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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Go Green, Get your Home and Lifestyle Green!

Posted by SEPCO

2/28/12 9:30 AM

Go GreenTurning eco-savvy is the catchphrase these days. You can do it too! After all, it is real easy to adopt green living ways and it doesn’t cost a dime. As a matter of fact, you might just end up saving money. In times when prices are shooting up and resources are scarce, everyone can make a positive change by going green. Here are a few simple things you can do if you also want to take on a greener lifestyle.

1. Recycle and reuse

The supply of many material like plastic and metals is limited. So, try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. Keep track of recycling centers and pick up services to which you can make a donation. Make use of recycling bins set up in your locality or office. One can easily reuse cloth, paper and glass items around the house. Buy recycled paper, bricks, plastics or reclaimed wood.

2. Buy eco friendly supplies

Ditch plastic and stack green tagged products at home such as bamboo mats, cloth table covers and stone crockery. Furnish your house with eco-chic goods like bamboo flooring, reclaimed wood furniture, stone islands and cloth drapes. Even insulation installed in your house can be eco friendly. Munch on organic and fair trade certified foods. Use plant based cleaners or baking soda and vinegar to scour things up in your house. Plant trees wherever you can, be it indoors or outside your home.

3. Generate less trash

Garbage thrown out of homes is bunging up landfills and polluting the environment. Recycle or reuse trash by making new objects or turning it into compost. Avoid throwing out non-biodegradables like plastics or chemical wastes like batteries and electronic chips. A good way to create less trash is to buy things that you can use for longer. Opt for recyclable batteries, sturdier furniture and durable appliances.

4. Save energy

Do not leave appliances running when you do not need them and use electronic gadgets only when required. Reduce dependence on the lights by using candles or oil lamps wherever possible and replace incandescent bulbs with florescent ones. Use cold water while doing laundry and leave your clothes to air dry. Buy locally manufactured goods as less energy is expended to transport them. Switch off the air conditioners and open the windows to cool down your house. During the winters, layer yourself with warm clothes instead of turning up the heater. Go for energy efficient appliances and if possible switch to renewable sources of power like solar or wind energy.

5. Conserve resources

The fresh water reserves in the world are depleting fast, so try to minimize use of water. Do not leave any taps running and get all leaky spouts around the house fixed. A lot of water pours out while showering, so opt for a tub or bucket while having a bath. Try biking, walking, public transport or carpooling instead of your gas guzzling car. You can also drive a green vehicle. Minimize use of paper to save another tree from being felled.

Resources like energy, metals and paper are diminishing rapidly and most products up for sale are doused with harmful chemicals or pollutants. Do your bit to fight this crisis by conserving wherever you can and buying all-natural merchandise. In fact, doing up your home the green way can also increase its resale value.

About the author: Rubela is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on Green Living, Technology and luxury. Beside this she’s fond of books. Recently an article on Women's health attracted her attention. These days she is busy in writing an article on Games for toddlers.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Renewable Energy

Energy Efficient Lighting - why this is a must

Posted by SEPCO

2/23/12 9:30 AM

Energy Efficient LightingLighting has been one of the great success stories in energy efficiency of the last quarter of the 20th Century. And it could become another great success story of the next few years as we proceed further into the 21st Century.

During the years following the oil crises of the early 1970s, commercial building owners and managers reacted to high electricity prices by retrofitting offices, warehouses, and stores. First they turned to reducing unnecessarily over lit areas, and later they installed new lower wattage fluorescent tubes and electronic ballasts. As a result, energy use for lighting in the commercial sector fell even as the number of commercial buildings rose.

Now the success in the commercial sector may be a prelude to another great energy efficiency success—this time in the residential sector. The compact fluorescent bulb is the key that could unlock this success.

Like the fluorescent lamps found in commercial buildings, a compact fluorescent bulb is a tube. These tubes, however, are narrower and twisted around like a pretzel. Sometimes they are covered with a globe so that they look much like a standard incandescent bulb.

The big difference between compact fluorescents and their incandescent cousins is the amount of energy they use. Compact fluorescents use roughly one-quarter of the electricity that an incandescent bulb will use to give off the same amount of light. Of course the exact difference in light output will depend on how the tubes are shaped, whether it has a cosmetic globe, and a number of other minor things. But cutting the electricity use of a light by anywhere near 75% is a lot of savings.

