Urban Heat Islands and Paint

White reflects and black absorbs.

It’s a simple statement with massive ramifications if our society decides to use the science of color to fight global warming. For centuries cities in places like North Africa and the Mediterranean have been painting everything bright white to keep cool. White reflects the heat radiation back into space while darker colors absorb heat radiation and would therefore increase the temperature in and around the house.

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Why did we abandon this simple technique that seems like a no brainer in places like Los Angeles? The answer is that it is much cheaper to use dark building materials. Asphalt and tar are two of the most ubiquitous building materials we use to construct cities and roads. The detrimental effect of building like that is referred to as the “Urban Heat Island” effect. This is why cities are generally much hotter than the surrounding countryside.

In cities with ample precipitation, the best solution involves plants on places like rooftops and vacant lots. The city of Boston buried it’s largest highway and built a giant park in it’s place. The “Big Dig” was a disaster as far as construction projects go but the original concept was great. (When I was ten years old, the Major of Boston told me the Big Dig would be done in five years…I am now thirty and they just finished.)

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The problem with this approach in Los Angeles is the complete lack of rain. No one should be watering large lawns because it’s just downright irresponsible. Replacing lawns with fake grass actually contributes to the Urban Heat Island and also destroys whatever ecosystem existed there before. Residents of Los Angeles can enroll in a rebate turf removal program whereby you replace the grass with drought resistant plants and get money back from the city.

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Of course if you can’t get people to vaccinate their children, the concept of deadly irresponsibility may not be salient for the residents of greater Los Angeles.

If you want to be a responsable member of society, however, paint white and tear up all that thirsty grass.

Miscellaneous Electrical Load (MEL)

Miscellaneous Electrical Load (MEL)  in buildings are electric loads resulting from electronic devices not responsible for space heating, cooling, water heating, or lighting. MELs are produced by hard-wired and “plug-in” electrical devices, including home entertainment centers, kitchen electronics such as microwaves and toaster ovens, bath items such as hair dryers and electric hot tubs, and others such as security systems and ceiling fans.

Early generation phone chargers used a lot of electricity and were also a danger if left plugged into the phone. In recent years chargers for phones and other new electronics like laptops have more energy efficient features like an automatic shutoff and sleep mode.

MEL is estimated to contribute 4-12% of the total household energy usage and while many newer electronic devices will come with energy efficient features, things like refrigerators and microwaves are not replaced often so the likelihood of these devices being energy hogs is high.

The other major contributor to MEL are devices that are always connected to the internet. The increasing use of electronics connected to WiFi for example is only going to increase as we move inexorably towards a wireless world. Internet business experts estimate that by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices constantly connected to the internet. Some of the more futuristic things that will be connected to your phone or the computer chip in your brain are coffee makers, pacemakers, cars, and of course cows.

There are a few proposed solutions, some more feasible and long term than others. TheWhole House Switch is somewhat like a circuit breaker for everything in your house. The idea is that when you go out all the electronics can be switched off all at once. This solution requires some pretty serious rewiring that may not even offset the energy saved.

The best solution is a combination of advances in the technology combined with government incentives to upgrades appliances to the latest energy efficient models. For example, new advances in semi-conductor materials means faster and cheaper energy transmission with little environmental loss. When exactly these scientific progressions will be available for the homeowner is still a matter of some debate.

One short term solution is to put timers on the devices that don’t need to be on all night. I have a timer attached to my TV, modem, and cable box that shuts off automatically at night. Timers can be purchased from Tashman Home Center.

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Solar Powered Air Conditioners are Becoming More Elaborate

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Air conditioners can consume an incredible amount of power. Between the electricity the compressor utilizes and the torque of the motor in order to spin the fan, your electric bill can skyrocket over the summer. In order to reduce the cost of this unit, some have installed solar panels onto the roof specific to the sole use of the AC device. However, innovative designs have made development of these units far more elaborate than in previous years.

Mobile Cooling – Many people like the idea of being able to maneuver a cooling device set on wheels in order to maximize the effect in any given room. Developers have created a small unit that can be rolled across the floor while being connected to a solar panel. With some of these smaller units, you can essentially place the panel in the window as long as the sun’s light can reach. These can be incredibly useful if you need a solution that can travel with you from one room to the next.

