12/18/14 9:30 AM
12/16/14 9:30 AM
It’s that time of year again; time to start your Christmas shopping if you haven’t already finished it. When you begin your shopping try to keep in mind how you can help your friends and family be green and still give them gifts they will love. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays but Christmas shopping on the other hands is my least favorite. I always worry rather my gifts will be right or if the receivers will like them and how eco-friendly my gifts are.
An easy start to Christmas shopping is to shop online. This prevents using gas for transportation and not to mention less stress from the Christmas craziness at all the stores. If you would rather go to the stores and brave the chaos try your best to buy all your gifts in 1 shot if possible. Here are some quick ideas for gifts you can give this holiday season. Hopefully these will be crowd pleasers and everyone will be able to enjoy the thought of helping the earth in every way possible.
For the home there are actually fairly simple ideas you can use. If you look at any farmer’s market or in even one of those center kiosks in the mall you will probably be able to find and echo friendly candle. Candles made with soy or beeswax are always an easy find and many now have cotton wicks which release less toxins than normal candle wicks. Along with candles there are many options out there for reclaimed items. You can find many items online or if you are crafty and give yourself a little extra time Pinterest is always a good place to get inspiration. Bamboo items are easy to find and can range from spoons, cutting boards to a nice bamboo plant in a glass pot that can be reused later. Don’t forget about that person with the green thumb in your life, they are actually fairly simple to buy eco-friendly gifts for. A real gardener will do just about anything to keep the blooms coming, even in the off-season. Satisfy their obsession with a gorgeous wooden crate filled with ready-to-pop bulbs or a simple all in one grow kit. A great site to check out with tons of options is Bambeco.
For the fashionista’s in your life there are a ton of options out there. Jewelry is always a hit and you can find pretty much anything from a necklace to a watch. Everyone loves clothes and a great place to find fashions that everyone is sure to love is ModCloth. Kids can actually be one of the easier people to shop for and clothes is always a great gift to give them, plus as parents that means one less toy to add to the collection. All natural and organic health and beauty products are agreat option as well. Some people can be hard to shop for when it comes to clothes so the tried and true gift is always a gift card.
Now that we have all our gifts in order what should we do when we present the gifts to the receiver? A way to stay green with these gifts it to put them in a nice reusable bag but if you want to wrap try to find recycled gift wrap. Try to avoid glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper because it can be difficult to recycle and can’t be used for much afterword because of the metal contained to make it. A favorite thing of mine to do for grandparents it use all my kids artwork that comes home and turn it into wrapping paper, less waste that way and a great way to share your child’s work. Homemade cards are always nice and add a more personal touch to your gifts. Use last year’s calendar by using the great pictures and sticking them together to create a beautiful collage. Last try to use tape sparingly or not at all if possible. You can do use a pretty ribbon or even a little dab of glue instead.
Celebrating a green Christmas isn't about going without; it's about being thoughtful and considerate of not creating waste at a time of celebration. Most importantly remember the season is not all about the gifts and glam but more about sharing time with our friends and family. If we all do our part little by little we can keep the earth a greener place so we have many more holidays to spend with them.
From all of us here at SEPCO may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
12/11/14 9:30 AM
Signs provide advertising and information to travelers day and night; however, if they are not properly lit at night, miss visual impact by someone driving by. There are many ways to light up a sign at night, including the use of solar when electric is not readily available. Here are some great tips and information for different types of sign lights from big to small.
Large billboard lights require quite a bit of lighting to see easily at night. Billboards are typically used for advertising along highways of local businesses and can generate great traffic for these businesses from travelers. Making sure they are properly illuminated during the night time allows for your message not to be missed. A typical billboard needs around one bright fixture every 10 feet to allow for proper illumination levels and to make sure none of the message gets left in the dark. These can easily be solar powered as the solar panels can be mounted on top of the billboard to charge the batteries during the day and then power the lights at night. Best of all, there is almost never any shading concerns on a billboard. Since billboards are typically installed in the middle of nowhere and have no ability to install typical electrical grid lines, solar is a great option for these large signs.
Large monument signs for communities, offices, businesses, etc. can also require multiple fixtures to properly illuminate the sign. These styles of sign lighting systems have fixtures mounted near to the ground angled upwards towards the sign face. These signs can be located along the side of a roadway or in a median. You can either decide to light up just the logo and information on the sign, or the entire sign along with surrounding landscaping. Solar can easily adapt to these signs as well since there is not always power located where the sign is installed, especially in a median, and the trenching involved with bringing in standard electrical power is costly and tears up the surrounding areas.
Small signs typically use a single flood fixture and require much less lighting than larger signs. These too have ground mounted lighting; however, the light fixtures can also be mounted from the top of the sign. These too can easily be powered by solar power systems and typically require small solar power systems. For extra impact, additional fixtures can be used to light up the surrounding landscape to really light up the sign area.
The final topic to discuss is internally illuminated signs. These are typically either on a building face or stand alone along a roadway. Internally illuminated signs mostly used long fluorescent tube lights; however, there is a huge transition to LED strips to new signs as well as upgrades to older sign boxes. There are many options available with LED lights that can be installed within a sign box and can be as comparable to sizing in regards to the required lighting as a standard flood system to requiring much more power than an externally illuminated sign.