Which light bulbs are the most energy-efficient?

There are two main types of commercially available energy-efficient light bulbs: LEDs and CFLs. Both are better than traditional incandescent light bulbs when it comes to energy efficiency, but their practicality in consumer households is variable. So, to help you decide which bulbs are best for your buck, we have compiled the facts so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.

Comparing the Energy Efficiency of LEDs, CFLs and Incandescent Bulbs

You can determine the efficiency of light bulbs by comparing the amount of light produced to the amount of energy consumed. Your goal should be to find the fixture that emits the most light with the least amount of energy consumed - at the best price for your budget. However, leaving price aside, research shows that LED light bulbs are truly the most energy-efficient. LED bulbs produce 90 to 112 lumens per watt. Compact Fluorescent Lamps produce 40 to 70 lumens per watt, and traditional incandescent bulb fixtures only produce 10 to 17 lumens per watt. So, from a purely scientific point of view, LEDs are the most energy-efficient bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

Compact Fluorescent Lamps, also called CFLs, are the most popular energy-efficient bulbs. They have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years and cost about $4 per bulb. Fluorescent light bulbs used to be notorious for the odd color of light they produce. However, in recent years, fluorescent light bulbs have evolved and now come in a full spectrum of light colors that are ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and other rooms where abundant overhead lighting is needed. One of the main downsides to CFLs is that they contain mercury and therefore make safe disposal difficult.

Light-Emitting Diode (LED)

LED bulbs consume the least power and have the longest lifespan, lasting up to 40 or 50 years. LEDs cost about $36 per bulb. This kind of bulb is both energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, as it does not contain mercury or lead like CFLs do. LEDs also function much better than CFLs when it comes to using dimmer switches. The LED color spectrum is still in development. As of right now, LED bulbs only come in two varieties: cool white light and warm white light. Cool white light is used for task lighting and warm white light is best for accent lighting. The major downside with LEDs is the price. You get more bang for your buck, but many people aren't willing to give up that many bucks upfront.

A cost-comparison analysis done by Eartheasy.com shows that both LEDs and CFLs will save you upward of $10,000 over a 10-year period. The savings of consumers who use LED bulbs will add up to about $2,000 more. In the end, though, the choice comes down to your personal needs. If you can't afford to pay $36 per bulb at the start of your energy-efficient home makeover, or if you're looking for a wider spectrum of light color, then CFLs are the way to go. On the other hand, if you're looking for the most energy-efficient bulbs, LEDs are the choice for you.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting

Why Solar Powered LED Street Lights Should Become the New Norm

Posted by SEPCO

2/21/12 9:30 AM

Solar Powered LED Street LightTypical street lights use highly inefficient HID lamps that drain the grid of electricity and cost untold millions of dollars a year to power and maintain. Obviously street lights are needed for the safety of travelers at night, but why does so much money need to be wasted? Instead, high performance, energy efficient LED lights should replace energy hogging HID street lights and become the new street lighting standard.

 

 

LED street lights provide better lighting in numerous ways: 

  1. LEDs consume much less energy because LEDs produce more Lumens per Watt than HID lights.

  2. With specialized optics, LEDs are able to direct the light precisly where it is needed.

  3. LEDs provide a whiter light that promotes better visual acuity; i.e. things are more clear and easier to see.

  4. LED's last a very long time, upwards of 15-20 years before needing to be replaced.

  5. LED fixtures are also dimmable for lower power consumption for times when the streets are not in high use.

  6. LEDs are an "instant on" and do not require a warm up time or "restrike" waiting time.

Now add solar to the mix for a solar powered LED street light and you have even better efficiency with no grid power being used. LEDs use one-fifth the power of incandescent lighting, a third of HID or metal halide lamps, and half of fluorescent lamps. LEDs run directly off the DC power provided by the solar power system. Moreover, solar powered street lights operate completely independent of the electric grid, which lowers the carbon footprint and promotes a more sustainable future.

Changing a single standard street light to an efficient solar powered LED street lighting system helps, but imagine this on a larger scale. What does it cost to power all those lights on the roads? Not just financially, but in the carbon footprint that these lights have. Now remove all these lights from the grid and power them by solar and it turns to zero. That's a huge impact on our future!

