Posts tagged ‘energy saving’

November 14, 2013

Sustainable ventilation and insulation

As winters are getting colder and summers come with record high temperatures, we may think more and more about the comfort of a well-insulated and well-ventillated house.

Today, many companies work on on incorporating simple and easy techniques in order to achieve the best ventilation and insulation for more sustainable buildings.

As an example, cooling of spaces can consume a significant amount of energy and there are a number of innovations already available that can replace traditional air-conditioning systems.

Recent Ashden-Award-winner Monodraught has developed a low-energy cooling and ventilation system called COOLPHASE.

COOLPHASE - Monodraught

COOLPHASE – Monodraught

It utilises the features of so-called Phase Change Materials (PCM), which can absorb thermal energy from their environment and hence enable the cooling of the room. Running costs of the system are said to be 90 per cent lower than traditional methods, and it’s very efficient as at night it re-charges the PCMs inside the equipment.

Natural ventilation is also a hot topic. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers even has a special interest group focusing on this area. One of the companies working in this field is Breathing Buildings, offering a range of natural ventilation products, including the e-stack system that keeps air exchange between the interior and the outside to a minimum in cold conditions, while in warmer weather it increases the ventilation rate to avoice overheating.

A significant number of houses are not insulated, and in these about 45 per cent of heat loss is through the walls. Hence insulation could mean a serious tool in reducing wasted energy levels and lowering bills.

For some, home insulation is equal to mess and inconvenience due to the construction work, while sometimes internal insulation can’t be done at all because of planning restrictions. These issues have been addressed by the new insulation technology called WHISCERS, developed by United House and Sustainable Energy Academy for houses with solid walls. The process is simple: dimensions of walls are mapped with a laser scanner, then insulation boards are cut exactly to measure and delivered to the location. This can happen within only 24 hours. When the boards are there, these are installed quickly and with minimum mess, so the life of residents is hardly disrupted.

These are only a few of the solutions that are already available for making buildings more sustainable. With the exponentially growing number of new technologies and innovations it is only a question of the willingness of residents to improve their homes – and save money.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image by Ashden

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March 20, 2013

Energy Points

Kilowatts, kilojoules, litres, gallons, Celsius and Fahrenheit – have you ever got confused on how much energy you actually save by living greener? Do you understand what these metrics mean at all or are they just numbers with no real meanings?

An already well-established ‘universal calculation’ is carbon footprinting – offered by many organisations. The basis is adding up the carbon-dioxide emissions from various activities, including those by eating meat, driving a car, travelling or just turning the heating up at home. This calculation also helps companies to see their ‘footprint’ in their environment, and so help them at making sustainable decisions.

A new company now wants to make an even simpler and easier system that should be more understandable for everyone.

Energy Points is a software company offering various products, mainly for companies, to be able to track and compare their savings in various areas (water, electricity, vehicles, renewable energy installations, waste, fuel) by introducing just one metric: Energy Points, which is the amount of energy embodied in a gallon of gasoline, equalling 3.9 litres. This unit is more graspable to most of us who owns and uses a car regularly, making us related better to the sustainable lifestyle.

Besides general areas of life, like driving, eating or heating, Energy Points could also stand for how much energy is needed for pumping, desalinating or treating water, as well as how much is necessary for treating waste or for the life cycle analysis of an item. Exact location and the method of generation are also taken into account.

The company then offers a whole platform and detailed analytics using these Energy Points to enable organisations to make comparable decisions regarding investments or even organisational changes.

There are also other energy and impact measuring methods. The Energy Saving Warehouse offers the LeSTO Energy Saving Survey, which can help anyone at home or in the office at becoming more energy efficient. For this one only has to fill out a detailed survey on the site and then improve the lifestyle.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

January 22, 2013

Energy co-operatives

Co-operatives are traditionally an efficient and successful way for communities that aim to live or work with certain benefits through co-operation. Co-operatives are usually created by people working, living together or by those consuming products or services as a group.

Utility co-operatives have been around in the US since the New Deal but recently there are more and more such co-operatives set up all around the world, which focus on green and alternative energy usage.

