Monthly Archives: November 2013

Reasons to Switch to LED Christmas Lights

This holiday season nearly everyone is looking for ways to save money, by shopping wisely and making gifts and wrappings. One are that should be considered is to switch from incandescent lighting to LED Christmas lights. LED will save you money and give you a peace of mind as this technology offers improved savings and safety.

If all decorative light strings that are sold in the US this holiday season are Energy Star qualified, over 700 million kilowatt hours would be saved and the equivalent of 100,000 emissions from cars would be reduced in greenhouse gases in one year. Here are some additional reasons to switch to LED holiday lighting:

led lights1. Energy efficiency. LED uses over 70% less energy and on average lasts 10 times longer.

2. Improved safety. LED lights remain cool to the touch. Reduces fire risk of lighting on the evergreen decorations and contact burns.

3. Solid-state reliability. Technology does not require each light on string to be in operation for the light string to operate.

4. Durability. LED lights are enclosed in an epoxy casing, versus the fragile glass bulbs of incandescent bulbs.

5. Improved lifespan. Incandescent lights typically only provide 2,000, while LED lamps are rated for at least 50,000 hours of service.

6. No filaments to burn out. LED lighting does not require filaments, which burnout and can be easily damaged.

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Why use Organic Baby Shampoo and Wash

Your baby’s skin is the largest and most delicate organ. Yet we regularly massage the skin with products loaded with petrochemical ingredients. If you would read the label on the back of your child’s shampoo or wash bottle, you would see dyes, preservatives, synthetic foams, parabens and petrochemicals. Remember, the skin is a porous membrane, so up to 60% of products that are applied to skin will make its way into the body. This results in over 90 industrial chemicals that the body can’t breakdown and eliminate. This material will accumulate over time and can lead to serious diseases like cancer.

The average consumer can’t fully determine the long term dangers of applying various chemicals and corrosives to their children’s skin and scalp. As more parents are becoming aware, they are reconsidering using conventional bath products. Here is a further listing of some of the harmful ingredients in many conventional bath products:

  • Diethanolamine or DEA – This is a carcinogen that if used repeatedly could lead to cancer.
  • Propylene Glycol – Ingredient in industrial antifreeze. Gives shampoo slippery characteristic.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Inexpensive detergent chemical that creates foam. Found in most dish detergents.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate – Found in industrial engine degreasers.
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate- Inexpensive detergent and makes mixtures foam well.
  • Olefin Sulfonate – Deodorized kerosene

True organic shampoo and wash products offer a wealth of benefits for hair and skin that will be immediately noticeable. Organic products gently infuse your hair follicles and skin cells with natural minerals, herbal extracts, and oils. Keep in mind that not every natural ingredient is safe for a baby’s delicate skin. Some essential oils may be irritating so when choosing a shampoo or body wash for your baby, read the label carefully and be sure it has been proven safe for infants. There are lots of shampoos to choose from, so check out a few to see which one best meets your needs.

Vermont Soap Organic Baby Wash is great because it is two products in one. It can be used to wash both baby’s hair and body.  Bath time will only take about two squirts–one for the body and one to shampoo hair.  Typically, one bottle will last much longer than most store bought brands. So even though it’s a little more per bottle, you will save in the long run. Plus you’re getting the benefit of knowing you’re using the most natural ingredients for your baby’s sensitive skin.

When you use organic bath products, you’re also helping your environment by letting bio-degradable substances go down the drain and not harsh chemicals.

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Home Winterization Tips

How to Winterize Your Home and Save Money

1. Change Furnace Filters

2. Run Fans in Reverse - Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it seem warmer by making an updraft that sends the warmer air pooled near the ceiling back into the living space. This can cut your heating costs as much as 10 percent.

3. Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines - This one’s really easy, and it will save you wear and tear on your cooling system, so it can function at tip-top shape the next time you need it. Simply drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in equipment. If your a/c has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off.

4. Turn Down Your Water Heater - While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F by installers, most households don’t need that level, and end up paying for hot water that just sits around, slowly cooling. Lowering the temperature to 120 would reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10%.

5. Install Storm Doors and Windows - The simple act of installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent, by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Look for Energy Star-certified models.

6. Use an Energy Monitor - Measure your way to savings with an energy monitor.  This device indicates household electrical usage by device in real time.  Now you´ll know if it is time for a new refrigerator or if that old air conditioner is still saving you money.

7. Use Caulking and Weather-stripping - Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5 to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weather-stripping.

8. Insulate Your Pipes - Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. That can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing, which can be disastrous. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation.

