Thursday 21 May 2015 at 2:03 pm
So most of us fully understand the importance, and necessity, of completely switching over to clean and sustainable energy sources. And while technology is advancing in the fields of solar power, wind generation, battery technology (really important), etc. one can’t help but wonder when these methods of electricity generation will become the main supply of power for mankind.
This is a question that is almost impossible to answer. This is because it’s more complicated than just getting the technology up to a viable point. Quite literally, if we wanted to, we (mankind) could build solar and wind farms and start running only on clean energy, ditching all fossil fuels, in a decade or so, with no further advances of technology. That’s right. With what we have now, we could do it. The problem? Economy.
It’s costly to build power plants, solar or otherwise. It’s also more costly to have to store power for later times (batteries are still inefficient and expensive) which is crucial for clean energy (as it depends on nature). It will quite simply cost more to implement it all now. And when you’re trying to get people to invest in this type of endeavor, they want to hear about profits, not about how much more it will cost.
So much depends on what the powers-that-be do with their money and influence. And unfortunately, clean energy isn’t yet good business. So this is why we keep stretching out our coal and oil reserves.
There are some things that you can do to speed things along. Writing one’s congressman or representative to let them know about your concerns could lead to legislation which make it more affordable for companies to invest in clean energy (tax rebates, etc.). Or taxes could be put into place for using “dirty” energy so as to make it unfavorable.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings while we learn how we can conserve energy in order to "buy a little time" until clean energy is the only way to go.
Thursday 14 May 2015 at 1:35 pm
While we wait for clean energy to be the majority on this planet, many people have decided to do something about the situation and find ways to reduce their own personal electrical consumption. This is a very valiant effort, yet can be hindered by bad information. Some will seek out various energy savings solutions, or invest money in a method, which factually doesn’t work. When they see that they have little to no change in their electricity bill for their efforts, they get discouraged and drop the whole thing altogether.
So it’s important to know which tips are good and which are bogus. There are loads of great tips on this website so I’ll just break down some of the bogus ones here now.
You may have heard that planting trees and bushes around your home can help with a/c bills (the idea is that they will provide shade during the summer). This isn’t exactly true. If you’re going to remodel your garden, then fine, go for it, but in reality, a tree will need YEARS to grow to be of any size capable of really shading your home. Getting a full size tree planted in super expensive, and not at all a cost effective option.
Next is getting motion sensors for your outdoor lights. If you need to have your lights on all night for some reason, then fine, this could be of use, but the best way to save energy is to just turn them off. Besides, the motion sensor needs electricity too to work!
Lastly, there is the matter of Energy Star appliances. If you’re going to buy a new appliance anyway, then of course, get one that is Energy Star certified. if not, then don’t buy them as an energy savings solution. You won’t get a return for YEARS.
Thursday 07 May 2015 at 4:23 pm
With all the recent (and not so recent) news of climate change and global warming, you may have wondered why we haven’t, as a species, switched to clean energy already. Why aren’t there more solar farms in use today? Well, there’s more than one answer to that question, and all of them add up to the slow advance of this particular clean energy.
First of all, the biggest concern is the weather. You need direct sunlight to generate a decent amount of energy. A few cloudy days and you aren’t making your quotas and people start complaining about lack of power. But this brings up the question of why not just save power for cloudy and rainy days? Well, this brings us to the second problem.
Power storage today isn’t very good. Think about how long it takes to fully charge your cell phone battery. Now think about how fast it goes dead if you’re using the phone to it’s limits. This is a problem. Not to mention that batteries are expensive. They just aren’t all that efficient in that they take too long to charge and don’t hold enough power. But that’s not the only thing that’s not efficient.
The solar panels themselves are not a shining (no pun intended) example of efficiency themselves. They only convert a small fraction of the sun’s energy into useable electricity. So not only do you need a lot of direct sunlight, you’re also not even getting the full benefit from it.
So when you factor all those things together, you have your answer as to why solar power isn’t the big player yet. For now, more research is being put into fixing these issues, and finding ways to conserve electricity usage will continue until everything is fully resolved.
We’ll get our clean, solar future, just not yet.
Thursday 30 April 2015 at 5:52 pm
While we wait for the world to recognize the importance of clean energy, we can certainly be doing something about it ourselves. Namely, we could be conserving energy.
This can actually be rather easily accomplished if you know what to do. Some people worry that in order to save electricity, they will need special appliances or devices which can be costly. But look no further than down below for where you can learn how to reduce electricity use for free.
