Energy Efficient Windows

This post was written by me but originally appeared at http://blog.tashmans.com/

The first window was made about 3.3 million years ago and was a hole in the wall of whatever was being used for shelter at the time. The purpose was to better see enemies and wild animals approaching as well as to enjoy a cool breeze on a hot summer night.

The Romans were the first known to use glass for windows, a technology likely first produced in Roman Egypt—In Alexandria ca. 100 AD. The technology has advanced significantly over the years although some people still use Jalousie windows which are only slightly better than a hole in the wall.

Untitled-e1430525842626Before deciding on new windows it is important to know a little bit about how the sun’s radiation works. The sun emits a lot of radiation but for the purposes of window efficiency, we can focus of visible light and radiant energy (heat). The goal, in both hot and cold climes, is to allow as much visible light through while minimizing the transference of radiant energy. There are three main ways to treat glass to make it energy efficient. These are insulated glass, low e glass, and reflective coated glass.

Insulated glass windows usually consist of two or three panes of glass separated by an inert nonconductive gas like Argon. The spacers often have a desiccant, which reduces the possibility of moisture entry.

Low emissivity glass has been coated with a microscopic metallic oxide that reflects infrared light (radiant energy) and allows visible light through. Low E coatings come in different varieties which can be customized to fit a specific location, cold and dark vs hot and light.

Public Toilet with reflecting glass

Reflective coatings are usually used in hot areas with windows getting direct sunlight. For example the front of our hardware store has very large south facing windows so we put a reflective coating on them so we wouldn’t have to use exorbitant amounts of air conditioning. Some of the more severe reflecting coatings will turn glass into a one way mirror.

The type of frame for a window is also important for durability and energy efficiency. Aluminum windows are durable and cheap but have a high heat conductivity which is bad for energy efficiency. Wood window frames look nice and have good insulating properties but require more maintenance because wood tends to warp with heat and moisture. Fiberglass frames provide good insulation and generally look better than aluminum. Fiberglass is also very strong and can accommodate a larger piece of glass. Vinyl frames are the most energy efficient, require no maintenance and can be custom treated for any environment.

Our atmosphere and magnetic field protects us from most of the Sun’s harmful radiation and we as technologically advanced animals can further protect ourselves from other inconveniences like heat and high electric bills.

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The probability of earthquakes has changed following new study

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A new report by the U.S. Geological survey has introduced a new earthquake forecast model that changes the forecasts for magnitude, location, and likelihood as compared to the 2007 forecast model. The most significant change is the likelihood of medium (6.7-8) quakes has decreased while the likelihood of large (8+) quakes has increased. Looking at the entirety of California, the chance of a medium earthquake has gone from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years while the chance of large earthquakes has gone from one every 617 years to one every 494 years. 

The evolution of the California earthquake forecast model has happened as we learn more and more about the complex fault system under our feet. 

As we can see the number of faults has increased twenty fold in the last 17 years. In the 1988 forecast, only 16 faults were considered while in 2015 350 faults were considered to create the model. Much of these recent fault finding efforts (pun certainly intended) were driven by the fact that the 1994 Northridge earthquake occurred on a previously unknown fault. There are two other important things that contributed to this revised forecast, the use of space based geology and the observation that earthquakes jump from fault to fault instead of being constrained to the fault that spawned them. Instead of several major fault-lines, the picture that emerges is of a vast interconnected fault system. 

While the implications for building codes depends largely on where exactly structures are located, there are some important general conclusions we can draw. Tall buildings and bridges are more at risk than previously thought whereas small single family houses are less likely to experience catastrophic damage. Also the popular assumption that small quakes release pressure and make large ones less likely has been revisited to take into account the connected multi-fault system. 

How to Prepare

  • Identify safe and dangerous spots in each room. Get under sturdy desks and tables, stay away from windows, fireplaces, and hanging objects.
  • Conduct Practice drills.
  • Decide where and how to reunite with loved ones if separated during an earthquake.
  • Learn how to shut off the water, gas, and electricity.
  • Get a first aid kit and learn CPR and basic first aid.

During the Earthquake

  • If outdoors, find an open area away from walls, buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop, avoid areas around power lines and stay in the car until the shaking has stopped.
  • If in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doors. Remain calm and cover your head and neck with arms.

After the Earthquake

  • Do not attempt to use the phone unless there is an urgent life threatening emergency.
  • Check for gas and water leaks as well as damaged electrical wiring. Call utility companies if necessary. Do not attempt to re-light the gas pilot without a thorough inspection.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless absolutely necessary.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Help others in need.

