Browsing the archives for the energy tag.


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    Energy Saving Screens

    alternative, energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, green living, solar, Uncategorized

    My wonderful husband has taught our German Shepherd, Duke, to open and close the screen door by himself. It originally started innocently enough. We were remodeling downstairs and often times my husband would be carrying heavy things in and out and nobody was around to open the door for him. Duke would jump through hoops of fire for my husband and quickly mastered this trick. The problem is that now the remodel is over, I refuse to use the energy to turn on the air conditioner so the doors are always open, and now Duke uses the screen door as his private doggy door. Needless to say the screen has been pushed through and ripped and is now a public mosquito entrance.

     I decided to go online and see if any of the local stores carried that pet screening that stretches instead of ripping when an animal jumps up. What I found is a great energy saving screen. A company named Phifer, that makes the pet screening, makes a whole line of screening and fabric. I never even knew there was something called weave technology, where the type of fabric woven in different ways can have different effects. The one that caught my eye was the Super Solar Screen.

     The company claims the Super Solar Screening reflects 90% of the suns heat and glare, improves daytime privacy, and still allows for excellent outward visibility, not to mention it keeps the bugs out. Sounds like the claims on an infomercial, but at the Home Depot site the product had been rated and review by two individuals. Both reviews gave the screening 5 out of 5 stars and both said it performed as advertised.

     This will be a huge benefit for a house like mine that faces northwest. I get full sun at my backdoor every morning in the summer; I don’t like to open the door and shades because it raises the temperature in the house. Then in the late afternoon I get the full effect of the sun as it gets ready to set so I have to close all the doors and shades on that side of the house. I am hoping with my Super Solar Screen, I will be able to get airflow from the windows and doors without the heat and glare from the sun. If I decide to turn on the air conditioner it should not have to work as hard with the Super Solar Screen. But maybe with the heat and sun reflected away from the house I won’t have to turn on the air conditioner at all. Sounds like a huge energy saver to me.

     As for my screen door, apparently there is no pet friendly screen that can hold back a German Shepherd. I am going to replace the screen with the Super Solar Screen and buy pet guards to keep Duke from going through it.

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    • solarscreensSolar Screens Solar Screens are the perfect window treatment for your living rooms, family rooms, media rooms, or any form of entertainment room. Also known as solar shades, solar screens offer the ultimate in technology for light control while still providing great, stylish looks. In terms of operation, solar screens are very......
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    Wind Is Blowing In!

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized, Wind

    Great news on wind. The American Wind Energy Association had announced 2,800MW of new wind energy installed in the first quarter of 2009. This is awsome news for renewable energy and puts us on our way to reaching President Obama’s goal of 25% of our electricity coming from renewables by 2025.

    But we still have some major obstacles, the largest of which is the lack of updated, smart grid transmission lines. Unfortunately, most great land wind in areas with smaller population densities. We need to get this great power to where it is needed.  We need a renewable energy standard (RES). Everybody who wants a cleaner, healthier future needs to write their Congressmen, their Senators and President Obama and demand what we voted for, a RES today.

    To read the full AWEA report click on this link: http://www.awea.org/publications/reports/1Q09.pdf

    To contact your elected officials click on this link:http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

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    Cold? Time for some mid-winter energy saving tips!

    Uncategorized

    Now that much of the country is in the depths of winter, it is a great time to think about those energy saving do it yourself projects.

                    The first place to start is with your thermostat. Did you install a programmable thermostat? If you didn’t, do it as soon as possible. If you did, now is a good time to reevaluate the programming. Take some time to really think about when everybody gets up in the morning, when they leave the house, when they get home and when they go to bed. Take the time to learn how to program the thermostat to get the most out of it.

    Next, go around the house to each window and door and feel for the cold. You might even bring a disposable lighter with you and check for drafts. Did somebody open a window and forget to lock it tight? Is there a draft you didn’t notice before or get around to sealing? Plastic film on the windows can stop drafts and adds an extra layer of insulation even if you don’t have drafts.

                    Check the insulation in your attic. Often the area where the roof meets the floor of the attic (soffit) is the area most over looked. Nobody wants to crawl in that tight space but it is a common place for heat to leak up from downstairs. Then turn on the lights downstairs and leave the attic lights off, do you see any light? If you can see light, heat can see a way to escape. Always wear gloves and a mask over your mouth and nose while working with fiberglass insulation. Also if you use baby powder over your body it helps keep the glass fibers from getting in your skin. If you do get irritated from the insulation take a cold shower to wash it off and keep the fibers from getting deeper in your pores.