Close shades and blinds in the summer and open them in the winter. This will help to cool/warm your home.
Wash your clothes in large loads to avoid wasting electricity on many smaller loads.
Close air vents to unused rooms (just not the room with the thermostat).
Wash clothes and dished with cold water.
Raise your a/c temperature 2 degrees in the summer.
Use your ceiling fan instead of the a/c or at least set it higher.
Unplug appliances when not in use. For things like home entertainment centers, plug everything into a power strip and switch the whole thing off to make it easier.
Set your computers to turn off or at least sleep when not in use.
Dry clothes outside.
Turn off all appliances and lights when not in use.
Only use as many light bulbs as you need in places with multiple fixtures (like bathroom vanity mirrors).
Dress warmer in the winter in the home to avoid having to turn the heat on high.
If you only need to heat up one or two rooms, use a space heater instead.
These tips cost nothing at all to get into action, yet they can help you to take a big chunk out of your normal electrical usage. One would be wise to do as many of them as possible.
Thursday 23 April 2015 at 7:26 pm
We currently live in a transitional time. Our main sources of energy have been fossil fuels since was back when electricity started being broadly used. But that time is coming to a close, whether we like it or not. Coal and oil supplies will be running out within our lifetimes, and therefore we will need to be switching to alternative energy sources. Sources like solar and wind and geothermal will be the future which is good not only because they are sustainable and won’t run out, but because our current methods are literally killing the planet.
This means that energy conservation may one day be something which people don’t worry too much about. But this is foolhardy, as we will most certainly still need to pay for electricity and energy. This is why it’s a very good idea to teach our children about the importance of saving energy.
Doing so isn’t all that hard. Start off by explaining to them what energy is (don’t try this with a 5 year old as it’s not the simplest concept in the whole world, but 10 years old is probably about right). Let them know how it is made and that we have to pay for it. Then show them various ways that they could save it. Leading by example is the key here. Show them good energy habits like turning off lights and appliances. Show them to look for energy efficient devices when choosing appliances.
They will probably come up with more ways to save energy that you hadn’t thought of before. But the main thing is that you will have prepared them to go into life with an energy-conscious mind. It will be better for the environment and better for their budgets as they will be spending much less on electricity.
Thursday 16 April 2015 at 6:57 pm
When people think of clean or “green” energy, they usually think about the various ways that energy can be generated using sustainable resources. Things like solar and wind power come to mind. Yes, these do represent clean energy, but there are ways that you can personally contribute to a clean energy renaissance in your own home that will also help you to reduce electric bills at the same time.
It all boils down to what clean energy represents, and that is a healthy environment. So anything that you can do to contribute to that will be a forward push in the right direction. Saving energy at home also plays a big part in it and you’ll learn a few tips on how you can do that too if you read on.
For helping to reduce pollution, you have many different ways to help. Recycling is of course a major one. It’s getting easier than ever to do it too, with any cities no longer requiring that you separate glass, paper and plastic. Just throw it all in the same bin.
The products that you use also make a difference. Using natural cleaners and household products are not only safer for your family, but are also better for the environment.
Let’s look at home energy saving next. There are plenty of products that will actually do the work for you. Of course, remembering to turn appliances and lights off will help, these devices really can put a dent in your monthly electricity bill. LED light bulbs are a great and easy way to start. A programmable thermostat, if set up right, can also help to increase your home’s efficiency. A power saver is yet another that can reduce electrical waste and really give you a nice return as it can effectively reduce electric bills.
So take all of this to heart, and start doing your part to make the environment a healthier one. Future generations will then be able to enjoy the same beauty of mother nature that we have all come to expect.
Thursday 09 April 2015 at 7:49 pm
Many modern developers are turning their eye to making homes that are more energy efficient. These homes are designed to use less electricity and still be comfortable to their inhabitants. This is accomplished by using different building materials, adding features like large windows and skylights, etc. This makes for a house that will need less electricity. And while this is great, where does that leave those of us with older homes?
While we are likely to never reach the efficiency of these modern designs, we can vastly improve the efficiency of our existing homes. Here’s a little guide to show you how to take advantage of various energy savings solutions.
First, you need to get a home energy audit. This will check for poor insulation (a BIG cause of inefficiency), inefficient appliances, air leaks and other things. Once done, you’ll have an idea of what needs to be done first. If you need better insulation, need to seal cracks, or need to replace the refrigerator, this home audit will tell you.
