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Monday, December 29, 2014

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Telling Time Using Water – the Water Clock


droplet clock

Water is a miracle molecule that supports all life on earth. In ancient times water was used to tell time, a practice still used today. Bedol, an innovative company, took historical practices a step further and literally made a clock that works using water.

how water clock works

The clock is a simple galvanic cell. These cells generate their power using a submerged cathode and anode in electrolytic solution. More simply put, a positive metal like copper and a negative metal like zinc are submerged in a solution containing electrolytes. Water in the solution allows the electrolytes to transfer between the two metals, generating power.

In concept, a clock that runs on nothing but water sounds like a great idea; keeping people from using and tossing out AAA batteries. Marketed as being eco-friendly some controversy is surrounding the actual “green-ness” of the product.

Pros:
•    No batteries, and no need for external power.
•    Clock body is non-PVC plastic and recyclable.
•    Runs on a small volume of water.

Cons:
•    Longevity is uncertain.
•    Maintenance is required.
•    Display doesn’t light up.

filling water clock

A recyclable clock that never needs batteries and is self-powered using water is definitely an eco-friendly idea. However what stops this clock from really being green is the uncertainty of how long it will work. Some owner’s claim that the clock lasted years, others say they had problems after only a few months.

This uncertainty in longevity can be due to improper care, water quality, maintenance or simply a good idea but bad design. Websites like how stuff works say that natural lemon juice needs to be added to the tap water. There is no solid consensus on how much to add and no mention by Bedol that lemon juice is needed. At the end of the day having to replace the clock after so short a lifetime may not cancel out the evil of using batteries.

squirt water clock

Bedol has a wide variety of water powered clock designs from wall mounts to table toppers. The newest addition seen above is the squirt. It sells for $26 on Bedol’s website but is also available on amazon and eBay. The other clock designs can range in price from $20 to $90. In the end, the water powered clock from Bedol is a great idea but may be one that needs refinement.

related: more green gadgets featured by The Alternative Consumer

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Are Wireless Christmas Lights in Our Future?


Aura wireless christmas light

File this under: holiday home décor goes wireless. When putting up your Christmas tree the most time-consuming step is stringing the lights. Unless you have a fake tree already strung, traditional lights require several steps. Strings have to be: tested, fixed, plugged-in, hidden and woven over the entire tree. The eRing Kickstarter project (it used to be called Aura) is saying farewell to wired lights and hello to wireless. The designers of eRing are offering us the first ever wireless Christmas tree lighting system and their project will be featured on Kickstarter until January 18th. If it becomes a reality, starting next year, wired lights may become a thing of the past.

Here’s how the eRing system works. To light the tree, simply lay down a (supplied) base ring, plug it in and hang your light-up ornaments anywhere. The wireless lights are completely encased in a glass, or plastic, sphere-shaped ornament. The idea is more holiday magic then holiday décor; here are the Pros for the everyday consumer and pros for the alternative one.

smart phone control

Everyday Pros:

  • Lights cannot short circuit or spark
  • Lights give off little to zero heat unlike traditional light bulbs
  • Lights are LED’s, and use less power than traditional lights
  • Greatly reduces risk of fire, if not completely eliminating it
  • Option for smart phone control (image above)

Alternative Pros:

  • eRing wireless lights last up to 20 years and one system can light up to 100 ornament lights
  • Being wire free means less materials and less materials means less waste
  • You’re using less plastic. Traditional string lights have plastic coating on the wires, plastic plugs and plastic holders for the bulbs.
  • The wireless lights are on a PCB, printed circuit board, which is recyclable.

wireless lighting ornament

The whole thing works using wireless power transfer via resonant inductive coupling. The base ring contains a coil, electricity flows through the coil and (more…)

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Nest, The Smarter Home Thermostat


Nest programmable thermostatWith the busy lives that we live, people find themselves forgetting things like locking the door and turning off the lights. But forgetting to lower the heat while you’re away is no longer something to worry about with Nest. Now there are many home thermostats on the market, but what sets Nest apart is that it is a learning thermostat. After a week of use, Nest will know your habits and make adjustments for you. For those who want control you can use the Nest mobile app on your smart phone to control your nest while away.

Nest thermostat

Currently however the app is only available for Apple products but an android version should be rolling out sometime in December. The app allows you to change the temperature, control up to ten thermostats in two homes, check and adjust your schedule, see and change settings, put Nest into and out of away mode and show you a Nest leaf when saving energy. Remote changes are just like in home ones, Nest will learn these too and do it for you next time.

Nest app on smartphone

Nest learns based on what you teach it; it’s as simple as that. To teach Nest simply live as you would for a week, turning the dial to the right to make it hotter and to the left to make it cooler. After a week Nest will learn what temperatures you like and when you like them and change your thermostat for you … optimizing and saving you up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. So for those who are absent minded like me, having a piece of technology in your home that can remember for you is great and makes money saving habits easier to maintain. (more…)

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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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Monday, December 1, 2014

This Eco-Friendly Water Bottle Heats Your Drink Just by Shaking!


Warm Tech bottles

How often have you been suffering through the cold weather at some sort of sporting event or outdoor excursion, while clutching onto your once-warm and cozy thermos? If you were unfortunate enough to be stranded at home, snowed in, and without power through this young season’s already devastating snowfalls, you can relate to this as well. There are some super-high-quality containers out there to choose from — each new model promising to keep your hot coffee or tea warmer for a longer period of time, but they have each been restricted by the amount of they can keep a beverage hot, until now.

Warm Tech info

The Warm Tech Bottle introduced in last year’s Lite-On Award competition in China allows you to keep your hot beverage warm simply by shaking the bottle! A talented, four-person design team from the Tainan University of Technology was awarded the Silver Award for the Warm Tech Bottle, which they say, “aims to facilitate outdoor users to get warm water easily.” (more…)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Automate Your Home with the EverSense Interactive Thermostat


EverSense smart thermostat

To be honest, when I discovered the EverSense Thermostat from Allure Energy, I had a complete moment of double take. I mean, advances in the resource efficiency of consumer products are not commonly known to originate in Texas, unless we’re talking about a more economical nodding donkey. Before I provoke you to un-holster that six-shooter, know that this native Texan has his pointed high in the sky, firing off my own one-gun salute to Allure Energy.

Eversense proximity

Imagine this: the workday is done – a cold wind bites at your face as you step outside – you hop into your electric car to begin the commute home – cannot use the heater; your battery is draining – traffic is at a standstill – you feel your hands tightening their grip on the steering wheel. You’re stressed, ready to get home and relax. Luckily though, something at home is ensuring you will be comfortable when you arrive.

EverSense Proximity

The EverSense Home Thermostat from Allure Energy, based in Austin, Texas, knows when you are approaching home by using its patented Proximity Control Technology and automatically activates your HVAC system when you are within a preset range of your home, instead of being triggered by a preset time. EverSense learns how to best provide you with a customized, convenient and environmentally friendly home climate control system by adjusting to your daily schedule by communicating with your SmartPhone. The device assures you that energy will not be wastefully expended heating or cooling an empty home and even provides you with on-screen, energy-saving recommendations to help you save additional money on your electricity bill. (more…)

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