These co-ops provide an opportunity for local people to invest into various projects, for example setting up new solar panels or a wind turbine. Then, the co-operative provides interest for these investors from feed-in-tariffs or by selling electricity.

In Germany, the number of energy co-operatives has tripled to more than 600 in two years, with over 80,000 active members. The largest of these is EWS, where 99.2 per cent of the electricity comes from renewable sources and 0.8 per cent is from the co-generation of heat and power (CHP).

But Germany is not alone. In the UK, there are also an increasing number of such community initiatives.

Brixton Energy already has two existing solar projects in the Loughborough Estate with hundreds of square metres of solar panels, while Community Energy Warwick raised enough money for solar panels to be placed on the roofs of the Stratford upon Avon and Warwick hospitals. Meanwhile, the Brighton Energy Co-op recently set up “the largest solar system in Sussex”, with installations in Shoreham-by-sea, Portslade and Brighton.

But the list goes on: Leominster Community Solar, Ovesco, Bath & West Community Energy, Westmill Wind Farm, Baywind Energy, Hockerton Housing Project, Boyndie Wind Farm, and many others – with a total of 75 utility co-ops listed with Co-operatives UK.

Renewable energy co-operatives thus could mean the future for renewables with local communities joining forces to gain access to cheap (or free) energy sources by working together.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

January 8, 2013

Oil for computers?

We all know that you should keep your computer away from any kind of liquid. However Intel has just recently conducted a trial by dipping their servers into mineral oil for a year, ultimately with great success.

The aim of this research project was to investigate how to make data centre cooling more efficient, perhaps even moving away from traditional air cooling. While some companies, like Google or Facebook are re-locating their whole data centres to Northern countries, the mineral oil bath could be an easier solution.

Intel conducted the experiment in New Mexico together with Green Revolution Cooling, and during the course of one year it turned out to be more efficient than fan-based air cooling. What’s more, none of the computer components were damaged while submerged, either.

Data centres consume enormous amounts of energy. According to some recent data, server management, power and cooling on unused systems inside data centres amount to USD 24.7 billion per year. These unused machines may even make up 15 per cent of all data centre servers, increasing the level of inefficiency and costs even more.

Intel is not the first company to investigate liquid cooling methods. A start-up called Iceotope has also achieved impressive results by using their own cooling liquid, called Novec.

Hence, with more and more research in this area, hopefully data centres could become more efficient, which is crucial in the ever-connected online world of today.

September 10, 2012

A New Way to ‘Recycle’ Paper

Traditional paper recycling may take weeks including collection, delivery to the plant as well as the process itself. Would it not be easier if we could just recycle the paper in our homes or in the office directly?

Researchers at Cambridge University are now investigating the options to erase ink from printed paper, so they can be re-used immediately on the spot. They have tested several lasers at removing or rather vapourising toner from the paper and successfully managed to do so without damaging the paper. What’s more, a paper can be used up to five times.

‘Unprinting’ can thus not only save time and money but also save fresh water, electricity and reduce carbon emissions, which would be generated by the recycling industry.

While the Cambridge-based scientists used conventional paper with conventional ink, Toshiba developed its erasable toner system in 2003, which may soon come to Europe. The e-Blue ink fades if heated to above 130 Celsius degrees, but is currently only available in blue. Japanese companies who already able to test the solution managed to save about 40-60 per cent on paper usage. According to some data it takes about two hours to erase about 200 pages with this system. Due to issues with high power consumption and being very expensive, Toshiba is now working on more favourable successors.

Disappearing ink has already been tested as well. A few years ago, Xerox was working on an ink that would disappear after 16-24 hours, which could be ideal for industries, where printed materials are not needed for longer than this. One of the best applications may be the printed daily menus of restaurants.

With so many different research projects on how to avoid the lengthy and energy-intensive process of paper recycling, hopefully in the near future we will be able to easily recycle our own paper. The best solution however still may be to think before printing.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

August 29, 2012

Toys for Environmentally Conscious Parents

A growing number of parents choose ‘green’ items for the home, so why not give environmentally
friendly toys for the little ones to play with?

