Energy:

Purchasing a Heat Pump: What You Should Know About New Heating Technology

The rise of fuel prices over the last decade and the movement toward more sustainable energy sources has consumers on the lookout for the most cost effective appliances and devices. Temperature regulation in houses and apartments is no different—homeowners everywhere are hoping to lower their energy costs and keep their homes at a comfortable temperature. Two of the products on the market, the heat pump and the traditional air conditioning unit, are products that consumers might be interested in comparing. Choosing one depends on the specific needs of each individual and the climate they call home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps, despite what their name might suggest, are devices that can be used not just for heating, but also for cooling a house. There are a variety of different types of heat pumps systems available, including geothermal, ductless, absorption, and, perhaps the most common, air-source heat pumps. Just like a refrigerator, the heat pump runs on electricity, moving heat from cooler areas to warmer ones and thereby further cooling the cool space and warming the warmer space. In a heating season, for example, heat pumps will move heat from cooler outdoor units into the warm house, thus generating heat. The opposite process occurs during a cooling season, when heat from the house is pumped to the outdoors, leaving the house cooler.

Since heat pumps move heat rather than generating the heat itself, they are far more effective operationally than conventional heating or cooling appliances. In fact, frequently heat pumps are able to regulate the temperature of a space for as little as a quarter of the cost of other types of heating and cooling units.

Heat pumps, especially geothermal ones, can be rather expensive to install, but in moderate climates where the heating and cooling needs are relatively low, they eventually pay for themselves through the reduced heating and cooling costs. According to Tim Smigelski, one happy homeowner who installed a geothermal system, he gets four dollars back for every dollar he put into the system. One of the biggest advantages of such a system is that it can be used anywhere in the world, since the geothermal power source—the Earth—will never vary, unlike solar energy and energy generated by the wind.

Air Conditioning Units

Air conditioning units have been a standard of American homes for several years. In 2011, nearly 87% of homes were equipped with AC units, though efficiency and type of individual units depended greatly on household income. AC units function similarly to heat pumps, pulling hot air from the house, squeezing it through the refrigerant until it’s cold, and finally pushing the chilled air back into the house for the cooling effect. Well-maintained AC units can last for fifteen to twenty years, but since newer models are significantly more energy efficient, most owners would save money replacing units that are approaching the decade mark.

Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner Breakdown

This infographic from Washington Energy offers a quick and easy breakdown of the differences between the overall cost and efficiency of heat pumps versus the air conditioner. Overall, air conditioning units tend to outlive heat pumps by an average of five years because the they only run part of the year, whereas a heat pump regulates the temperature year round. Installation for heat pumps is more expensive than air conditioning units, but for those living in climates where both heating and cooling are necessary, a heat pump can save the consumer a significant amount of money by replacing alternative heating systems, including gas, propane or oil furnaces, while also meeting the cooling needs an AC unit covers.

 

Energy:

Improving HVAC Efficiency

Homeowners often fail to realize how their heating and cooling is affected by the cool air or increased heat entering or leaving through windows and doors. Efficient windows help put the HVAC system through less strain, so it is able to last much longer. As a result, energy bills are reduced.

Increase in Energy Bills with Poor HVAC Systems

A poorly-functioning HVAC system can cause an increase in energy bills. This is often due to lost cool or warm air from windows and doors. The cracks can let air from the system escape causing it to work harder to maintain ideal temperatures. Windows that are not designed to keep the system in its best condition also contribute to temperature fluctuations. In the summer, excess heat from the sunlight can enter the home through these windows. The extra heat makes the home harder to keep cool. In the winter, these windows may let out heat, taking away from the total insulation effects present in the building.

Windows Designed to Complement Your HVAC System

Efficient windows work to protect the radiant heat of the home in the winter and prevent the entrance of heat in the summer. These windows allow the HVAC system to work only as much as it needs to, and this saves homeowners on their energy bills. The peak load for heating or cooling is the maximum amount needed at one time. Reducing the peak load may even allow some homeowners to install new HVAC systems that are smaller and easier to maintain.