While local and intermediate streets are now capable of being illuminated with solar LED street lights, the light levels needed on major highways are still beyond the reach of solar powered street lights. None the less, rapidly advancing LED technology will one day make it possible to change every street light in America over to an energy efficient solar powered LED street light. The likes of which will save untold millions in energy costs and promote a sustainable future by completely removing all the lighting needed from the grid.

What other ways can we impact our carbon footprint and provide better lighting?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting

Pros & Cons Solar Powered Lights

Posted by SEPCO

2/16/12 9:30 AM

Solar Powered LightSolar powered lights have become very popular within the last decade as fossil fuels have become more expensive. Solar lights are an obvious and more affordable “off-grid” solution in comparison to pricey solar panels for your home. In general, solar lights have a lot of advantages such as an absence of power plugs and the simplicity of installation. But are solar powered lights good enough to replace your readily available electrical lights outside your house? Read to find out! 
 

Here are some salient points about solar lighting.

Pros:

  • Solar lights are the greener option because they do not run on electricity and therefore do not require standard electrical power
  • Solar lights are easily installed and moved
  • Solar lights provide a gentle light

Cons:

  • Color of solar light can be too blue, which does not compliment the landscape
  • Some less expensive units can be flimsy
  • Solar lights may have a shorter life span than higher quality low voltage lights

Exterior Solar Lighting Fixtures

The key to a good exterior solar lighting system is to get the maximum amount of light – or lumens – for the minimum electricity or Watts needed. This is tricky since some lights illuminate as a byproduct of heat and use lots of electricity (relatively speaking) to the amount of light produced.

The only slight advantage or disadvantage (depending on your point of view) to this system is mounting. The advantage is that the system can be portable. Charge with the panel during the day, and you have a big powerful light ready to go at night – wherever you want it. The disadvantage is that if you want to mount the system permanently, it can require a little bit of work. However, in most cases, you can do the work yourself if you want, no solar contractor needed.

Do you think the pros outweigh the cons? Let us know below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting

5 Best tips to 'green up' your workplace

Posted by SEPCO

2/14/12 9:30 AM

Going green at the workplace would probably amount to giving back a lot to the environment is a big way! There is gross wastage that goes on inside the offices. If you come to taking a total of all the monetary losses - it would probably be uncountable. From energy wastage in equipment, lighting and air conditioning to gross wastage of paper - there is a lot that needs to be controlled in the office and we must try to put in that effort and become more environmentally responsible.

Here are five tips that reflect on the very visible wastage that occurs in offices, that if cut down, could not only make the office environmentally friendly, but could also save thousands of dollars for businesses and rake in some profits in the bargain!

Save electricity

Off SwitchThe thing that is wasted the most scrupulously in offices is electricity. There are so many ways in which you can save on electricity and also save your office from dishing out inflated bills every month!  Try to take the stairs if you can in place of the elevator - not only would you be saving energy, but you would also get a good exercise on a regular basis. Whenever you leave your office, try to turn off the lights, even if it is for only ten minutes. Open up your curtains and use natural daylight, which not only saves on energy but also gives you the much-needed vitamin D, don't let the chargers on when they are not in use.

Try to refrain from opening the blinds too much during the summer season so that the air conditioning is effective. Computer monitors should also be preset to turn off when not in use for over 15 minutes. Idle computers and appliances kept on when not in use take up a lot of energy. 

Reduce office transportation

CarpoolWhen going for work try to search for car pool or use the public transportation rather than taking your own car carrying one person. It would be a great idea for employees to coordinate with their fellow workers to arrange a car pool. If your place of work is nearby then try walking or biking to work - you could gain a lot of health benefits in the bargain.

Offices could also provide some incentives for people who carpool or bike to office to encourage other to do the same. If the office is flexible enough, then it could provide telecommuting options of working from home once a week. The office could also consider increasing the working hours daily and make it a four-day week.

Reduce gross wastage of paper

RecycleA lot of paper is used carelessly in offices and this is one thing that needs to be seriously monitored. As per the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency, a single employee in a regular office setup generates roughly 1 1/2 pounds of paper waste on a daily basis! There are a lot of ways in which offices can cut down the use of paper such as not making hard copies unnecessarily and reading a soft copy on the computer instead of a print out; making sure that both sides of the paper have been used when printing or photocopying. The paper that is bought for office work should be recycled and eco-friendly.