Then comes upgrading appliances that you can’t really replace right away. You can insulate your water heater to increase its efficiency. Same with the connecting pipes. You can install an electric saver to increase the efficiency of your a/c unit (believe me, it’s very inefficient). The electric saver will actually help to reduce your bills by about 15% making one of the most effective energy savings solutions on this guide.
Next, you can start living in a more efficient way. Open windows on cooler days, use natural light when possible. These are obvious. Some less obvious ones would be to unplug unused appliances (as they draw power when plugged in, whether on or off), or to wash clothes only in big loads (less loads = less electricity and water used).
With a few simple additions and adjustments you too can be living in a model of electrical efficiency. You’ll not only be helping the environment, but you’ll also be saving money in the process.
Thursday 02 April 2015 at 8:05 pm
While the majority of the population looks on and waits for the government to really get behind clean energy, some of us are getting the ball rolling and starting the green-energy party early with the installation of solar and wind systems. While this is great, it certainly isn’t an option for everyone. Not only due to the cost, but for people who live in apartment buildings, there simply isn’t the space for all the equipment needed. So obviously, when many people look at the subject of personal clean energy generation, the simply shrug their shoulders and dismiss the notion entirely.
So where does that leave the rest of us? Well, it puts us in a position to get creative and inventive. Just because one can’t afford a big solar or wind installation for their home, or because they don’t have the space for one doesn’t mean that there simply isn’t any way for them to generate or save power.
Here’s a funny little example: this device allows one to charge their phone or other usb device using solar energy. It just attaches to a window and you plug into it. With a couple of these, quite a few little devices could be powered. This obviously won’t power your whole home (no matter how many you stick to your window) but it’s a start.
There’s other creative little ideas for how one could generate electricity cleanly no matter what their living circumstances are. It just takes a little looking around to find them.
So don’t automatically give up is a full size solar or wind installation is out of your reach. There are still little ways that you can join the clean energy revolution and help to save power. You just need to keep reaching.
Thursday 26 March 2015 at 8:17 pm
As we continue shooting forward into the future, we are becoming more and more dependent on energy to power us through life. Simultaneously, we come ever closer to running out of the principal sources of fuel through which we generate this energy. And while we (mostly) know that we need to switch to alternative and sustainable energy sources, there is something that we can do in the meantime until those sustainable energy sources become the majority. That would be conserving energy.
The idea of energy conservation is nothing new, at least to commercial industries, but in homes, it is usually only done in an effort to reduce electricity bills. But as we find ourselves as a society coming to a paradigm shift in terms of energy, everyone needs to get involved with energy conservation to ensure that there is enough for tomorrow.
Doing so is also easier than most would imagine as there is consumer technology that exists solely for the purpose of reducing electrical consumption. Products like LED light bulbs, energy savers (more at http://www.ebay.com/itm/Electric-Saver-Power-Factor-Save-Electricity-KVAR-1200-/390144826453), programmable thermostats, Energy Star appliances, etc. These devices literally do all the work in terms of energy saving so the user need not change any of their usage habits.
If each and every individual were to cut down their usage by just 10% (which is a very attainable figure from using the above mentioned methods) we could stretch out our available resources by decades. And while we don’t want to continue relying on fossil fuel any longer than we have to, we don’t want to be without power either.
So check out some of the various energy saving solutions above. Not only will you be doing your part to help in global energy conservation, but you’ll also save yourself a nice amount of money on your future electricity bills.
Thursday 19 March 2015 at 6:46 pm
If you have a wind or solar power house or are considering switching to solar or wind power for your home, then congratulations on being an environmentally minded individual. You are doing (or are about to do) something that will really make a difference in the condition of our planet. Unfortunately, you’ve spent (or are about) a good deal of money on something that while being environmentally friendly, doesn’t give the fastest return in the world. With solar and wind, there are a lot of variables that determine how much energy you’ll produce, and that can make it hard to tell when you would have gotten your money back on the investment. But either way, it’s going to be in terms of years (9 - 12) which is no small amount of time.
There are, fortunately, several different things you can do in order to speed up your return. One of the most effective of them would be to install a power saver in your home. A power saver will recycle the electricity that gets wasted by many of your appliances by first collecting it, and then sending back to your other appliances for use. It can reduce the amount of energy consumed monthly by 10 to 20 percent and is the perfect compliment to any wind power or solar power house (or any home for that matter).