9. Insulate your attic. One of the easiest ways to save some money is to ensure that you have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Hot air rises and through the attic is where it’ll go unless you sufficient insulate it. The rule of thumb is that if you can see your ceiling joists (the wooden beams), you don’t have enough because those are often shorter than 12 inches. You should also reduce the amount of transfer through your attic stairway by installing an attic stair cover.

10. Turn off exterior water lines. Chances are you won’t be using any of the water faucets outside of your home, so shut the valve that allows water to those exterior bibs. This prevents the water inside from freezing and cracking your pipes.

11. Wrap your water boiler. Since it’ll be cold, it’s more important than ever to invest in a water heater blanket and warp your water heater so it loses less heat into the ambient air.

12.  Open the blinds in sunny rooms. Be sure to keep the blinds open on any rooms that get a lot of sun, ever little bit of extra heat can help keep those bills down.

13.  Get a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can help you save a ton of money by only turning on when you most need it. All HVAC systems work the same way – they are either on or off (there’s no low, medium, or high intensity setting). If you can keep your system off when you’re not home or when you’re asleep, you can save yourself a lot of money. They are easy to install and often break-even (cost vs. savings) within the first year.

14.  Consider lowering the temperature setting on your thermostat. A lower temperature means the system is on less, so try lowering the temperature a degree at a time.

15.  Replace your HVAC air filter. During the winter, when the system will run more often, it’s good to replace it monthly so that you don’t have a dirty air filter ruining the efficiency of the system.

16.   Install window insulators. Window insulators are simply plastic sheets you tape up over windows to add an extra layer of protection from the cold. If you have especially drafty or old windows (especially if they’re single pane), consider replacing them.

17.  Block those leaks - One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall. First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets. Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots. Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

18.  Don’t forget the chimney - Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because “chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed.” That said, don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn’t in use. An installation of a chimney draft guard will also prevent the loss of heat via your fireplace.

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Why Teach Fuel Cells?

Renewable technology now plays an important role in the modern science classroom, introducing children to the astonishing potential of alternative sources of energy. However, while most children have heard of solar panels or wind turbines, fuel cell technology still remains a mystery to many. Yet this is a crucial time, with the mass production of hybrid fuel cell vehicles, the construction of hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the EU and America and international telecom companies increasingly turning to fuel cells for their energy needs. Fuel cells have an enormous amount to teach, both in terms of key scientific principals and their relevance to the greentech innovations happening all around us.

Hydrogen fuel cells

Fuel cells are bursting with fascinating science! The key process of a hydrogen fuel cell is the conversion of hydrogen atoms into electrical energy by separating the nucleus from the electron. The electrons are then diverted around an electric circuit while the positively charged hydrogen ions travel through the proton exchange membrane. Then there’s the generation of hydrogen itself—the separation of hydrogen from oxygen through water electrolysis, the hydrogen molecules with a slight positive charge travelling to the cathode while the slightly negatively charge oxygen is attracted to the anode. Molecular bonding, valancy, ions, electrolytes and so much more, just from one alternative technology.

Other types of cell

While hydrogen dominates the headlines at the moment, other fuel cells have enormous educational potential. Direct ethanol fuel cells are in many ways the most efficient power generators of the Horizon education range. The process lasts for hours, does not require combustion, and is completely silent. Saltwater fuel cells operate a little differently, generating electricity through a saltwater electrolyte with magnesium plates around the anode.  Thermal cells convert the temperature difference between hot and cold water into electrical energy. One of the key lessons of these alternative fuel cells is just how vast and varied the science is—and how many options we would have if we truly embraced a fuel cell economy.

Sustainability

With most of our education kits we try to integrate more varieties of alternative technology to enable students to build self-sustaining renewable energy systems. Wind turbines or photo voltaic panels power the electrolyzer to separate out hydrogen from water. The fuel cell converts hydrogen to electrical energy which then powers a propeller or LED— a great way to demonstrate the principles of energy conservation and conversion. Also, students also get to study things like the effect of shade on solar panels, wind resistance, the optimum number of blades for effective wind energy generation and many other tests and experiments.

Universal Ideas

The addition of fuel cell and renewable technology to the science curriculum doesn’t mean that the basics principles of physics and chemistry are somehow overlooked. In fact our fuel cell education sets reveal the workings of water electrolysis, the electrical circuit, resistance, voltage, current, RPM and everything else a conventional lithium battery electrochemistry svet can supply. Plus, extra features such as the Renewable Energy Monitor allow teachers and students to not only measure energy, but also take this data and view it graphically in real time on a computer screen.

Fuel cells are the future of emergency backup power, transportation, aerospace, telecommunication support and so much more. With a carbon-neutral world fast approaching, it’s time we introduced students to this crucial technology and started inspiring the next generation of scientists to push the boundaries of renewable science.

http://www.horizonfuelcell.com

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Eco Product Review: H20 Water Powered Can Clock

The H2O Water Powered Can Clock uses state of the art water technology to power a large hi contrast display (LCD) clock. This clock will run continuously for a long time without needing any human intervention.

