serbia?

You may be wondering, why would this company choose Serbia instead of any other the other countries in Europe, or for that matter, the world?

  • Serbia will lease the required land for free for the next 25 years.
  • Serbia receives 40% most solar radiation than it’s European brethren.
  • Serbia has a highly skilled labor force looking for work.
  • Substantial water resources and available land not suitable for farming

What Does Serbia Get out of the deal

Serbia has to get some benefit of this plant too, right? Especially considering they are just giving Securum the land for free for 25 years.

  • The Power generated by the plant is exclusively for export, giving Serbia a valuable product to sell.
  • Serbia intends to tax the plant 750 million dollars
  • The construction will create nearly 3,000 jobs for the next 3-5 years
  • After construction is complete, the plant will require 500-600 more workers to run effectively. Thus creating more jobs.

This plant will effectively put Serbia on the map in terms of solar energy. It will nearly double to solar output of the next largest solar park located in India.

The point we should be getting out of a story like this is that of hope. There are people out there who care about the future of energy use. The energy crisis isn’t an American problem or a Western problem, but a Human problem and will require the efforts of the entire race to solve. Today we learned that Serbia is going to do their part to make the world a little greener.

 

The Green Themes of Final Fantasy VII

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Posted by David | Posted in Renewable Energy, Uncategorized | Posted on 17-10-2012

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15 years ago, (pre-Inconvenient Truth mind you) a video game was released that changed the RPG genre and video games in general. It garnered MASSIVE appeal and is arguably the best and most influential game of all time, certainly for the PS1. Most importantly it carried with it a message of Energy Efficiency and the idea that what we take from the planet, could eventually kill it. I can tell, the video game fans out there already know what I’m talking about. This game was titled, Final Fantasy VII.

Environmental Themes

While the game isn’t a direct call for renewable energy, it does send some good messages about being green before it was cool to be green. For example, the secondary antagonist of the game, the Shinra Corp, has reactors set up around the globe to harness Mako. Mako is the life-blood of the planet and a direct metaphor to Fossil Fuels. Without it, the planet will die and frequently throughout the game, the more environmentally focused characters will say, “Shinra is killing the planet.”

There is also a scene about a third of the way through the game, that discusses the importance of the Mako and our role in the larger ecosystem of the planet. We live and consume the resources of the planet until we die and “return to the planet.” Our bodies break down and become the molecules that make the trees, the grass, and the Mako of the future.

In a rather stark metaphor, as the Mako continues to be drained and the plot unfolds the “Guardians of the Planet” awaken. These manifest as enormous monsters (what’d you expect? It’s a Japanese game),  such as Diamond Weapon, to enact vengeance on the people who mean to destroy it. This can paralleled with the idea that if you hurt the Earth, it can hurt you back– not intentionally of course. I don’t mean to imply the the Earth has a sentience. For example, we have destroyed and removed much of the wetlands surrounding New Orleans. The same wetlands the have slowed and weakened hurricanes of the past. Without these wetlands disasters like Katrina or the more recent hurricane to strike the city occur.

A Bit Radical

The solutions to the environmental problems of FFVII are a bit radical to say the least. To start, the game opens as Cloud (the game’s protagonist) has joined AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group who’s plan is to blow up the Mako reactors and take down Shinra, the mega-corporation that owns and operates them. Clearly this isn’t the best approach to changing our country’s environmental policy.

Final Fantasy VII is an all around great game with revolutionary mechanics and ideas for its time. It still holds up today as the best and best-selling Final Fantasy game (I believe they released FF14 in this past year). I wouldn’t quite recommend it as an educational tool advocating the need for renewable energy, but it does promote the connection to each other and our connection to the planet which is so readily forgotten these days.

 

Fast Facts on Energy Use

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Posted by David | Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind | Posted on 10-10-2012

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In our modern world we like things fast. Fast food, fast cars, and a faster Internet connection. Everything must be fast and get faster. Well in the spirit of that, I’d like to share some fast facts on energy use and renewable energy. This strays away from the news stories and tips generally found on this site, but it could perhaps open some eyes on energy issues today.

Fast facts for a fast world

  • Percentage of energy use created by fossil fuels in the US: 86%
  • US contribution of global greenhouse gas emissions: ~20%
  • Percent of the world population living in the US: 5%
  • Solar energy is still produced by solar panels on cloudy days (much less of course) about 10-20%
  • Energy use and production accounts for 80% of air pollution
  • The worlds number of active cars is projected to triple by 2050
  • Wind Energy has been the fastest growing form of renewable energy, increasing by 24% annually between 1995-2005

You have probably been aware of some of these facts, or at least the core principle of each. I’m sure you knew that America used a lot of energy or that the number of cars will surely increase, but the severity of these facts is staggering.

Ethanol off the Cob

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Posted by David | Posted in Other, Renewable Energy | Posted on 03-10-2012

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Ethanol on paper seems like a good idea. It is made from corn (not fossil fuels) and lowers green-house gases. It does this because it has a high concentration of oxygen and thus, burns very cleanly. But there are a few aspects of ethanol that are much less attractive as a renewable energy source.

Problems with Ethanol

  • Ethanol isn’t a pure fuel. What I mean by that is a pump that dispenses ethanol doesn’t dispense only ethanol. Ethanol fuel is actually 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol. So this miracle fuel still requires a significant amount of gasoline to work.
  • According to David Pimentel a professor of agriculture at Cornell University, producing ethanol actually yields a net loss of energy. Through his calculations he discovered that turning corn into one gallon of ethanol costs 131,000 BTU’s of energy, yet it only yields 77,000 BTU’s of energy. That’s only slightly above half!
  • Ethanol requires land space to create. Now if we want to move forward with Ethanol fuel we need to commit more space to the growing of corn specifically for ethanol. This means less space for food for our faces. That may not be an issue at the moment, but it could complicate things in the future.
  • Only 1 in 40 cars can use Ethanol.

So, the situation is thus. We either need to commit to Ethanol whole-heartedly. Build many more cars compatible with the alternative fuel, allocate large expanses of land for the growing of corn, and refine the creating process to be more efficient. Either that, or we should abandon it. Cards on the table, what do we do?