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Biofuel or Electric?

As gas prices continue to jump up and down, alternative fuel sources continue to gain momentum. Biofuel and electric cars are starting to wage a war to see who will become more accepted in mainstream society.

Consumer Reports recently did a study by converting a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDI to operate on biodiesel (B5 and B100) and fryer grease to see how they matched up in price and convenience. Biodiesel is developed from vegetable or animal fats and is sold in blends with normal diesel.

During their study, Consumer Reports found B5, comprised of 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel, has the best fuel-economy results. It also out preformed the others in convenience, emissions, and overall performance. It runs in any diesel engine without modifications primarily due to its similarity to traditional fossil fuels.

Battery cars, on the other hand, also have some drawbacks. To create batteries for cars, mining is required to gather lithium or other minerals. However, they have the advantage of being able to be recharged at home. Also, public charging stations are becoming more and more prevalent, costing only   around $3,000 to build. That’s quite a bit cheaper than the $150,000 it can take to build an ethanol tank and pump.

As another convenience, biofuel cars only take a few minutes to refill and get back on the road. Electric cars however, often need hours to charge, unless high-powered charging stations are utilized.

Many electric cars have a limited range and some models aren’t yet freeway legal. Biodiesel and biofuels are already popping up at the pumps, and although the price per gallon is a bit pricey now, it is expected to go down in a few years. Most electric cars are also coming in at a rather hefty price, with some, like the Tesla Roadster, being over $100,000.

Only time will tell which alternative fuel source will take over, but each type is continuing to make advances in technology.

Conserving Energy: Passive Homes

Conserving energy is no easy task. It’s a constant battle to stay on top of the ongoing battle to be energy efficient. Turning off the lights in empty rooms, turning down the heater, swapping older light bulbs for more efficient bulbs; these changes just aren’t enough anymore. Some homeowners are making the switch to passive or net zero homes.

Passive Home: a building that cuts its energy consumption by up to 90 percent

Net Zero Home: a building that produces as much energy into the power grid as it takes in through the use of solar energy or the like.

These homes are generally some of the most unique home designs as they utilize their surroundings in their effort to be energy efficient. In order to qualify as a passive or net zero home, they must meet strict standards. Many energy efficient features go into these homes such as triple glazed windows, but the most important of them all, is insulation. With the investment into extra layers of insulation, both for the inside of the house and for covering concrete exposures outside, the escape of any heat or variations of temperature is greatly reduced and the home is better regulated. These homes make full use of sunlight and secondary heat, and the energy from appliances, i.e. the oven and the dryer.

Passive and Net Zero homes are slowly growing in popularity throughout Europe, specifically in Germany and Scandinavia. Currently there are about 30,000 Passive and Net Zero certified buildings worldwide, with only about 130 of those structures located here in the U.S. but the numbers are growing each year. On average, the cost to build or renovate a home to be passive or net zero, is about 5-10% more upfront, but with a positive return over time.

Ready to join this growing trend? The professional electricians at EcoElectric would be happy to help with a home electrical evaluation or the installation of solar panels and other energy saving features.

Inventions: Sustainable and Pollution-Free Transportation

New and creative ideas are coming out as innovations, as design and manufacturing is growing. One that stands out is a project at UMass Lowell. A group of electrical engineering and computer science students have designed, built, and tested a prototype quadricycle, or “taxi”, that can transport up to four people. This taxi is Electric/Solar power-based, which makes it the first of its kind as it emits no pollution, and runs solely on a solar energy powered battery. This taxi can maintain speeds up to 25 miles per hour, while not consuming a single drop of gasoline.

Energy efficiency is something that the electric cars have been pushing for a while now, yet they need an electrical source. The normal electric car typically uses electrical power from a commercial power grid, which in turn burns fossil fuels. So is it really all that efficient? The typical electric car attains 300 watt-hours per mile, versus a mere 45 watt-hours per mile on the taxi, which means that it uses less than 6x’s the amount of power to charge for the same distance. But if the taxi charges solely based with its 150-watt solar panel, it uses NO secondary electrical power source. Commercialization of the “taxi” may become more popular and gain some backing throughout UMass Lowery’s campus over the next few years.

It’s about progress, and building something new.

Save Energy and Save Money

All light bulbs have been changed to energy efficient bulbs, the thermostat is turned down, and water is used wisely, or cold water is used instead. All of these changes have been done in hopes of lowering the energy bill, but sadly the monthly bill is still too high. Don’t panic! There may be more you can do to save money on the utility bills. Completing an energy audit on your home will allow homeowners to see where and when the most energy is being used. Energy audits can also provide information that shows you where energy is lost and where there is the potential for energy to be saved. Energy audits can be done through the DIY route, but it’s more advisable to have a professional complete the audit. A professional will be able to inform homeowners of where the energy leak is happening and how it can be fixed.