Interesting Bio-fuel solutions

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Guest Post by Maria Kruk, an author for Patentsbase.com

Search of new renewable energy solutions has embraced most of the countries recently. Indeed, growth of oil and gas prices and shortage of fuel deposits contributed a lot in referring to alternative power facilities, such as solar stations, wind farms and tidal power systems. However, these are the prerogative of those lands possessing suitable climate conditions and favoring national policy. On the contrary, the other states have many benefits for biofuels production, converting wastes and unnecessary materials into promising energy resources. Some examples testify on how creative and effective new technologies might be.

Germany is a vivid example of how biofuels might invest in national energy balance. For several decades German scientists have been working on biofuel technologies, and some of the concepts alerted governmental attention. To date, economic discussions are engaged in related issues, which are focused on how to make biofuels cheaper.  One of the received results is directed on car fuels production out of agricultural and wood wastes. The released technology features synthetic gasoline made of sawdust and straw, including two major stages: gathering basic material straightforward on farms and timber factories and gasoline production on the plant. Its price is expected to be 0,5 Euro per liter and the first supplies are scheduled on 2012.

Wageningen University and Research Centre in Ukraine is working on the concept of thermal and electrical energy from biomass gathered in Chernobyl restricted zone. It is appropriate to mention that this country still copes with consequences of tragic events of April 26th 1986, when there was a huge explosion on the local nuclear plant. However, biomass is offered to be cultivated on the lands cleared from radioactive effects.  All in all, the idea of any activity in Chernobyl zone is quite unpleasing and it might influence negatively on reputation of Ukrainian businessmen. Many scientists conclude that this area should be a testing ground for scientific experiments and investigations for many decades in future.

In contrast, Ukraine can boast of certain biomass advancement. It is the first country in Eastern Europe to establish a production of mobile industrial facilities that convert organic wastes into fuel pellets. These biofuel complexes, called “Forward”, are embedded on the truck platforms. Forward’s average capacity is about 2 tons per hour. The other advantage of these mobile platforms is their cost, which twice cheaper than foreign equipment – 300 thousand dollars.

During recent decades many countries in Europe opened huge biodiesel plants, using different primary materials. One of them is located in Spanish port Ferrol with a total capacity of 200 thousand tons of biodiesel fuels per year. It produces biodiesel from refined and unrefined vegetable oil, mainly soybean and canola oils. Giant biomass recycling plant was put in commission in Kalundborg city in Denmark. This facility performs several important tasks, which include recycling wheat straw, corn stalks and cobs, sugar bagasse and grass; usage of waste steam in biomass production and manufacturing lignin biofuel. Palm oil and rapeseed oil and animal fats are used in three biofuel plants in Rotterdam, which belong to Neste Oil Corp (Finland).  Their total capacity is 800 thousand tons of biodiesel annually.

biodiesel

So can’t we just pipe the oil to where we need it?

 

You can do whatever you want but you might want to step back and make sure it’s a good idea.

The US is probably going to build a pipeline from Canada down to the gulf of mexico.  As you can imagine this is a source of concern for people living anywhere near this pipe.  This seems reasonable because transporting large amounts of toxic liquid great distances is inherently dangerous.  Trucks crash, boats sink, rigs explode, and pipes leak.  It is included in the cost of doing business.

Proponents argue that the project will create jobs and decrease our reliance on foreign oil.  How many and how permanent these jobs will be is still under debate.  Also we will be relying on foreign oil until it runs out or we find a cheaper alternative so I wish people would stop using that phrase.

The pipeline will be the equivalent of building a giant highway across the country that no one can drive on and poisons the drinking water.  So as of right now we will have to wait for the 2012 elections because god knows politicians can’t do ANYTHING while they are trying trick people into voting for them.

Update from the Republic of Khakassia Abakan Siberia

The first session of working group concerning the lands protection and restoration

The Republican Development Council at the Head of the Republic of Khakassia was established in 2010 in order to assist the development of social and economic potential of our republic and to improve the well-being of citizens. The Head of the Republic of Khakassia is the Chairman of the Development Council. The pressing issues of various spheres of Khakass economy, industry, ecology and public life are being submitted for the Council Presidium’s consideration. The special working groups are created for studying these questions and developing the mechanisms of their solving. They consist of the representatives of various Khakass organizations and departments, public figures of our republic.

The problem of lands protection and restoration is one of the most serious problems, worrying not only the citizens of Khakassia, but also the heads of various levels. The research of this issue was entrusted to the Khakass Ecological “Live planet” Fund. The representatives of the Legacy Committee of the Republic of Khakasia, the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Committee on the Khakass Fauna and Environment Protection, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance of Khakasia, the “Khakassky” State Natural Reserve and the Institute of Agrarian Problems of Khakasia were included in the working group on the question of lands protection and restoration.