Besides the widely available wooden toys, Green Toys sells a wide range of toys made of recycled plastic, including building blocks, cars, stackers and many others. The main material is recycled milk containers, of which they have already used ten million, and counting. They use minimal packaging, which is also recycled and can be re-used again.

There are also rattles, dolls, teethers for babies, made of organic cotton with corn filling and environmentally friendly dye – offered by Dandelion. Those who are into arts and crafts can now play with biodegradable clay – which also contains organic oils offering aromatherapy.

Another way to stay green with the toys is to save energy with state-of-the-art gadgets. The Solar
Transformers Kit offers seven different shaping options, and comes with a solar and a battery charging station. Others may generate electricity themselves, while entertaining: a hydro car running on water, a solar grasshopper or a toy car powered by wind.

Kids thus have a wider and wider selection of toys, which are more environmentally sound and/or save energy. Hopefully these toys will replace today’s less environmentally friendly favourites.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

June 10, 2012

What is Thermoelectricity?

Thermoelectricity means to gain electricity directly from the heat difference of two parts of a material – and it can also work in reverse. This means that by introducing an electric current, the material could be either heated or cooled down. The technology has already been used for power generation in spaceships, and the reverse is applied for heating car seats, food carriers or computer chips.

One of the main challenges of thermoelectricity is to find the right material. The perfect material should conduct electricity well but not heat, in order to work appropriately. This is rather hard to find and so nano-scientists have been working on solving this issue. A Norwegian team for example recently introduced nanoscale-barriers into common semiconductors, which helped them in lowering heat conductivity, while keeping the electronic conductivity – just what’s needed for utilising thermoelectricity.

Thermoelectric materials may be ideal for ‘replacing’ current photovoltaic (PV) cells, according to some scientists. This would be thanks to the fact that they can utilise a much broader spectrum of solar energy, and thus they could provide better performance. A Professor from the University of Arizona recently suggested that thermoelectric paint on top of roofs with solar panels could be applied to achieve better performance and eventually for lowering costs.

Thermoelectricity could also be a great solution for using up waste heat. Waste heat is the energy created by machines that is not utilised for anything. According to estimates this is currently about half of all energy in the world, and is generated by industrial processes, combustion engines and power generation, amongst others.

Thus if the right materials are identified or created thanks to nanotechnology, thermoelectricity could be one of the key future technologies, which could help in various fields.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

May 13, 2012

Appliances Ready for the Smart Grid

The smart grid is a digitally managed network offering two-way communication through smart meters installed at users’ homes, enabling higher efficiency, analysis and more accurate monitoring in real time. While this may seem like a futuristic dream, many consumer electronics manufacturers are trying to facilitate its acceptance by introducing appliances that could help save energy or use it more efficiently.

LG Smart Fridge

LG recently introduced its new Smart Fridge, a successor of their Internet Fridge from a few years ago. The new equipment can push an inventory update to its owners’ mobile devices and features a touchscreen, which even suggests recipes based on the content. Its power consumption can operate in three savings modes, including the ‘smart grid’ option, which can utilise the planned ‘time-of-use’ pricing.

Last year LG also announced the so-called THINQ system for fridges, ovens and other household equipment, consisting of various pillars. The ‘Smart Grid’ option ensures that appliances use the least electricity at the possibly lowest rate – thanks to a smart meter. The ‘recommend time’ feature offers the most efficient operation in peak times, while the ‘lowest rate’ option shows approaching non-peak times.

GE also offers a wide range of Smart Grid-compatible appliances, which are linked to a smart meter set up in the house. As the aim is to use electricity at the lowest rate, which usually means off-peak times, the system may delay for example the start of the washing cycle until midnight – instead of peak evening hours. In the case of an appliance that has to be up and running round the clock, like fridges, smart solutions include the launch the defrosting cycle in non-peak periods. GE has even set up a Smart Grid Technology Centre of Excellence in Atlanta, with the aim to research and develop state-of-the-art solutions for future smart grids.

Similarly, Whirlpool is committed to provide a range of smart grid-friendly appliances to users,
starting this year, and at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 a panel discussion took place on smart appliances, involving the main consumer electronics companies, like Panasonic and GE.