Making High-Performance Windows Appealing

High-performance windows may make a significant difference in the energy efficiency of a home, but they may not always be appealing to the interior esthetic quality. Many homeowners prefer technological components that do not compromise their décor, especially in rooms where visitors gather. There are various ways to make high-efficiency windows fit into the décor of a room. Curtains can conceal the window when light is not needed, and blinds offer increased control over the amount of light. Shutters can be added for a more durable alternative, and they also offer versatility.

For rooms with strong color coordination, curtains can make high-performance windows blend in with the remainder of the room’s furniture and fixtures, and they also add a more formal look to a room. Blinds offer quick and easy control over the amount of light entering the room, and they can easily cover windows that do not fit well with the room’s look. Shutters add to the décor and concealment of high-efficiency windows while also contributing to the temperature control. According to Bill and Sarah Burke, owners of Midwest Shutters, they have a high R-value, and this “provides protection from extreme temperature fluctuations” caused by the entrance or escape of heat.

Simple changes in the design of a home can have major impacts on how its HVAC unit functions. Controlling the natural flow of heat throughout the year is essential for getting the most value out of the heating and cooling system.

 

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last update: February 1, 2015

Energy:

Gas Engine Improvements You Should Implement Now

The demands placed on automotive manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon footprints led to the development of alternative fueled vehicles. Nevertheless, gas powered engines remain dominant in the automotive market. Gas engines are not likely to disappear in the near future. However, engineers are continually adopting new methods of function that enable increased performance while becoming more eco-friendly. Whether buying a new vehicle or merely overhauling an existing vehicle with a different engine, consumers benefit from the technology.

Variable Valve Timing and Lift

Conventional engines are equipped with valves that open and close at regulated increments, which provides an air/gas mixture as fuel. In the past, regardless of the work load that engines undergo, the rate at which valves perform their function remained unchanged. This means that engines receive the same amount of fuel regardless of work load. In effect, engines proved inefficient and permitted unnecessary fuel consumption and loss. By developing technology that times valve function to more closely accommodate the needs of an engine, the vehicle becomes more fuel efficient. Studies indicate that this newer design saves up to five percent in fuel consumption.

Deactivating Cylinders

Vehicles have four or more cylinders, which are all engaged as long as the vehicle remains running. Fuel saving ideology led engine engineers to reconsider the necessity of having all of the cylinders functional when not needed, which wastes fuel. Sports cars and heavy duty trucks, for example, feature V-8 engines. While a vehicle may require increased fuel consumption during times of extreme speeds or when hauling loads, at other times, decreased demands only waste fuel. By deactivating cylinders when they are not necessary, vehicles become more than seven percent fuel efficient. Though this technology is currently available on V-8 engines, manufacturers are considering adopting the change for V-6 model cars and trucks.

Alterations in Fuel Injection

In conventional gas engines, a spark ignites fuel and air in the combustion chamber. However, studies suggest that heating and pressurizing the fuel before it enters the chamber makes gas burn cleaner and more efficiently. The alteration also reduces the amount of fuel needed to power the engine. Under normal circumstances, gas engines might have a compression ratio of around 10 to 1. Newer technology increases this ratio to 14 to 1. The engine in a Mazda Demio, for example, has this innovative design and gets a reported 70 miles per gallon.

Turbocharging

This invention involves fans that are powered by the gases that are en route to the exhaust system. This action creates a higher compression ratio by allowing more compressed air into the combustion chamber, which means more efficient combustion and better fuel economy. When smaller engines feature turbochargers, engine performance also improves while saving fuel.

Driver Retraining

How someone drives a vehicle additionally has an effect on gas consumption. The faster a vehicle goes, the more fuel the engine consumes. Newer technology provides drivers with visualization by adding dashboard mechanisms that display when vehicles are operating efficiently and when more conservative measures are necessary. Other innovations include eco-modes that regulate transmission shifting and encourages running at lower speeds.

Energy:

Keep Your Home Cosy with Strategic Heating and Cooling

Every homeowner struggles to find the best ways to heat and cool a home without a incurring a high price tag. Running a standard central furnace and air conditioning system on a constant basis costs significant money while contributing to noise levels and pollution.