Ductless Heat Pump Units – Operating at 18,000 BTU, some of these ductless heat pump units can reduce power consumption by nearly 97-percent. Solar panels as well as the mini-split design allows for installation nearly anywhere. Once the sun light is minimal, the heat pump automatically switches to an energy efficient device taking its power from the grid. Although some of these are not 100-percent dependent on solar power or battery backups, the units can still reduce your day-time spending per kilowatt hour.

Hybrid Heating and AC – Some units have been developed to act as both air conditioning and as heaters in order to keep rooms comfortable year round. Although this isn’t necessarily a new idea, the addition of solar power to operate these units decreases your spending regardless of season changes. Some of these miniature HVAC systems can range from small 5,000 BTU devices to more powerful machines producing more than 40,000 BTUs. Depending on your own room requirements, hybrid systems can keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter while using less power from the grid.

Central Air – Central air is an efficient method of keeping the home cool in the summer. Solar power adaptations have been created that can operate in a hybrid unit offering cool air as well as heat. Using energy efficient technology and including its own dedicated solar panel, these units are far less costly to maintain than the gird-dedicated counterparts of the past.

Do it Yourself Projects – If you can’t find something that fits your budget or your specific needs, you can always build one yourself. There are many different ways that these units can be assembled – most of them using upcycled parts from various machines. Your own imagination and skills with a soldering iron will play a role in how elaborate you make your own solar AC unit. You may even design something that is marketable to make a few extra dollars.

With each passing year, an innovative method is developed to include solar energy. Air conditioners, outdoor camping showers, ovens, toys, boat engines and more have been adapted to utilize one of the most abundant sources of power humankind has discovered. What was once an expensive addition for the upper class has decreased in cost to the point where nearly everyone can benefit in one form or another from solar energy. Imagine what will be developed tomorrow.

Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in Houston, Texas, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.

Will Water Be a Commodity More Sought After then Gold?

Hollywood has done a decent job keeping us entertained over the years. Futuristic movies have grasped out imagination with tales of how water is scarce and survival after an apocalypse is anything but ideal. However, how much content from those movies are purely imaginative considering the world wide events of today? Will the world’s supply of fresh water become as precious to us as gold and oil?

Glaciers
For the inhabitants near glacier parks, as well as providing fresh water to rivers that span hundreds of miles, the reality of no water is a fact of life. Across the globe, glaciers are melting at an incredible rate pouring greater amounts of water into the oceans. This has, in turn, increased the sea levels at a rapid pace. Within our lifetime, island cities such as the Maldives will be submerged as could be several areas of Florida and other coastal states and cities. In Peru, 1600 years’ worth of ice has melted in less than three decades. How much more will we lose as a species before preventative measures are taken?

Rain Forests
Rain forests are more important than merely providing a habitat for the creatures that live within them. Each year, rains produced within the forests have declined steadily as trees and plant life are removed to provide land for cattle and commodities. Shouldn’t the water produced by these forests be considered a greater commodity than cotton or corn?

United States
In a report completed earlier in 2013 by the Natural Resources Defense Council of Tetra Tech, more than two-thirds of the counties in the US will have reservoirs unable to sustain the population demand by 2050. Changes in the climate and irregular weather patterns will not be able to replenish reservoirs that are in use. An overwhelming amount of the population wants the government to step in and address the problem of water shortages, but very few trust that the government will do anything about the problem.

Wasted Water for Production
Did you know that it takes more than 39,000 gallons of water to produce a new car? If you consider that a single human can consume up to one gallon of water per day, this is enough water to hydrate a person for more than his or her lifetime. Industry exhausts a great deal of water between cooling, lubricating, cleaning and any other use that requires liquid. The more we consume products as a global population, the faster the water is used. The very thing that is keeping economies functional will be a major contributor to its demise if things don’t change.

Toxic Chemical Levels
Many skeptics don’t believe that humans are the cause of climate change due to higher levels of carbon dioxide that is produced through various means. While they focus the quality of air, not many look at the ground. Chemicals that we take for granted are being put into the Earth and poisoning our water supply. Whether this poisoning of the water tables is on accident or not is irrelevant. That fact is that humans are responsible for contaminating water supplies through inappropriate or negligent actions.