As more and more multinational giants believe in smart grids, they supply newer and smarter appliances, which even let you check electricity consumption on the go via mobile apps. And once the smart grid becomes reality, consumers can start saving money and electricity any time.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: Guardian

March 7, 2012

Lost a Shoe? Print it Yourself at Home!

The 21st century is the ‘age of stuff’. All of us are piling up ‘things’ at home and every minute we are encouraged to buy even more. If we can’t resist the urge to collect more and more, a new technology can now help at least in reducing our ecological footprint: 3D printing.

3D printing is essentially layers of specific materials – mainly plastic -, printed on top of each other with a special device, enabling the creation of virtually any kind of object. For years it has been used for developing prototypes, for example by architects, but now it’s becoming more mainstream. One of the world’s largest consumer printer manufacturers, HP has already launched 3D printers, and MIT’s researchers have been conducting trials by printing food and working clocks with every little detail included.

A key market player today is MakerBot Industries, offering 3D printers for personal use, including the latest Replicator, and the Thing-O-Magic models. These can print shoes, jewellery, toys, everyday items for the kitchen or the bathroom or anything you can think of. It’s also very handy if small parts or components break or go missing, which would be very expensive or even impossible to replace.

Schematics and blueprints are already freely available for everyone to download, thanks to a whole community that has been developed around MakerBot, sharing the designs of toys or art pieces. [6]

3D printing also offers several environmental benefits. It could reduce or virtually eliminate local and inter-continental shipping and packaging costs. Also, MakerBot’s community is already working on further developments, for instance how to re-cycle or use leftover plastic in order to reduce waste. It has even been claimed that 3D printing can stop over-production as only items that are actually needed are ‘manufactured’ avoiding stock remaining in warehouses.

3D printing thus could really change our shopping habits and our life in the very near future.

 

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: MakerBot

 

February 12, 2012

Be Smart With Your Windows

One of the main features on a building are its windows – in fact they play a great role in its energy efficiency. Sustainable architecture not only deals with the positioning of walls for catching the most sunlight and heat, but special smart windows can also enhance energy efficiency and save money on lighting, heating or even cooling. 

SageGlass

You might have heard about windows that can change their colour but there are actually several different technologies behind it. Some become opaque, others change their colours, which can be triggered by various conditions: a change in the temperature or irradiation, or even artificially – by humans or pre-programmed systems.

The windows can capture the heat to make it warmer inside in cold months, or reflect the heat for cooling purposes in the summer. They can even collect the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity.

Fundamental technologies are based on various physical processes, classed as thermotropics, photocromatics, liquid crystals, suspended particle displays, electrochromics, or reflective hydrides.

Thermotropics windows react to heat, while the photocromatics technology is already used in prescription glasses that become tinted in the sunshine. Suspended particle displays and liquid crystal windows work in a similar way, by re-arranging particles and crystals depending on the electricity fed into the panel, either letting the light through or not. In electrochromic windows a chemical reaction is prompted by a certain level of voltage.

However besides the obvious benefits, there are some disadvantages, too. Some of these technologies are slow, meaning the transition between states could take several minutes. Also, electronic solutions need a constant supply of electricity, which could lower efficiency.

Some examples

A recent example from South Korea is a new type of smart window that can change transparency within seconds, depending on the outside temperature. It is managed by electric currents thanks to the charged particles between the glass sheets, and it is claimed to be cheaper and with a lower health risks than other, already available types.

The company Pleotint offers an ‘interlayer’, which darkens in direct sunlight without any electronic application, and so it’s sustainable on a long term, but ‘colour change’ can take about 20-30 minutes.

SWITCH Materials has developed a smart window photochromic-electrochromic film technology, enabling the tinting of windows in direct sunlight, which can also be induced manually.

SageGlass manufactures electronically tintable glass, available in various colours, which can be controlled manually as well as automatically, too. [9]

Overall

Whatever the technology, such windows can save money on heating, cooling or lighting both at home or in the offices. What’s more, they can also become the blinds of the future.

 

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse
Image: SageGlass
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