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Thursday, January 22, 2015

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Off the Grid Solar: Sustainable Energy Meets Sensible Design


lumi solar (original at night)

One of the obstacles hindering the growth of solar power is that it is still connected to the grid. Because solar in some cases is connected to and supplemented by the grid; it is not self-efficient. The people against solar make this argument, arguing that solar is not a viable option because it cannot work on its own. Lumi Solair, a New York based company, addresses this concern and specializes in off-grid self-efficient products. Lumi Solair has three different lights designed to light streets, parking lots and both private and public space. The three models are the Original, Swan and Classic; all of which are stylish.

lumi solar

1. Original is an off the grid solar and wind powered lighting unit that provides reliable lighting in the most demanding of environments.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and can stand winds up to 110 mph.
  • The solar panels are a 200 W polycrystalline panel.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and dark sky rated.
  • Its additional turbine is 250 W at 10 m/s and has power generation below 5 mph.

swan solar light

2.  Swan is strictly an off-the-grid solar lighting unit. Installing the Lumi Solair swan can save you more than 45% when compared to conventional lights.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and rated for winds up to 150 MPH.
  • The solar panels are a 320 W polycrystalline.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and is dark sky rated.   (more…)
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Natural Gas is a More Efficient Alternative to Electricity


Hand holding eco house

Homeowners who plan to make the switch to natural gas for some or all of their household needs should consider the various reasons why natural gas is more eco-friendly than electricity in many everyday applications. Taking a look at the differences between gas and electricity in different home applications will make it clear why natural gas is often the greener option.

Stovetop Cooking
Stoves that are powered by natural gas are actually better than electric ones in several ways. For one, the user has more control over the amount of energy actually consumed. An electric stove takes several minutes to reach the optimal temperature for cooking, while a gas stove produces the desired amount of heat instantly. This makes gas stoves more energy efficient than electric ones. Some stoves use a combination of natural gas for cooking, but have an electric pilot light. These stoves ensure that natural gas is not wasted while keeping the pilot continuously lit. Because the Department of Energy estimates that cooking comprises almost 5% of everyday energy consumption, switching to a natural gas powered stove is a more efficient alternative than electricity for stovetop cooking.

Cooling and Refrigeration
Natural gas like that available from plusgas.com.au in Brisbane is one of the only options for off-the-grid refrigeration, and is often used in air conditioning systems. This eco-friendly alternative to electric refrigeration is not considered to have high global warming potential, nor is it believed to have a high risk of causing ozone depletion. These refrigerant systems, called gas absorption refrigerators, do not run on electricity. They are powered by a combination of dry propane and butane.

Home Heating
Natural gas from bottled gas suppliers is the only way some rural areas have access to heat. The technologies used to heat using natural gas can also be used to generate electricity, and this can be an energy efficient way to heat or even power homes that don’t already have access to natural gas pipelines. Combining natural gas with other types of heating systems can reduce emissions significantly.

General Powering
Those who are interested in switching to natural gas, but still want access to electricity, can actually generate their own power using fuel from LPG gas suppliers. Liquid petroleum gas can be used to fuel turbines that generate electricity. While most homes do not produce their own electricity in this way, for those who want to be completely off-the-grid, it is a viable way to produce reliable electrical power. In conjunction with less reliable methods of generating electricity, such as wind power and solar power, bottled gas can be a backup component to create a completely self-sufficient setup that has low emissions and a low carbon footprint.

Homes that switch to natural gas often work directly with liquid petroleum gas suppliers to provide for their own energy needs. LPG gas suppliers provide liquid petroleum gas, often simply referred to as bottled gas. Propane and butane are two of the most common kinds used in all the above mentioned applications. Making the switch to gas often gives homeowners a greater awareness of actual energy consumption within the home, and this can help a household significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Richard Flint Opens Poo-Powered Waste Treatment Works


yorkshire waterself-powered sewage-plant-in-bradford

After two year’s of development and an investment of £34 Million Richard Flint has opened Yorkshire Water’s first self-powered, sewage treatment works in Bradford, UK.

The plant sits on a 750 acre site and is expected to process 30,000 tonnes of sludge each year. The plant is powered from the biogas generated from the process of sludge treatment thereby reducing Yorkshire Water’s carbon footprint by 9,000 tonne and reducing their energy costs by just under $2 million.

The grand opening of the plant took place on the 3rd of October. Yorkshire Water’s CEO, Richard Flint has described it as a huge step for the company;

“The technology being used on this site truly is some of the most cutting edge around and it’s playing a major part in an 80 per cent increase in the amount of renewable energy being generated by Yorkshire Water in the last year.”