Switch to non-toxic cleaning products for the office

Green CleaningMore than 6 billion pounds of chemical-laden products are used to clean office premises annually. It is estimated that 25 percent of these products are extremely toxic and could also affect the janitor who is engaged in cleaning the office. Not only this, these chemicals are responsible for lowering the quality of air in the offices.

The best way to tackle this would be to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products.

Switch to green energy sources for heating and cooling

ThermostatAn article in the TIME magazine states that powering, cooling and heating an office are three functions that are responsible for 40% of the CO2 emissions in the States and they are also responsible for consuming more than 70% of the total amount of energy used in the US.

A few simple things like adjusting the thermostat by a degree or two could reduce your electricity bill by around 10%. You could go in for automatic setback thermostats in order to adjust the temperature when the office is not in operation - like the late evening or during the weekends. You could opt for air economizers that make use of the air outside in order to provide indoor cooling to the buildings. Solar shading would also provide protection to the office in reducing the amount of heat that enters the building because of the sun. You could also do simple things to conserve the warmth of coolness by making use of blinds. 

About the author: Rubela is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she is fond of gadgets. Recently an article on electricity generation attracted her attention. These days she is busy in writing an article on designer table lamps.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

How to choose solar lighting

Posted by SEPCO

2/9/12 9:30 AM

Solar LightsBefore this, we have a discussion about how to decide whether or not you need solar. This time I want to tell you some about how to choose solar lighting. It’s both for home owner and public illumination. Installing solar lighting can pose many challenges to the homeowner. In addition to the basic cost of the lights themselves, the lighting levels and reliability can vary from manufacturer.

Solar lights are an increasingly popular alternative for both home lighting and public lighting. They are affordably priced, simple and safe to install yourself, can be relocated easily, and, of course, you also save on electrical costs.

Until recently, most solar lights emitted only a dim light and were not all that reliable. This has changed, as super-bright LEDs have replaced more conventional filament bulbs. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) create light without generating the waste heat of normal bulbs, so they are very bright, yet require far less electricity to operate. The result is a dependable, long-term "bulb" that will usually shine for the life of the product. And now, most solar lighting are using LED lighting bulb their lighting resources.

Other recent advances in solar lighting technology include the development of more efficient, affordably-priced photovoltaic cells, improved circuitry, and more efficient batteries. These new solar lights are able to perform year-round—even through the cold, short days of winter—with little variation in performance.

When shopping for solar lights, it's important to match the light to the function you want it to perform. There are three primary categories of solar lights for use in the landscape: accent, path, and task lights (spotlights).

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Topics: Solar Lighting

Solar Cameras and Lighting for Grid Free Security

Posted by SEPCO

2/7/12 9:30 AM

Solar Powered CameraStand-alone solar is a perfect solution for providing power to wireless security surveillance systems.  Current technology has allowed surveillance systems to be installed in remote or hard to reach locations.  Previously, the security cameras would need to be hardwired into a monitoring station in order to provide real time surveillance of the areas.  Now, the cameras can be outfitted with wireless technology in order to transmit the surveillance signals to the monitoring station.  This can be accomplished through direct radio transmission to the monitoring station or through a wireless mesh system.  Often times, the electrical grid is either unavailable or cost-prohibitive in such locations.  This provides the ideal opportunity to utilize stand-alone solar power.

The stand-alone solar electric power assemblies provide power to the cameras and wireless devices without the need of the electrical grid.  Solar panels charge batteries during the day and provide power to the cameras and wireless devices.   These functions are all regulated by a charge/load controller that ensures proper charging of the batteries as well as load management.  The solar power assemblies normally produce either 12VDC or 24VDC, which most of the cameras and wireless equipment require.  An array of inverters and converters are also available to produce a variety of both DC and AC voltages.  The solar power assemblies can be mounted high on poles to limit vandalism and other security issues.

