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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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’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.
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.
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.
Converting partially to wind power for energy needs could help the drought situation in the United States. If a third of the nation’s electricity came from wind power by 2050, it would save about 260 billion gallons of water a year.
It could also help save large amounts of money in climate-change related costs and health costs. The extra wind power would decrease greenhouse gas emissions, saving $400 billion in climate change-related costs. Also, by eliminating smoke stacks and replacing them with wind turbines, it would cut $108 billion in pollution-related health care costs.
To reach the goal of 404 gigawatts generated in 48 states by their projected time of 2050, offshore wind power would need to expand. Currently, there is no offshore wind power, and to reach the goal, there would need to be 86 gigawatts generated by offshore wind power.
Not only would getting 35 percent of their energy from wind power help cut greenhouse gas emissions and save on electricity, it could help drought stricken regions. Alternative power sources have many other benefits besides being energy efficient.
Interested in going green at home or the office? Take a look at our tips for going green.
Does the energy bill keep creeping higher? It might be time to do a home energy audit to find out where energy is being lost, causing that increase. By following the recommendations of auditors, the home can become more energy efficient.
Homeowners have two options when doing a home energy audit; they can do it themselves or hire a professional. Doing it oneself won’t be quite as thorough, but will still be beneficial.
Keep a checklist while walking around the house and inspecting for possible problem spots. The first thing to check for is air leaks or drafts. Homeowners could save five to thirty percent on their energy bill by reducing the drafts in their home.
Next up is the insulation. Lack of adequate insulation can cause dramatic heat loss in the home. In older homes, often the insulation isn’t enough and needs to be updated.
Make sure the air conditioner and furnace are working properly. Changing filters at least every three months is also beneficial. Getting the cooling and heat united inspected and cleaned annually can prevent many energy loss problems.
Lighting accounts for approximately 10 percent of the electric bill. Switching out bulbs for more energy efficient ones such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or led emitting diodes (LEDs).
Lastly, check appliances and electronics. If something is constantly plugged in that doesn’t need to be, consider unplugging it when it is not in use. This can help cut back on unnecessary energy use.
Ready for a professional opinion? Eco Electric can also help by doing a home electrical evaluation where we’ll inspect the electrical system and offer suggestions on making the home more energy efficient.