Poo Power, otherwise known as biogas is becoming more prevalent as a renewable energy source, developments like these are great for the industry, community and the environment. If your feeling ambitious you could even follow these instructions and build your own in your back yard!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Alternative Approach to Saving Energy in the Home


domestic-solar installation

There is an infinite number of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and use less energy within your home from small things like recycling your plastic to the more elaborate plans such as installing solar panels or switching to an underground heat pump – hundreds of tried and tested methods that you’ve most probably heard many times before.

However, there are a number of simple actions you can take in your home to aid a larger energy saving plan, take a look at these alternative energy saving methods you may not have implemented yet:

Conduct an Energy Audit:

There are a number of ways you can carry out an energy audit in your home, for example you can invest in a smart energy meter which will tell you when you’re using a significant amount of energy and where that energy is being utilised. Although you may be aware what appliances use a lot of energy in your home, you may be surprised just how much energy certain items such as your tumble drier consumes.

Another option is to simply take a look around your home on an average day and consider which lights are always left on – could you alter the switch to a sensor? What appliances are constantly plugged in even when they’re not in use? Are there thick, heavy curtains draped over your radiators, pushing all that warm air straight out of the windows? Conducting a simple walk of your home, may unearth some very simple changes you could be making to combat energy wastage.

Home Appliance Checks:

The majority of home appliances will have a set program which we don’t tend to detract from, leaving them to run on a specific setting; however that may not be the most efficient way of utilizing your appliances:

  • Your fridge and freezer can account to around 20% of the electricity you use in your home. Use a thermometer to set your fridge to around 2.5°C and get your freezer to as close to -16°C as you can
  • Set your washing machine to clean your clothes on a warm or cold water setting – not hot. Washing your clothes at a lower temperature just twice a week can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater, or 150 pounds if you have a gas heater
  • Always make sure your dishwasher is completely full before switching it on and use the energy saving setting if you have one. You should also be able to turn off the drying cycle on your dishwasher, letting your dishes dry naturally can lower the energy use of your machine by up to 20%

Substantial Changes You Can Make:

Alongside those little amendments you can also make significantly larger changes as and when the opportunity arises. For example when it comes to replacing appliances or heating systems in your home always look to invest in the most energy efficient model your budget allows.

As you make home improvements you should put plans in place to insulate your walls and ceilings, this could provide savings of around 20-30% on your heating bills, if you can utilize a Government incentive scheme, you can plan to see a return on investment even sooner.

If you’re thinking of building an extension or replacing old windows and doors, make sure you do your research and invest in double-glazed, ultra energy efficient brands that are guaranteed to save you money and reduce energy wastage in your home.

solar-car-port

If you’re very serious in looking after the planet in all aspects of your life and have chosen a battery powered car you could also choose to invest in a solar car port. Utilizing solar energy will mean that charging your car won’t cost you a penny! Find out how a solar car port can reduce your carbon footprint.

As mentioned above, there really are a million and one ways you can reduce energy usage in your home and create a more eco-friendly home through the use of subtle changes and an effective long term plan for those larger modifications.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

5 Weird and Wonderful Uses for Solar Panels


alt energy

Most people understand that the integrity of the Earth’s atmosphere, terrain, and oceans are being threatened by climate change. This has prompted some energy companies and innovators to come up with creative solutions for generating electricity with solar power. The truth is, fossil fuels are in finite supply and these sources of energy are beginning to struggle to meet the increasing demands of the world’s economies. In addition to the problem of supply meeting demand, there is the fact that the traditional fossil fuels directly harm the atmosphere by releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants when used. Conversely, solar power is an alternative power source that is clean, simple, affordable, and sustainable.

Since innovations in alternative power sources have made the technology more affordable consumers have been making the shift towards these more efficient options, ranging from choosing to drive all-electric cars to simply swapping out incandescent lights for bulbs with lower wattage or LED lights. It is solar panels, however, that have continued to lead when it comes to providing homes and powering devices with alternative sources of energy. Solar innovations have replaced the older thick and bulky solar panels with thin film solar cells. This has reduced installation costs in solar energy and has broadened the potential uses and placement options for solar power producers. These new solar innovations in solar cells have shown to produce ten times the energy, compared to the conventional rooftop solar panels of yesterday.

solar shed light

The uses for solar panels around the home have become more varied thanks to the new innovations, much of this prompted by thoughts of climate change. These may include placing solar technology on dwellings and other buildings such as sheds and conservatories, (above). Also, there is now a solar powered Logitech Wireless keyboard that does not require batteries or traditional power sources. The keyboard can be powered by sunlight indoors or even by the light from a desk lamp. It is considered to be a “green” accessory. Another innovation is solar windows. These windows are treated with an electricity-generating coating that is transparent and actually converts sunshine into energy. Imagine the Solar Window being installed on all sides of a fifty-story building and the amount of energy that would be generated.