Alternative heating and cooling strategies are possible for any home, based on your resources and willingness to put in the effort.

Plant some trees

If you have the yard space, add deciduous trees on the south side of your home. When they lose their leaves in the fall and winter, low-lying sunlight can pour into the structure and warm it naturally.

Come spring and summer, dense foliage develops to block the sunlight and create a cool space across the property. You may even want to consider trees along the east or west side to control the sunrise and sunset sunlight that hits your home.

Ceiling fan science

Ceiling fans used to be absolutely necessary features in homes well before air conditioning became commonplace. But this simple cooling mechanism still works in homes today and will save you money.

Fans create a wind chill within the room, encouraging your skin to wick any moisture from the surface and cooling you. Activate the blades to spin counterclockwise, which pushes air directly down onto you.

Employ the clockwise rotation in the winter to pull warm air down from the ceiling as you heat the room slightly with natural air movement.

Outdoor sunshades

Simple removable sunshades and awnings can make a big temperature difference in your home. Install these shades on the west, east, or south side of the home.

Evaluate the hottest part of the day for your home and place the shading item there. You may want several shades for extremely hot days.

Whenever you reduce the amount of sunlight that strikes your home, less heat accumulates indoors. Cooling costs may drop substantially after you install an inexpensive sunshade.

Ductless system option

A home without a duct system cannot use a traditional central air system without significant cost and extra remodeling work. According to Washington Energy Services, ductless systems that use a heat pump are perfectly adapted to work in homes as long as outdoor and indoor components have the appropriate space.

These systems work much like a traditional split system: They use refrigerant to convert hot air into cool air and vice versa. Ductless systems take up little space, which makes them perfect for smaller homes that lack existing ductwork.

Attic care

The attic is often overlooked when it comes to heating and cooling, but this space traps hot and cold air throughout the year. Think about insulating your attic and adding ventilation ducts to control the attic temperature.

Any hot or cold air trapped above the residence contributes to an uncomfortable living space. Insulation regulates the attic temperature, making the rest of the home more comfortable without extra air conditioning or heating costs.

Beautify your home while intelligently increasing its heating and cooling abilities. If you use strategic sunshade locations and shady trees, your home doesn’t have to be expensive to maintain comfortably.

Think logically about the sun’s angle across your home to heat the space in the winter and cool it in summer.

Clean:

Use Technology for a Greener Home

Are you a tech geek who has a soft spot for doing your part to green up Mother Earth? There are countless ways to use more sustainable technology in the home, but they’re not all necessarily marketed as “green technology.”

Maybe you’re keeping an eye out for new appliances that have Energy Star ratings, but there’s more than one way to lighten your carbon footprint while preserving the heft of your wallet. Routine home upgrades can make a big difference on your budget and conservation efforts.

For example, did you know that ductless heat pumps are a great way to cut your energy usage by as much as 50 percent? Instead of relying on a traditional backup system that wastes precious energy, this one lets you personalize it by going with a 100-percent ductless system … or cherry picking which areas of your home to use it.

As an added bonus, you can even score a rebate and/or tax break when you install this system. However, there are further technological advances to consider.

Control freak

You can look at smart thermostats, but you should recognize that they’re not all created equally. Go with a designer model such as Nest Labs, which the iPod designers dreamed up, to control the temperature of your home based on your lifestyle and schedule.

Its sleek, contemporary, and stainless-steel approaches make it a form of home décor in its own right. Dependent on cloud computing and sensors, Nest monitors your habits to optimize your home heating. It’s been estimated that you can shave 30 percent off your energy bill with this model.

The right power adaptor is an easy and affordable installation that costs less than $200 and saves homeowners up to 13 percent each year. A reputable company like Green Plug offers a solid model that promises better connectivity between home devices that require power and the energy supply.

Once a device like that busy coffee brewer has the power it needs, the power line is automatically shut off.

The automated home

Home automation isn’t just a drool-worthy addition, it’s also a great way to save money. Consider automated lights that work around your schedule and “know” when a room is empty.