Solar Camera WiFiStand-alone solar powered lighting is an ideal partner for wireless security surveillance systems.  If the security cameras are not outfitted with night vision technology, they will need an artificial light source during the night in order to provide a clear picture.  Stand-alone solar powered lighting uses the same technology described above to provide light from LED, compact fluorescent, sodium vapor, or a variety of other sources.  This light is provided without the need for the electrical grid, making for a truly integrated stand-alone security surveillance system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Green Ideas, Solar Power

Prevent Disasters with Clean Energy Policies

Posted by SEPCO

2/2/12 9:30 AM

solar and windWhat We Know:

  • Ahead of his time, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. In a speech on his proposed energy policy in 1977, Carter was remarkably prescient: “Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption…and to use permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power, we will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment.” He added: “The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge that our country will face during our lifetime.”
  • For the last few years, US Representative Rush Holt, a physicist from NJ, has been warning that energy derived from coal, oil, and nuclear power is unsustainable, and a growing health and safety threat. Worse than accidents, Rep. Holt cautions that Iran and others are using the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Safe, far-sighted energy policies Rep. Holt advocates include a cap on greenhouse gas emissions; a substantial investment in clean energies; tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, fuel cell, and other sustainable energy technologies; and a Renewable Portfolio Standard to ensure 20 percent of US electricity is produced by renewable sources best suited to each locale’s climate and resources by 2027.
  • Following the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station in Japan in March, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and nuclear watchdog, reported on the safety of nuclear power plants in the United States in 2010. The Union reported 14 significant events or near-misses at nuclear reactors in 12 states last year! Many of the near-misses “could easily have been avoided,” the Union wrote, if reactor owners had corrected violations identified by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) months, if not years, ago. The Union holds both the NRC and reactor owners responsible for lingering safety and security issues that may be “accidents waiting to happen.”
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is among 45 groups and individuals nationwide to petition the NRC “to suspend all licensing and other activities at 21 proposed nuclear reactor projects in 15 states until NRC completes a thorough post-Fukushima reactor examination comparable to that after the serious, though less severe, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.” Petitioners have also asked NRC to supplement its investigation with another from an independent commission.
  • In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel shut down seven of her country’s oldest nuclear reactors and decided to accelerate Germany’s conversion toward clean, renewable energy sources. Italy had already begun to phase out nuclear power after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and closed its last reactor in 1990. The Italian government’s plan to reverse that decision was rejected by more than 94 percent of Italian voters this past June. Rather than resume the use of nuclear power, Italy is expected to expand its renewable energies such as hydropower, wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal technologies.
  • Presently, Switzerland is also phasing out nuclear power. According to Wikipedia, Austria was the first country to begin a phase-out in 1978, followed by Sweden in 1980, Italy in 1987, Belgium in 1999, and Germany in 2000. Austria and Spain have actually enacted laws which prohibit the construction of new nuclear power plants. As of June 2011, countries completely opposed to nuclear energy include Australia, Greece, IsraelNew Zealand, and Norway.
  • Some proponents of coal, oil, and nuclear energy suggest it’s impossible to meet the needs of a growing economy without compromising national security or devastating our environment. Yet Norway’s Utsira Island has been living off the grid for two years. One of the world’s first communities to achieve energy self-sufficiency, Utsira uses a combination of wind power and hydrogen fuel not only to produce renewable energy, but to store enough excess to export to the mainland.
  • “We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren,” Carter urged. It’s not too late to create a safer world and a thriving economy through the development of clean energy policies. As in Italy, it may be up to voters to take the lead. As we phase out coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power, and convert to clean energies, voters must hold NRC accountable for the strict enforcement of more comprehensive regulations than those we rely on today. Last year, the President’s Cancer Panel, which includes appointees of George W. Bush, warned that our apathetic approach to regulation is already having far-reaching consequences for our health—and particularly the health of our children.

Which Republican or Democratic candidate in your area is offering the most comprehensive, far-reaching clean energy policy?

Recommended Media

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/fuel/

http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/safety/ucs-nuclear-safety-recommendations.html

http://www.hfcletter.com/issues/XIX_8/stories/169-1.html

http://www.psr.org/news-events/press-releases/psr-calls-for-improved-safety-at-nuclear-reactor-sites.html

by Aggie Perilli, President of Aggie Perilli Communications International, www.aggieperilli.com
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Topics: Guest Post, Renewable Energy

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