The less energy you’re using, the more you can rely on your solar array or wind turbines and the less energy you’ll need to buy from the power company. Plus, if you’re using less electricity overall, there’s a better chance you’ll produce more power than necessary and can even sell some back to the power company which also speeds up your return.
So help yourself make your money back. You deserve it for your efforts to help and preserve the environment.
Thursday 12 March 2015 at 8:51 pm
If you ever needed a reason to get behind clean energy, then how’s about this one: Clean solar energy and wind power generation plants can, using new technology, generate more electricity for less than nuclear. This is great news for environmentalists and also the general public. Finally some incentive to give governments the push they need to invest more in sustainable energy sources.
But what is that a big deal? Well, let’s look at the current energy generation scene. Most electricity today is generated by burning coal and other fossil fuels. This results in a lot of pollution, namely, carbon dioxide gas. This gas has the ability (and already has) to change the composition of the Earth's atmosphere thus changing how much of the sun’s energy is kept on the surface. The more energy is stored, the hotter it gets. This has the ability to severely upset the various, fragile ecosystems that we ourselves are part of.
Not to mention the fact that we are running out of these fuel sources anyways. Experts predict that in as little as 50 years, we could be seeing the last of oil and coal. So an alternative is needed.
Nuclear has been poised to be that answer, and while cleaner than burning coal, it still has the potential for disaster (witness Fukushima, Japan). So that leaves us with solar and wind energy.
Thanks to recent developments, solar energy and wind power can be generated using these methods in a much more efficient manner than before, thus making them the new prime candidates for our future energy sources.
The Added benefit for the end user? A less expensive energy bill. As we won’t be running out of solar energy anytime soon, there is no need to continue to drill (nor frack) and thus our precious planet is preserved while we still get the energy we need.
Thursday 05 March 2015 at 8:43 pm
As inflation takes its toll, more and more families are looking for new and creative ways to save money. One of them,which has proven quite effective has been through saving on electricity. At first, one might assume that saving electricity would require that some use of it be forsaken, but this isn’t actually the case. A good deal of money can be saved on electricity easily and painlessly if a few simple steps are followed to cut your electric bills:
Go for efficiency. The main idea behind saving money on electricity is that you’re trying to use it in a more efficient way, rather than to consciously use less as this typically leads to restricting one’s use of appliances and devices (which is no fun at all). This can be done by buying Energy Star appliances, or switching to high efficiency light bulbs.
Ensure that you put an end to all waste. A lot more electricity gets wasted than you may at first imagine. With utilities like water, you can literally see when waste is occurring, but electricity is a bit trickier. For example, some appliances draw more electricity than needed while others draw some charge even when turned off. These sources of waste can be eliminated through the use of a power saver device and smart power strips.
Finally, use common sense. Don’t leave appliances on when you don’t need them. Remember that certain devices (like modern TV sets) don’t really ever turn off (notice how there is always a light on the face of the device) and thus need to be unplugged to not draw any current. Do your laundry with cold water and in one big load rather than many small ones. These simple little things can really go a long way towards helping you achieve a much lower monthly electric bill.
So takes these tips seriously and put them into good use, and you’ll find that with a little discipline, you’ll cut your electric bills and be paying less for electricity than you have in years.
Wednesday 04 February 2015 at 7:47 pm
Earth Day is upon us, the day when we take stock of our relationship to the planet. Recent news have not been very encouraging as the levels of GHG in the atmosphere has reached record levels. Still, we must not lose focus because this is the only Earth we have and everyday is Earth Day. Here are some ideas on how to make Earth Day a daily fact in your life.
a) Consume less – with finite resources, curbing our consumption is the golden rule to lessen our impact on the planet. Buy what is necessary and of high quality, even if it costs more. Buy second hand whenever possible.
b) Act locally – Sometimes it is easier to think about the carbon in the atmosphere and forget about our immediate environs. The Earth is what you are stepping on. In every community there are ecological issues that need to be dealt with and it’s up to local people to deal with them
c) Recycle – Recycling is a mantra that we need to repeat every day. Re-cycle, re-use, re-purpose things.
d) Save water – Water resources are dwindling and we need to decrease our consumption of it. Turn off the shower while you soap, turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, say goodbye to sprinklers and hoses. Consider a rainwater collector if you live in a house.
e) Go vegan – Animal agriculture is the biggest source of GHG emissions, besides polluting waterways, causing deforestation, conflicts with wildlife and driving soil erosion. A vegan diet is healthier, too, not to mention more ethical. The web is chock a-block with recipes and advice on how to go vegan.