They cost less than $200 per light switch, but can save you a lot of cash depending on how forgetful you (or the kids) are about the lights. In the winter months, when people stay in and the days are shorter, automating your lights can be a great way to double up on those heating conservation efforts.

Use technology for a fatter bank account, to score tax benefits, and to boost your home’s value. Who knew home updates could be so easy?

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5 High-Tech Devices That Will Save You Both Kinds of Green

Going high-tech and changing your home to go green are working together in a growing synergy. Each year more smart devices come on the market that are not only earth-friendly but pretty cool to have in your home. Here are five examples.

1. High-tech thermostats

It’s no surprise that since a majority of home energy bills involve heating and cooling costs, much of the new technology for homes centers on this. Older homes have inefficient systems that waste an incredible amount of energy.

Much of the waste is attributable to climate control of rooms that are not in use and when the home is unoccupied. Smart technologies now give you programmable thermostats you can control from anywhere.

Applications and Internet-enabled technology provide greater control while you’re away, as well as networking of thermostats for efficient climate control throughout your home.

2. Motion sensors

Remember when you were a child and your parents would remind you to turn out the lights when you left a room? Motion sensors will turn on lights when you enter a room and shut them off when you leave.

This technology isn’t limited to lighting. Electrical and other systems through your house can be outfitted with sensors to cut the flows to other devices as well. Some devices even allow you to do this using an application on a smartphone so you can monitor and shut off any appliances, electrical systems, and anything else that might have been left on when you rushed out the door.

3. Solar power

Even though it could save an average of 30% of their power consumption, some people aren’t ready to commit fully to solar energy. This is understandable, since converting to solar requires a costly initial investment.

The good news is that many smaller solar collection devices can cut your energy costs. By placing solar panels on patios, porches, garages, or at other outdoor locations, you can increase the efficiency of your home dramatically.

Some companies offer hybrid devices that run on both solar and direct power to provide some savings and take that small step toward being greener.

4. Smart Appliances

When LG released its line of smart appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2012, people went crazy over them. From a refrigerator that creates menus and inventories its contents, to a washing machine that was not just eco-friendly but also fast and high-capacity, these advances in home technology were the greatest in many years.

Utilizing Internet networking technology, these appliances are able to connect and even communicate with one another, which allows for easier use and greater energy efficiency.

5. Power adapters

There’s a common myth that installing energy- and cost-saving devices requires a ton of work and a complete overhaul of the space. The reality is that you can do quite a few things that save money and still do your share in going green.

The average household uses 13% of its home energy simply charging and powering up devices each year. Typical charging devices push far too much energy through their adapters during a charge-up and continue to do so even when the charge is complete.

A company called Green Plug offers an alternative that creates a “smart” style of charging device that powers down when it isn’t connected for a charge and only feeds power to the device when it needs it.

Clean:

Chevy Spark Goes 139.7 Miles on One Charge

Chevrolet Spark

One of the biggest knocks against the electric vehicle revolution is range. It’s hard to get from one charging station to another in some places around the country. They are city drivers, designed to get you back and forth from work less than 20 miles away to get you there without incident on the EPA-rated 82 mile range Chevrolet Spark.

Digital Trends wanted to put the limits to the test. According to Chevy, they could get well over 100 miles in ideal situations. Those “ideal” situations weren’t exactly practical – 18 MPH nonstop with the right driving conditions. To test it, they took it to the track and set the record, unofficially. There are no recorded events for this type of test, so it’s the record as far as we know. That’s good enough for us!

According to the driver:

I prodded the Chevy team for more info. The Spark EV engineers admitted that in ideal conditions, the Spark could probably go 160 to 180 miles on a single charge, which – at 18.5 mph – would take around nine hours of non-stop driving.

Read More: Digital Trends

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Ford Gives us the 101 on Hybrids

Ford Hybrid

There is more and more confusion added to the mix every time the automakers come out with a new version of energy efficient vehicles. There’s hybrids, plug-in hybrids, plug-in electric vehicles, and likely several more on the way that combine gas, electricity, solar, hydrogen, nuclear, and gravitational energy induction to propel our vehicles.

Continue reading Ford Gives us the 101 on Hybrids

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