H2O water powered clock

H2O water powered clock

By using positive and negative electrodes the H2O Water Powered Can Clocks patented technology creates an electro-chemical reaction with water, thus producing the electrical energy for powering the LCD clock display. The Can clock is the size and shape of a conventional can of soda, roughly 11cm x 5.8cm (4.3in. x 2.3in.).

The water will need replacing due to evaporation. The evaporation though should be at a slow rate as the water is well encased, meaning it will only require a water top up every 6 to 12 months.

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Benefits of Solar Power for Outdoor Lighting

Harness the power of the sun with solar powered lighting. There is free electricity readily available in your own backyard. Outdoor solar lights are easy to install and are virtually maintenance free. Solar lighting makes the perfect complement to your energy-efficient landscape.

Solar Lighting Benefits:

• Low energy costs. After equipment purchase, the sun provides all of the necessary power.

solar security light

• Minimal maintenance. Solar products typically have a limited number of moving parts, which eliminates the need to replace parts due to breakage and wear.

• Zero emissions. Solar products use the power resource without any resulting waste material.

• Off grid power needs. Solar lights continue working even if there has been a power outage. Because the energy isn’t coming off of an electrical grid, power outages make no difference.

• Portability. You can use solar lighting to light homes, cabins, campsites, backyards or RVs in remote locations. With no power lines to run, using solar power may be a cheaper.

• Easy installation. The majority of outdoor solar lighting has no confusing wires that must be connected to your main electrical system. Setting up your lights can be as simple as hanging them on a tree or staking them into the ground.

These advantages extend to both the wallet and the environment. In addition to all of this, the benefits of solar lighting are only destined to increase as solar technology advances.

Solar Lighting Placement

•  Place lights in areas that will receive direct sunlight. Placement in shaded areas will result in poor lighting performance.

•  Consider installing  a variety of products for the various applications, including walkway, festive, security and standard lighting applications.

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Eco Tip: Reduce Vampire Power

On average, US homes waste $100 a year on vampire power losses. These losses occur when many rechargeable products, such as cell phone, camera, mp3 and navigation device chargers and other home electronics continue to draw electric power after fully charging.  You can take the following steps to reduce the cost of vampire energy loss:

  • Unplug devices when not in use
  • Unplug video game consoles
  • Power off your monitor when you are not using it instead of using screen savers
  • Turn off all printers and peripherals unless you are using them consider using an ink-jet printer
  • Use Smart Surge Protectors

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Why Organic Fruits are Better

It seems more and more people these days know to go ‘organic’ when it comes to their fruit. Many of us understand some basic reasons for why organic is better, but there are also some fundamental differences between organic and non-organic fruit. The USDA’s farmers marketNational Organic Program defines organics as, ” A production system this is managed to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

The problem with non-organic fruit is the high concentration of pesticides. There are about 12 fruits and vegetables to avoid unless you are buying organic. The Environmental Working Group, a exposure of 90% by avoiding the “dirty dozen.”  The following are ranked in order of highest toxicity: peaches, apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries, potatoes, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears and spinach.

The good news is that there are several fruits and vegetables that are very clean. The “cleanest dozen” are ranked in order of lowest pesticide load to highest and are as follows: avocado, onions, sweet corn (frozen), pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi, bananas, cabbage and broccoli. You will note that these fruits and vegetables have a thick outer skin, that keeps the pesticide concentration low.

Even though these foods a tad bit more expensive, people who are conscious of the environment don’t mind the extra buck they need to pay as long as they feel they are doing something constructive for the environment and for themselves.

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Green Product Review: Smart Faucet

This Smart Faucet eliminates water waste by providing water only exactly when it’s needed  (in the beginning and end of the hand-washing event), and automatically shuts off the water while you’re lathering up, which saves water and heat.  No more constant adjustment with the hot and cold temperature setting trying to get the right temperature, as it is set at the desired heat setting.  The best feature of this product is that it’s made to retrofit directly on to your existing hardware.

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The Smart Faucet is a 1.5gpm (gallons per minute) aerator with an antimicrobial handle that controls water flow from the faucet. Water only flows when the handle is depressed, although there is a locking disk for continuous flow when needed.

The Smart Faucet requires no batteries or electricity to control consumption and is produced and packaged in the United States. The Smart Faucet can save up to 15,000 gallons when compared with the use of a standard 2.5gpm aerator. The Smart Faucet is an example of a low-tech solution that can save lots of resources and educate at the same time.

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