                    Is your hot water heater turned up too high? In our house everybody takes a shower in the morning. The first one up turns up the hot water heater and when the last person is finished the hot water heater is turned down for the next 22 hours or so. Also an insulation blanket on the hot water heater can save a lot of energy, especially if it is down in a cold basement. Another thing about the shower, don’t leave the bathroom fan on endlessly, as it is exhausting all that steam it is also exhausting all your heat. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible, there are detergents specifically designed for this.

                    At the hardware store, for a few dollars, you can buy little insulation pads for light switches and outlets. Go around to all your light switches and outlets that are on exterior walls and insulate them. Another trick while you have the cover off the outlets, take a pen and mark the circuit breaker number that corresponds to that switch or outlet. This will save time and headaches next time you need to shut that breaker off.

                    Enjoy the winter, and remember with each cold spell and snow storm how much more you will appreciate spring.

     

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    Nuclear Power – Like it or not

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized

    A couple of days ago I posted a response on a forum about whether nuclear energy should still be an option for the future. My answer was yes. This in turn has created some controversy among readers. In the meantime somebody else suggested I write about why ”the US and other countries insist on nuclear power when a reactor produces more waste in one day than will take over a million years to get rid of. Some of the technology should go to solving that problem before anyone tells us it is clean energy.”

     

     

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have been looking into this. According to researchers at MIT we have four options to reduce our carbon footprint for our future energy needs:

     

    ·         Nuclear Energy

    ·         Renewable Energy

    ·         Increased Energy Efficiency

    ·         Capturing Carbon Emissions[1]

     

    Obviously I do not consider nuclear power the best option. I personally believe that wind will be our future in the coming decades. Wind is not just a source of electricity, the power from a wind tower can be used to produce hydrogen and then the tower itself can be used to store the hydrogen.[2] Hydrogen is a great source of carbon free fuel. Solar is also a great fuel source, at this point it is not cost effective for large scale application or the average consumer. The Japanese are working on a Space Solar Power System(SSPS) that will catch the sun’s rays in space without atmospheric interruptions and then beam the energy in the form of lasers back to earth.[3] These are awesome plans but will not be functional for decades.

     

    Today we have an ever increasing demand for electricity and transportation fuel, and an ever shrinking reserve of fossil fuels. Basic economics of supply and demand are telling us the cost to produce electricity and transportation fuel is going to sky rocket again in the near future. As the price of oil increases again it will be even more obvious we need to use more natural gas than oil for our transportation and electrical needs. Natural gas is commodity that is readily available from North American sources. The infrastructure is already in place to transport and use it and it is cleaner and easier to mine than coal. Natural gas does not have to be purchased from countries that do not like us and is cleaner than oil. Natural gas powered cars can be filled using a device at your home and putting up filling stations around the country is a small price to pay compared to what we are paying for our foreign oil habit. Companies like Mirant, who own non-nuclear electric plants, have already converted most plants to use natural gas, coal or oil depending on price. They have also gone to great lengths to reduce emissions.[4]  But the fact remains that however much we increase efficiency and decrease emissions we still are leaving far too much of a carbon footprint.

     

    Then there is nuclear energy. The biggest things nuclear has going for it are that it produces large amounts of electricity without producing carbon and the technology already exists and is in place and can be replicated. Everything else about nuclear power is not so pretty. First of all is cost, the initial outlay of time and money does not make new nuclear power plants competitive with other sources of electricity. There is also the issue that even if we did build new nuclear power plants to meet the up coming demand for electricity that there would only be sufficient uranium available for 50 or so years. Then there is the issue of proliferation, the stealing of technology and/or enriched uranium or plutonium.[5] After the break up of the USSR, 9/11 and the North Koreans this is a serious issue.  And then there is the storage of the spent fuel. According to Entergy Inc., owner of many nuclear plants, 80% of spent fuel loses its radioactivity within 3 years and can be stored on site safely for up to 100 years.[6] Yet the remainder can take thousands of years to break down. There is no doubt that huge irrepairable mistakes have been made with the handling of nuclear waste in the past.  Today the Department of Energy is making plans to build a repository in Yucca Mountain to store and seal off the spent nuclear fuel for eternity.[7] Not perfect, but a best case solution for a very serious problem.

     

    So the deal is we need to reduce our carbon footprint yesterday. The best solution is to have large scale renewable energy in place today, but that is still decades off. We need a bridge to get us from foreign oil dependency to 100% renewable, carbon free energy. One piece of that bridge is nuclear power, whether we like the idea or not. The other parts of that bridge are using more natural gas for transportation and electricity production, improving existing technology to lessen our carbon emissions and to push forward with research for renewable, carbon free energy.