Wednesday 04 February 2015 at 7:42 pm
Posted by Patrick J. Kiger
A massive winter storm hit much of the U.S. Tuesday, dumping heavy snowfall along the East Coast and sending temperatures plunging from 15 to 30 degrees below normal from the Mid-Atlantic region to the upper Midwest. But in addition to causing school closings and disrupting highway traffic, frigid winter weather has far-reaching effects on energy production and distribution—from slowing oil and gas wells and refineries to briefly shutting down a nuclear power plant in the Midwest because of ice.
Here are some examples of how the cold can cause problems.
Natural Gas Demand—and Prices—Soar
Extremely cold temperatures drive up demand for natural gas for heating, increasing withdrawals from underground storage facilities and driving up prices. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that during the week ending January 10, more than 285 billion cubic feet of gas was withdrawn, the most on record. Platts, the energy information service, reported that spot natural gas prices in the Northeast surged to all-time highs on January 21. EIA analyst Angelina LaRose said that suppliers typically withdraw from reserves during cold snaps, but that surge in demand during cold weather is bumping up against the limitations of natural gas pipeline capacity particularly in the Northeast. “The capacity going into New England is more than 85 percent utilized right now,” she said.
Propane Shortages Hit
Platts reported on January 21 that the price of propane surged to $2.45 per gallon, the highest on record and a surge of nearly 70 cents, as stocks of propane dipped to record lows for January. In Ohio, shortages prompted Gov. John Kasich proclaimed a “state of energy emergency” and lifted restrictions on driving times and working hours for truck drivers delivering propane and heating oil.
Oil and Gas Production Slows
Freezing temperatures also make it more difficult to get oil and gas out of the ground. EIA reported that so-called “freeze-offs” occurred in parts of the Marcellus Shale play in northeastern Pennsylvania in early January. Refineries, too, can suffer interruptions because of cold weather: During the deep freeze of early January, refineries from Detroit to Memphis reported equipment problems caused by the low temperatures. The problems caused a spike in gasoline prices in the Midwest.
Nuclear Plants Get Iced In
At Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, below-freezing temperatures earlier this month caused an icy buildup on one of the six sluice gates that control the flow of Missouri River water, which is used to cool and condense steam from the plant’s turbines. When workers couldn’t close the gate, the Omaha Public Power District was forced to temporarily shut down the plant. “We’re still in the middle of studying how exactly it happened,” said Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson. He said that the plant has barriers in place to protect the cooling system from river ice, but that officials are investigating the possibility that a leaking pipe over the sluice gate caused the ice buildup. In January 2010, one of the three reactors at the Salem nuclear power plant in New Jersey was forced to shut down briefly when ice got into its cooling system.
Friday 30 January 2015 at 9:28 pm
Posted by Christina Nunez
Sometimes our dependency on battery-charging devices seems ironic, considering the abundance of energy around us that is being generated every day by sources as mundane as the human hand, footsteps, and lightning, which strikes the Earth dozens of times per second. (See related photos: “Immense, Elusive Energy in the Forces of Nature.”)
A typical lightning bolt produces between 1,000 and 5,000 megajoules of energy, enough to power a car for about 180 to 910 miles (290 to 1,450 kilometers), and certainly enough to charge a cell phone, if you happen to be standing near a bolt and a transformer that can regulate the voltage. Scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom recently succeeded in simulating just such a scenario, prompted by phone maker Nokia.
Reproducing the electrical conditions of lightning, researchers at the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory ran 200,000 volts through a transformer, charging a Nokia Lumia 925 phone within seconds. The experiment, while fun to watch and a nice plug for Nokia, might prompt one to wonder what the point is, as most of us have other concerns when when we are in very close proximity to lightning, such as avoiding electrocution. (See related photos: “Nature Yields New Ideas for Energy and Efficiency.”)
Nokia is careful to note that they “obviously aren’t recommending people try this experiment at home.” Instead, the company views the research as an avenue toward innovation in wireless charging.
“This discovery proves that the device can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy,” said the lab’s Neil Palmer in a release.
Indeed, other companies are actively researching the potential of wireless charging. WiTricity, a company based near Boston, is working on a system that could conduct electricity from walls and carpets through the air, allowing devices to draw power without wires. The technology is also being tested on electric cars, which could charge when parked on pads that transmit power to coils in the vehicle. (See related story: “Wireless Power May Cut the Cord for Plug-In Devices, Including Cars.”)
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