Besides a home energy audit often saves homeowners money. Issues with electrical work can also be identified. Often energy and money are drained because of electrical problems. When a home energy audit is done by a professional, a home gets a checkup, just like a doctor’s visit. A professional auditor will be able to detect leaks, check out the insulation, furnace and ductwork, and can use an infrared camera to do a blower door test. Professionals will also look over past utility bills to examine usage amounts and financial costs.

Before the audit is started, homeowners should make a list of current problems they have already identified and copies of older utility bills should be made available for the auditor. During the audit the auditor will ask many questions to help find simple ways to reduce energy use. Questions can include; daily usage routines, room usage, and the number of residents.

Finding an energy auditor is easy! Most power companies can point customers in the correct direction to find one. Simple home energy audits can be done by yourself as well. EcoElectric specializes in helping residents of Boise and the rest of the Treasure Valley save money on their electric bill by providing green energy options. With any questions on how to save money on your electrical bill, contact EcoElectric today! Our staff specializes in residential and commercial electrical work as well as green services. Our staff wants to save you some green by going green!

Removing and Disposing of Broken Lightbulbs

When a lightbulb breaks, it can be difficult to get it out of the fixture without causing more damage. Safety glasses and gloves should be worn when removing a broken lightbulb to ensure broken glass doesn’t get on the skin or in the eyes.

Depending on where the lightbulb is, a cloth or other material should be put underneath it to catch any debris that may fall. The power to the fixture should be turned off, either on the panel, or unplugged from an outlet.

The easiest way to remove a broken lightbulb is with a pair of needle nose pliers. Use them to grip the base of the lightbulb, and twist until the lightbulb is completely unscrewed from the fixture. Disposing of the bulb depends on what type of lightbulbs it is.

Incandescent Lightbulb

If the lightbulb is an incandescent lightbulb, it can simply be vacuumed up, or thrown in the trash, depending on the size of the shards of glass. This type of lightbulb doesn’t contain mercury, making it easier to clean up.

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb

If the lightbulb is a CFL, the process is much more detailed. Tape should be used to pick up the smaller pieces of broken glass and powder. Then place all of it into a sealable container for proper disposal. Boise has a specific program designed to help residents dispose of household hazardous waste called Curb It.

Light Emitting Diode Lightbulb

LED lightbulbs have been found to contain lead and arsenic, these should therefore be cleaned up similar to a CFL. They also should be disposed of as a hazardous waste product.

Halogen Lightbulb

If the lightbulb is a halogen bulb, the main concern is a potential fire if the bulb was turn on at the time it broke. These get very hot when in use and could cause a fire if they break. Once the pieces have cooled, they can be disposed of in the garbage, and do not need to be treated as hazardous waste.

Be careful and thorough when cleaning up broken lightbulbs. Following the steps above can help limit exposure of hazardous materials to the environment and the person dealing with the broken bulb. Eco Electric will properly dispose of CFL and fluorescent lights for Boise area residents as well as take care of their lighting and electrical needs.

How Lighting Affects Health

Lighting doesn’t just affect the way a room looks and feels. It also affects people’s moods and happiness levels. Natural light affects many things including the immune system, circadian rhythms, sleep habits and more. This goes to show the type of lighting put in a home, can have a huge impact. Here’s how the different lights affect health:

Natural Light

Natural light is best for the body. It can help create Vitamin D and promote deeper, well-rested sleep. The more natural light people are exposed to, the better. Taking advantage of natural lighting is also good for the energy bill. By depending less on artificial light during the day, bodies and wallets alike will benefit.

Blue Light

This type of light is unnatural and can negatively affect the body. It messes up sleep patterns, as well as the production of Melatonin and Cortisol. This type of light is found in devices like cellphones, televisions, and digital clocks. Using these in the bedroom before bed can create poor sleep quality.

CFLs

There have been more studies put out recently that CFLs are very bad for people’s health. They also have a harmful effect on skin.

Warm Lights

For the home, warm lighting that emits red, orange and yellow are the best options. These colors mimic the color of fire, which is what people used to function outdoors after dark. By using these lights, when it gets dark enough to turn them on, they will signal that it’s time to wind down before bed.

For help finding the best lighting options for the home, office, or business give Eco Electric a call. They can create a light configuration for any space and also offer eco-friendly products.

How the U.S. is Powered

The United States gains its electricity from many different sources. These sources include coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and oil. Although the country is trying to embrace clean energy, there’s still more progress to be made.