     

    I invite everybody to check out the Pickens Plan and to pay attention to the plans our new President, Barak Obama, will bring forth. Please take time to visit the other websites used in researching this blog. Be informed.

     

    The Pickens Plan: http://www.pickensplan.com/index.php

    The Office of the President Elect: http://change.gov/


    [1] The Future of Nuclear Power, An Interdisciplinary MIT Study:http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

    [5] The Future of Nuclear Power, An Interdisciplinary MIT Study:http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

          Entergy Inc. : http://www.entergy-nuclear.com/environment/fuel_storage.aspx

    [7] Department of Energy: http://www.rw.doe.gov/index.shtml

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Hypermiling

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized

    The word is out, and the word is hypermiling! Oh yeah! Believe it or not hypermilling is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year. Their definition is …“Hypermiling” or “to hypermile” is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.

     

    As with every seemingly admirable activity on the face of the earth, some people take hypermiling too far. If you read the hypermiling forums, you will here about people not breaking through turns, shutting off their car while coasting to a stop, or riding the draft from large trucks. These are all very dangerous practices and in some cases even illegal. While driving, you should be focused on the road and your surroundings. You should be a defensive driver. You should not be more concerned for your gas mileage than for the safety of yourself and the people around you. Some of these practices have not even been proven to save fuel.

     

    The truth is that standard practices to save gas are actually, by definition, hypermiling. These tried and true techniques can not be overstated enough.

     

    Basic ways to save fuel in your car are as follows:

    1)    Properly inflate your tires – can save 1 to 2 mpg and extend the life of your tires. More on this later.

    2)    Proper tire tread – insert a penny into the tread of your tire, if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head you need new tires. Some experts think you should do this with a quarter.

    3)    Purchasing the correct fuel – most cars do not need a high octane fuel (check your owners manual), using eeFuel  can make all octane levels work more efficiently.

    4)    Reduce resistance – Remove ski racks and luggage storage containers when not in use.

    5)    Check your gas cap – gas evaporates from old, cracked or not secure gas caps. Turn you gas cap four times to assure it is tightened properly. Consider getting a locking gas cap to prevent siphoning.

    6)    Use your manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil.

    7)    Avoid idling – a good rule of thumb is if you plan to idle for more than a minute shut it off. Go in don’t use the drive-up. Put the car in park at red lights.

    8)    Keep extra weight out of your trunk – just carry emergency items.

    9)    Slow down – I’m not asking you to go 55mph, you might be a victim of road rage if you don’t cause an accident first. But be reasonable, stay back so that you don’t have to brake as often, and use cruise control when you can.

    10)  Maintenance – Pay now or pay later!!!! Keep your car on a regular maintenance program and you will save fuel, save energy and save money. Just installing a new air filter can show measurable fuel savings.

     

    The strange thing is that when I checked around some forums about hypermiling I found there wasn’t much posted since the gas prices started to drop. Does everyone think the fuel shortage is going away? We still need find ways to save fuel, but we also need to find ways to make our carbon footprint smaller. Things like wind power, solar power, and hydrogen will provide better conservation than driving dangerously.

     

     

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    Alternative Energy Plan

    alternative, energy, Uncategorized

    During the recent Presidential Election many of us were bombarded with political ads in every conceivable market place. But thrown in among those ads was an ad for a plan, not a candidate. That ad was placed by the legendary T.Boone Pickens and the plan is to get us off foreign oil dependency. His plan is better described by him in his new book The First Billion Is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America’s Energy Future or on The Pickens Plan web site .

    The bottom line is we need to get away from foreign oil as soon as possible. We are sending approximately $700 billion dollars overseas every year for our oil habit. That is $700 billion dollars out of our economy and into the economy of countries that don’t even like the United States. Even If we drilled offshore and hit paydirt, it would not be enough to break our dependency on foreign oil and it would take at least a decade to come to fruition. The Pickens Plan calls for changing the transportation sector over to natural gas, immediately. This would mean trucks, busses and eventually cars. There are enough natural gas reserves in the United States to last far into the future. Gas is cheaper and cleaner than oil. Gas is an American commodity; it does not rely on foreign interest to obtain it. The technology already exists for the conversion.

    Wind power is another all American fuel source. According to Mr. Pickens the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power. Building wind farms all over the Great Plains would create energy, create jobs and leave the land still available for agriculture. What is missing is the infrastructure, and for that we need a national energy plan. This is Mr. Pickens battle. A courageous battle for somebody in their eighties who will probably not live long enough to see the fruits of his labor (although I would never count him out).