Less Conventional but Creative Uses for Solar Power

solar refrigeration

1.  Camels equipped with solar powered refrigerators are being used in Kenya. Unconventional?  Yes, but these camels are being used as mobile health clinics. Certain medicines and vaccinations are required to be kept at certain temperatures and that is difficult in the Kenyan climate. In the hot temperatures of Kenya, the solar-powered refrigerators have the ability to keep these medicines and vaccinations cool as they are being transported to rural communities by doctors, nurses, and aid workers. An international team that included California’s Art Center College of Design, Princeton’s Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and the Kenya-based Nomadic Communities Trust all collaborated on the design of the crystalline solar-powered miniature refrigeration units. This included coming up with the bamboo camel saddle, which makes it possible for camels to transport the refrigerators over long distances.
(photo credit, designmattersatartcenter.org)

ice fishing

2. Solar-heated ice fishing shacks. The fact that the white snowy surface in the winter boosts the sun’s power makes this option quite viable for those who love to fish through the ice. An existing fishing shack can be insulated and sealed with foil and a heat collector can be constructed from plastic sheets and a bug screen. Cold air can be allowed between the collector and the wall via four holes in the walls. The sun heats the air and then enters the shack through a flapper valve. Even with outside temperatures of below freezing, the comfy fisher-person can enjoy temperatures of up to seventy and even eighty degrees Fahrenheit inside the fish shack.
(photo credit, pocketrangerblog.com)

solar oven

3.  Solar oven cooking is another alternative concept to consider. It involves collecting and trapping heat through the combination of the use of glass and reflective materials. These solar ovens can actually cook food at temperatures of up to 350 degrees with absolutely no fuel use. There are indoor and outdoor versions of these solar ovens and the only real down side is they take longer to warm up than conventional ovens.
(photo credit, solarovenchef.blogspot.com)

solar traffic sign

4.  Solar traffic signs can save communities a great deal of money over a period of time. They are wireless and quite flexible and the LED lighting is environmentally friendly and long lasting. Better still, in a power outage, the signs and lights will continue to work.
(photo credit, traffic-products.net)

solar paint

5.  Solar paint may be something that is not well known, but it is becoming all the rage in certain markets. While there are other paints which may contain toxic materials that can have some negative health affects, solar paint is based on solar cell technology, cleanly formulated to actually harness solar energy and convert it into electrical energy.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pulling Water out of Thin Air – Sustainable Condensers Create Drinkable Water


elowater turbine

Fresh drinking water is a disappearing commodity for many people of the world. In fact, some 750 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. With current climate changes the desperation for water is expected to increase. This need has triggered the rise of numerous new technologies. Most promising are those that are self-efficient. The following devices function by condensing fresh water right out of thin air – utilizing renewable energy to get the job done.

water from wind

Since 2011 Eolewater has been developing the WMS1000  a wind turbine that powers itself using the wind and collects water from the humidity in the air. The WMS1000 has been able to collect an average of 62 litters an hour of fresh water in 45 percent humidity at 24 degree Celsius. After being able to produce 1000 liters a day of freshwater the turbine is currently being shipped to Abu Dhabi for the first phase of tests in extreme weather conditions. If successful, the WMS1000’s wind powered water collection can be implemented bring fresh water to people in need.

NERIOS S3

Eolewater also has systems that harness solar to power water collection. The NERIOS S3 is a solar powered water condenser. It’s the newest model and boasts 28 individual solar panels. Its ice storage system means that no battery is needed for when the sunlight is not available.

fontus condenser

Also harnessing the power of the sun  is another invention called Fontus. Designed by Kristof Retezar a Austrian industrial design student; Fontus is a solar powered water condenser for your bike.

fontus self filling

Fontus attaches to the frame and when you ride air flows in through the filter, is cooled, water condenses then drips down into the removable bottle. Offering a way to allow bicyclists to ditch the camel-packs and make their own water as they ride.

fonuts design

In 50 percent humidity at a minimum temp of 68 degrees Fahrenheit Fontus can condense at a rate of 1 drop per minute. However it currently lacks an additional filter to prevent pollutants from being in the water so it’s not recommended for use in an urban setting. At a price point of 25 to 40 dollars for a unit it might be a fun investment for the alternative bicyclist.

These technologies all address a growing problem in different ways. With our need for fresh water growing by the day inventions like these might save rivers and groundwater from being tapped.  They can also create a water source for people that live in even the driest of environments. Although water collection from humidity is more practical in areas where humidity is high, these strides are perhaps a step in the right direction.

related: more green design projects featured on The Alternative Consumer

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