The general questions of lands protection were discussed at the first session of working group; that is, the problems of ownerless lands, farmlands salification and desertification. The question of farmlands pollution with solid domestic wastes was raised on the proposal of the State Committee on the Khakass Fauna and Environment Protection. There is a large quantity of illegal dumps on the territory of farmlands. The size of them continues to increase as inhabitants of Khakasia have no place to throw out their garbage. There is only one legal refuse dump in Khakasia, while the area of the republic is 61 900 km2.

The low level of proficiency and ecological competence of farmland owners was also discussed. This problem caused a great concern of all the members of the working group. Since the ancient times the land was the main wealth of any state and a basis of the economic stability. In modern Russia farmlands are distributed to everyone who wants to be engaged in farming. Everyone has to pass the examination to obtain a driver’s license, but it is not necessary to take any examinations to obtain a license to rule the land. It means that everybody can be engaged in agriculture. Such management can result in the fertility decrease, soil exhaustion and desertification.

As a result of active discussions the working group defined three questions in order to search for the solution of them:

  1. The illegal dumps liquidation of the Khakass farmlands;

  2. The inventory and certification of the Khakass farmlands;

  3. The low skill level of Khakass farmland owners.

A great work on solving these problems should be carried out, as well-being of each person in his own hands. We shouldn’t forget – nothing exists by itself. The ecology of farmlands is inseparably connected with the ecology of the territories surrounding them, and the other way round. If any territory turns into a fruitless desert or a dead salty bog, the adjoining safe and protected territories will be under threat. Farming his own land, a person should raise his head and look around. Near by the farmlands, gardens and pastures the habitats of not only plants and animals, but also settlements of human beings are situated.

Elena Kim

Khakass Ecofund “Live Planet”

Green Vacation

Planning a Green Vacation

Everybody wants to do their part for the environment, but at the same time, we don’t want to stop living and doing the things we like and want to do out of fear of damaging the environment.

Travel is one particularly sensitive issue for anyone who is eco-friendly, because there are very few environmentally beneficial modes of travel available, and because, while traveling, there isn’t much we can control in the way of saving energy.

We are largely at the mercy of the options available to us, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. With a little bit of research, you can reduce the size of your travel’s carbon footprint, and feel good knowing that you are supporting the environment, even while living the dream.

Consider looking into the following things when planning your next trip:

  • Alternative modes of travel, part I: While every kind of travel is environmentally taxing, some kinds are far less damaging than others. Cars are generally better than planes, for example, and trains are even better than cars. If it is possible to take a train to your next destination, do that instead and you’ll be able to rest easier knowing you did what you could. It might take a little longer, but it will be worth it.
  • Stay at green hotels: As a rule, a hotel will never be as energy efficient as a house, simply because they are so large and have so much space to light and heat or cool, but similar to the tiers of transportation, some are better than others. There are websites that list eco-friendly lodgings, which should be a great help when trying to decide. Some of these sites are:
    • It’sAGreenWorld.com
    • Eco Green Hotel
    • Eco Hotels of the World
  • Alternative modes of travel, part II: Once you have arrived at your destination, you have the option of several different kinds of transportation. These should be more familiar to you, because they are basic city transit options: cars, buses, bicycles, walking, horse carriage, etc. I probably don’t have to say (but I will anyway) that walking, bicycling, or taking a horse ride or more eco-friendly than cars or even riding on the bus; if you can plan to take these methods of transportation while you are vacationing, instead of renting cars or taking cabs, you’ll be helping to save the environment, and saving some cash, too.
  • Sight-see green: Another big source of energy consumption on vacations is the activities you do while there (wherever “there” happens to be). Try to plan green activities, such as eco-tourism, while out, instead of high energy activities like theme parks or movie theaters.

It will take a little extra planning to get your vacation to green status, but it isn’t impossible, and every little bit helps. Just think how much good we could do if every person planned green vacations!

 

Greenwashing

Everywhere we go recently it seems as though there is a brand new eco-friendly “green” versions of old products.  I have mentioned a few of these silly things like the 57 watt light bulb as a new energy efficient version of the 60 watt.

I have been coming across even more ludicrous examples, many of them outright lies.  Often you can see the absurdity just by looking at the contradictions in the advertising.  Phrases like “eco-friendly” and “contains mercury and lead” should not be on the same product.

I came across a good example the other day with a can of lithium grease.  The can is green of course and is pitched as a bio-based biodegradable lubricant.  If the warnings about calling poison control if ingested aren’t enough there is always the fact that Lithium is a metal and thus can not bio-degrade…ever.

This trend is a problem because in addition to claiming dangerous products are safe, overall the public believes things are changing for the better when in reality the packaging is just different. Consumers look around and things look like companies are being less wasteful but in the end it is just a marketing illusion.

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