    I am not saying this plan is perfect, but it is a start. As Mr. Pickens says it is a bridge until alternative energy sources are widely available. We need time to take solar, wind and hydrogen energy from the blackboard into each household in this country. It is not a matter of if, but when. The industry needs time to make these alternative energy products cost effective. Remember when a hand held calculator sold for $500? Remember when a computer took up a whole building? Alternative energy is here to stay and it is just in its infancy.

    In the mean time it is our duty to try as many alternative energy products as possible to get off the grid and find what works and what doesn’t. The use and feed back of the product available now is what is going to drive the industry forward. We will be independent of foreign oil someday; lets all do our part for alternative energy sooner than later.

     

     

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    Energy Efficient Light Bulbs…who knew!

    energy, light bulbs, Uncategorized

    CFL Light Bulbs

    I have never really been a fan of the new energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). I am extremely sensitive to mercury and have had several medical emergencies due to mercury exposure used in medical procedures. So I guess I am biased, even if the mercury used in CFL light bulbs has nothing to do with my allergies. The fact remains I am not the only one with this concern. Mercury, even in minute amounts can be profoundly dangerous. If you have the time, the following video can shed some “light” on this issue.

     

     

    This does not mean I do not use CFL light bulbs, I do. CFL light bulbs use only ¼ the amount of energy of incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer. I do not put them in any lamp that my dog or four year old nieces can even remotely get near. This limits these bulbs to overhead lighting. Most of my over head lighting is on dimmer switches so I am paying $12 a bulb and taking my time replacing the incandescent bulbs one at a time. My two biggest complaints about the energy saving bulbs are they have a tendency to hum and they take forever to “warm” up to their full lighting capacity.

    I have found a new CFL light bulb made by ionlite, at this time it is only available on the internet. This is not your typical energy saving CFL light bulb. Each bulb is also an ionic air purifier. The benefits of ionic air purifiers are enormous; they do everything from killing bacteria and viruses to improving your mood. The bulbs are a little bit pricier than regular CFL light bulbs but more than worth the price. Watch this quick 40 second video.

     

     LED Light Bulbs

    Now let’s talk about light-emitting diodes (LED). I don’t pretend to understand how they work, but they use even less energy than a CFL light bulb. LED lights have been used for a while in things like car lights and traffic lights. LED lights are widely used in solar landscape lighting because of the low voltage needed to operate. Now they have now come out with LED lights that can be used in regular household fixtures. They cost a little more that CFL light bulbs but have no mercury, do not get hot, and do not have the “warm” up time to get bright. I went to Wal-Mart (Home Depot did not have LED light bulbs) and for $5.87 I purchased a LED globe light bulb to replace a burnt out incandescent bulb on my vanity. It looks different from the other bulbs but will be fine when the other two bulbs are replaced. The light is bright immediately and was cool to the touch after 30 minutes of use, meaning no waste of energy. According to the package this light will cost approximately 16¢ to operate for the whole year and will last 30,000 hours, that is a huge energy savings. These bulbs are becoming more cost effective over time as the technology improves. A quick internet search proved that for a dimmable bulb I would be paying almost $90, still a little steep but LED technology is still evolving. LED lights are now available in all types of bulbs from chandelier shapes to Christmas lights at an affordable price.

    My family is so impressed with our new LED light that we have decided to remove the dimmer switch from our living room and put LED lights in the recessed lighting fixtures. Because this will virtually eliminate the heat in the light canisters and we will be able to insulate around the light canisters in the attic. This will save us even more energy.

    As this technology advances and the price goes down, I think we will see LED lighting as the energy saving standard light bulb of the future.

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    Bundle up your house to save money and save energy this winter

    energy, Uncategorized

    Now is the time to bundle up your house to save money and save energy this winter. Watching the national weather this morning I noticed how unseasonably warm it is around the country. Yet the reality is that tomorrow brings in a new, colder month. Stores are already selling for Thanksgiving and Christmas yet we have not even handed out Halloween candy. But the stores are right; we need to start preparing for winter now.

    This is the time to remove window air conditioners. Do it while it is still warm enough to leave windows open and get some new fresh air in your house. Can’t take the air conditioner out? First, clean the air conditioner thoroughly. Then, if accessible, wrap the outside with plastic sheeting, duct tape it securely, and duct tape an air conditioner cover over it. On the inside of the house, I cover the air conditioner with some insulation and a decorative quilt and then I use plastic shrink wrap for windows to keep it air tight.