At the current rate of decline, it will only be a matter of a few decades before the lack of water can create situations similar to those apocalyptic movies we grew up with. Whether our governments believe in global warming or not shouldn’t be the focus of their attention. Dehydration of the population is a reality and more efforts should be involved to sustain the people of any area.

Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

 

Electronic Medical Records and Personal Health Records

With the ever expanding Internet opening possibilities across various forms of business, we find ourselves in an age where information is readily available at our fingertips. Databases have been built regarding driving records, real estate, education, and more to provide a more efficient and less time consuming practice of data entry. Electronic medical records are no different and could be more important since the information is invaluable. There is a wide scope of possibilities for using electronic medical records.

1. Instant Sharing – In some care facilities, methods exist to share a patient’s information with another facility over the Internet in a different city. This could prove to be vital if the information requested pertains to a life threatening circumstance.

2. Clicks Away – With electronic medical and personal health records, the information is just a few clicks away. Instead of sifting through files and folders to find an individual’s information, it could just be a matter of entering a name search.

3. Billing – Most facilities have implemented some kind of a billing system for patients. Many of these billing applications can be used in conjunction with a medical record for further data analysis later on.

4. Web-Based – Data centers and the Cloud have increased efficiency of sharing patient information with practitioners around the globe. Some of these electronic records are based on the Internet alleviating a facility’s need for a sufficient data server. With the inclusion of images, x-rays, and more a server can get quite crowded with data in a largely populated area.

5. Cross Platform – Electronic medical and personal health records can be accessed across multiple devices. As some are web-based, a web browser on a tablet or phone would suffice. However, some of these EMR developers have made apps for Android and iPad for a more efficient tablet use. These apps connect to the database on the Internet without the need of a browser and all pertinent information can be viewed.

6. Prescriptions – Advancements in technology have allowed some of the EMR applications the ability to send e-prescriptions to participating vendors. Programs such as Practice Fusion incorporate a variety of tools to create greater efficiency in the facility including messaging, reporting, and billing.

7. Quick Entry – Many EMR programs allow a practitioner the ability to simply click on symptoms to build a record reducing the amount of typing. This could also reduce miscommunications and illegible comments about how an individual patient has been treated in the past.

The days of old where we cut down trees to create paper for our records is slowly coming to an end. It was a method that worked, but technology and the need for efficiency are growing ever closer to triumph over archaic methods of communication. With a little ingenuity and innovation, we could very well create a single database that can be used to provide every piece of information about a specific individual.

About the Author:

Ken Myers is an expert adviser on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com.

Some Space gifs for fun

 

 

 

 

HIT Solar Cells

Cheaper Manufacturing for HIT Solar Cells

This is a guest post by Mathias Aarre Maehlum of  Energy Informative

Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST in Braunschweig, Germany, has been working on making the manufacturing of HIT solar cells cheaper by engineering an improved coating process.

Hetorjunction with Intrinsic Thin layer (HIT) solar cells are currently one of the most promising new technologies in the PV industry. They have consistently shown high performance in laboratory conditions – in some cases up to 23% – significantly higher than the majority solar modules on today`s market.

Fraunhofer IST`s new way of producing HIT solar cells includes hot wires instead of the plasma-CDV process, which allows for cheaper mass production. The plasma-CDV process is dependent on large quantities of silane gas to function. Somewhere of 85-90% is lost through the process and becomes waste, which of course brings costs up.

By using the hot wire method “we can use almost all of the silane gas, so we actually recover 85 to 90 percent of the costly gas. This reduces the overall manufacturing costs of the layers by over 50 percent. The price of the wire that we need for this process is negligible when compared to the price of the silane” states Dr. Lothar Schäfer, department head at Fraunhofer IST.

The generators that power the manufacturing system are also ten times less expensive in terms of energy consumption than those that power the plasma CDV-process.

Even though the technology seems to have significant advantages over convetional ways of producing solar cells, it is still nowhere near being released on the market. It will likely be another three to five years until Fraunhofer IST`s new technology will be used for large-scale manufacturing of solar panels.

For more information on the new technology, check out the official press release.

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