Coal

Currently, 511 coal-powered electric plants generate 34 percent of the U.S.’s electricity. It remains the leading fuel for electricity. However, it has become much less prevalent than it was in the late 1980’s.

Natural Gas

Just below coal is natural gas. With 1,740 natural gas-powered electric plants, it generates 30 percent of the energy. Over the past decade, more natural gas supplies have been found from shale deposits.

Nuclear

Twenty percent of the nation’s electricity has been generated by 63 nuclear plants. These plants are more common in the East and there are five new plants under construction. Twenty states have no nuclear electricity generation.

Hydroelectric

When it comes to hydroelectric power, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are in the lead. It’s a huge power source for the Pacific Northwest, but also contributes seven percent of the electricity nationally with 1,436 plants.

Wind

Wind is the fastest-growing power source in the U.S. There are 843 wind-powered electric plants generating five percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s especially popular in the Great Plains where there is a reliable wind source.

Solar

Solar power works best in places that have continuous sunshine. That’s why many of the southwestern states rely on solar power, while 39 states have no solar generating plants. Even with 772 solar-powered electric plants in the U.S., solar power makes up only one percent of the nation’s electricity usage.

Oil

Oil’s popularity as a source for electricity has died out. With 1,098 oil-powered plants, it generates only one percent of the U.S.’s electricity.

The new Clean Power Plan’s goal is to cut carbon pollution, in turn reducing climate change. With more of the nation’s energy coming from renewable energy sources, the goal could be achievable. To learn more about conserving energy around the house and going green, visit Eco Electric’s website.

Utilizing Natural Lighting

One way businesses can cut their energy costs is by utilizing natural lighting in their building. Using natural light in place of artificial light in buildings can also prove beneficial for employees.

For a majority of buildings incorporating daylighting, their overall energy savings ranges from 15 to 40 percent. This can be a big motivating factor when opting for daylighting over artificial lighting. Cuttings costs can mean a higher profit for companies.

The other reason businesses decide to make the switch, is for their employees’ benefit. Many studies suggest natural light impacts general well-being, productivity and satisfaction. This doesn’t just impact office workers. Natural lighting is beneficial for students, clients and even retail customers as well.

Workers who are exposed to natural lighting, especially in the morning, tend to sleep better, be more active, and have an overall better quality of life. Light acts as a synchronizing agent in a person’s brain and body. It helps with internal biological rhythms, which is why people tend to be more alert and productive at work.

Try incorporating natural lighting instead of relying on artificial lighting and see the difference it can make. Visit Eco Electric’s webpage for more ideas on how to lower energy bills.

Reduce Energy Costs with Whole House Fans

Tired of high energy bills in the summer? Trying installing a whole house fan to combat the cost of constantly running the air conditioner. A whole house fan pulls air in from open windows and exhausts it through the attic and roof.
The whole house fan should provide 30 to 60 air changes per hour, depending on climate, and floor plan. Calculating the size of fan a house will need starts with the volume of the house measured in cubic feet. To calculate this, multiply the square footage of the area to be cooled by the height from floor to ceiling. Take the volume and multiply by 30-60 air changes per hours, then divide by 60.
It’s best to leave the installation to a professional electrician because of the wiring and possible addition of vents in the attic. They can also help take the measurements to make sure everything is the proper size.
Often, the duct work of the central heating and cooling can be altered to work with the whole house fan. This will create ventilation throughout the entire house. This can replace the need to put additional vents in the attic.
Eco Electric can help measure the area and find the right option for the home. Give them a call for more information about whole house fans and reducing the energy bill.

Aluminum Wiring Problems

For homeowners with homes built between the mid 1960’s and late 1970’s, aluminum wiring is a concern. It’s not the wiring in particular, but the electrical problems it can cause when it is connected to light switches and other items.

Having aluminum wiring that is attached to receptacles increases the risk of a fire. But there are ways to reduce or eliminate the risk of this happening.

One of the more common solutions is doing pigtail repair. It involves attaching copper wire to the aluminum wire. It is relatively inexpensive, but requires special knowledge of the process and materials. It’s best to contact an electrician and have them execute the repair.

Retrofitting the connections is another alternative. Standard electrical outlets and light switches aren’t compatible with aluminum wiring, therefore replacement devices and connectors are used to fix this problem. It is also relatively inexpensive and easy.

Lastly, the most drastic solution is rewiring the house. This usually only makes sense if homeowners are renovating the home. It’s usually pretty expensive and can take some time.

If homeowners discover aluminum wiring in their home, or are worried it might be present, give Eco Electric a call. They can help fix the issues associated with aluminum wiring and give homeowners some peace of mind.