    So you haven’t had time or money to replace those old windows? Plastic shrink wrap them. Henkel, the duct tape company, has a complete selection of weather proofing products. I love their channels that can be used year after year to hold the plastic in place. Outdoor kits are also available if inside application is not an option. These products are clear and easy to clean.

    Check doors for leaks. Even with storm doors, if you can see daylight around your door that means you have a draft. Weather stripping and door sweeps can safe you money and keep you comfortable this winter.

    Change the filter on your furnace; mark the calendar to change it on a regular basis. If you have oil heat, get your furnace serviced. This will help keep your furnace running problem free all winter. Adding eeFuel to your tank will help save money and save fuel this winter.

    A family weekend of small projects can save you money and save energy this winter. For more information about performing your own home energy audit visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.

    Stay comfortable this winter while saving money, saving energy and saving fuel.

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    Teaching Children to Save Energy

    energy, Uncategorized

    I came across on interesting web site the other day called, www.LoseYourExcuse.gov. This is a U.S. Department of Energy tool to teach “tweens” about saving energy.

    The site consists of a game that, while fun, actually does nothing but teach eye-hand coordination. But the rest of the site does teach children specific examples of how they can save energy around the house. It gives examples that mean something to children such as turning off the Xbox, not leaving their phone charger plugged in and how and why smart power strips are important.

    The site also includes links to other energy saving web sites designed for children such as http://www.eere.energy.gov/kids/, and downloads to help them remember to turn things off. It also features advice for teachers with lesson plans (K-12) on saving energy and renewable energy.

    The bottom line is that your battle to save energy in the home cannot be won if you are being sabotaged by your children. It is best to teach them early to save energy in a fun atmosphere with out the nagging (my specialty).

    Obviously my sixteen year old son is no longer a “tween”; he thought the site should be more for 6 to 10 year olds, not 10 to 15 year olds. But later that day I caught him remembering to turn off his Xbox without me yelling at him, so the point got across.

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    Choosing to convert from oil to natural gas

    energy, heating options, Uncategorized

    I apologize for my abscence. This is not my full time job and life is not always as forgiving as we would like it to be. Enough of pleasentries.

    I wish to update you on my mission to find options for my parents heating dilemas. I can update this in a single phrase….sticker price shock! It seems in this world of forclosures, out of control oil prices, job losses and banks “feeing” us to death, among other things, we are caught in a “catch-22” situation. My goal of this blog is to highlight ideas and products that won’t cost an arm and a leg upfront to save energy, save fuel and save money in a reasonalbe amount of time.

    The bottom line is that both of my parents have oil heat and I wanted to look into converting them to natural gas heat. My father lives alone has gas already piped to his house but has old fashion steam radiators and only about 900 sq.ft. My mother has four adults living in her house, doesn’t have gas piped to her house but has more modern baseboard system and about 1500 sq.ft. Amazingly enough both estimates where within a few dollars of each other. It would cost approximately $5,500 to convert each house. This includes the fuel efficient furnace and a new energy star hot water heater. Wow, that floored me. Both of my parents are on fixed incomes and can hardly afford to shell out this kind of money. But can they afford not to?

    I found a area of National Grid’s (our local natural gas provider) web site that gave a conversion rate from oil to natural gas. According to National Grid, if you multiply your oil consumption in gallons by 1.385 you will get your approximate gas consumption in cubic feet. Each of my parents used about 700 gallons of oil in the last physical year. 700 gallons of oil x 1.385=969.5ccf of natural gas. Using $4/gallon for oil and the composite rate for gas in Aug. 2008 of $1.7725/ccf,  the annual savings would be around $1080/year. They would be breaking even on their investment within five years, if the current rates applied. Overall not a bad investment when a conventional solar system is not anticipated to break even for 10 to 20 years. But more on solar another time. 

    In Massachusetts, were I live, there is a program for low cost or no cost loans for heating improvents at http://www.masssave.com/about/heat_loan.php. This will allow many people who cannot come up with the cost of converting up front. Please check your individual states and utility companies for information on fuel assistance, tax incentives, discount utility rates and loan programs.

    In the case of my parents…. I think my mother will convert to natural gas. She plans on being in her house for more than five years and her income is not getting any larger. Natural gas is plentiful in North America and is not reliant on foreign suppliers. Weighing the odds we both feel gas will be the more reliable and cheaper way to go. We are not sure my father will be in his house for five years and he gets fuel assistance so he probably will not convert. I guess I will be putting eeFuel in his tank and pray oil prices don’t go through the roof this winter. 

     

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