Speak with your sign company when deciding what type of sign you are having designed and the options available when it comes to lighting. Knowing the lighting requirements before the final sign is built will help you determine the best type of lighting and to get the most for your money. Most sign companies work with lighting companies directly and can help you determine what the best course of action is. If you are requiring a solar solution due to a lack of traditional power where the sign will be installed, contact your solar lighting designer to create the perfect solar sign lighting solution for your sign.
Purchasing a solar lighting system for any application can be a daunting task. There are so many options and decisions to make that you can easily get lost in the specifications. There are three simple steps you can take to ensure that you at least have good results with your system, no matter what the application.
Use LED fixtures that provide a high Lumen per Watt output. This information can be found on any specification sheet, and if it is not right there, ask for it. A high wattage LED fixture does not mean that it provides bright lighting; it all depends on the Lumens provided from the LEDs. Knowing the available Lumens per Watt for the LEDs can help you determine which fixture would provide the required light. Want to know more about the difference between Watts and Lumens, check out Wattage vs Lumens: Know the Difference for Better Lighting.
Make sure your solar power system provides enough power during the day and provides plenty of backup storage. Solar lighting systems should always be designed for worst case scenario since if you use more than you put in, the system will begin to fail. Sizing your system with summer or even yearly average sun will not ensure that your system will operate when the days are short and nights are long. Make sure your system always provides around 20% over for power generation and you have a minimum of five nights autonomy for those times of inclement weather. This will guarantee your system operates even when the weather is bad for days at a time.
Make sure to follow installation instructions carefully and provide shade free south facing site for installation. Reading the installation manual before starting the installation will allow you to decide if you have everything necessary and alert you to any special needs of your system. There can also be labels on the system itself pointing you as to what is needed. Finally, ensuring the system faces directly south and has no shade on the solar panel all day will make sure that the solar lighting system can stand up to the test of time. If there are trees nearby, make sure they are trimmed well.
Following these three simple steps will guarantee that your solar lighting system will provide the best result possible.
Bus stops and shelters are used along any bus transit system. These areas provide information to travelers along the route to make sure they get where they need to go at the times they need to get there. Daytime travelers do not have to worry about visibility; however, at night, lighting is required to ensure the bus driver spots them and they can see the information on the routes. This is where solar lighting can easily come in to play.
Most bus stops and bus shelters are located in an area that grid power is not easily accessible without tearing up the nearby area to bring wires out to the location. Solar makes the lighting at night possible since the solar is either roof or top of pole mounted. The power is generated wherever it is needed without the destruction of surrounding areas.
Solar bus stop light systems consist of a pole mounted solar power system that provides power to a fixture, sometimes integrated within the battery assembly, and can provide lighting all night, via a motion or push button activation, or on only when the transit system is in operation. These systems are completely integrated together and can be installed in just about any sunny location along a route.
Solar bus shelter light systems can integrate easily into an existing bus shelter or be specified with a new installation along a route. The panels can mount on the roof of the shelter structure or be pole mounted nearby. The LEDs are integrated within a battery assembly and mount under the roof of the structure to provide lighting within the structure.
Advertising bus shelters can also use the solar to light the ad boxes that are sometimes on these shelter structures. The solar can power the entire lighting requirements of the bus shelter. These typically use LED strips along the edges of the ad box and are fed by the same battery pack as the overhead light fixture within the bus shelter. These systems require additional solar power and battery; however, allow for the advertising message not to be lost at night by travelers and others just passing by.
Not only do these systems save money due to lower installation costs, they save on monthly electric bills. Since the systems provide the power by the sun, there is no need for standard electric and to pay the utility company for the lighting. With the rise of utility power costs, this can turn into a huge savings in the long run. Definitely a win-win.
12/2/14 9:30 AM
There are many different types of flag light systems. Proper flag lighting etiquette states that you should light the flag all night long if you do not want to take it down at night. There are many types of flag light systems you can find online and offline, from $30 systems that operate only with a single charge and only last part of the night, to large industrial custom built solar flag light systems that will last days even if there is little sun due to weather conditions.
The small solar lighting systems you can purchase off large online stores and in big box stores typically provide about 8-10 hours of light for your flag if the solar is able to fully charge the batteries during the day. If you have an overcast day, or do not set it up just right, the light will not operate all night, leaving your flag in the dark. Make sure to read the complete specifications and installation on what you are purchasing if you want to ensure that your flag will stay illuminated all night long.
The smaller solar lighting systems will also require a battery replacement every year or two; depending the depth of discharge allowed for the battery used. Make sure the replacement batteries are easy to purchase and replace will allow your system to be able to reused year after year. If the batteries are not able to be replaced, this will end up costing more as you will need to replace the entire system when the batteries no longer hold a charge.
Custom built solar flag lighting systems provide all night lighting and provide much better backup for times of inclement weather. These types of systems come with a minimum of five nights storage and enough solar power to charge the battery in almost any weather conditions. They take into account the length of your night, the available sun in your area, and the amount of light required for your specific size flag to ensure good coverage.
These systems can still be quite small, depending on the type of fixture used and the sizing required for your geographical location. Fixtures range from small 3 Watt LED fixtures to much larger 25 Watt LED or more for larger flags. The fixtures can either be ground mounted or mounted high on the flag pole, depending again on the needs of the project. They can also be installed on a roof that is near the flag.
No matter what type of system you chose, make sure it will operate reliably and how you want it to. Don’t overlook the specifications and make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully to ensure your system operates as designed.
11/27/14 9:30 AM
11/25/14 9:30 AM
Electrical Products & Solutions recently featured SEPCO in their November issue of their Purchase Guide for Electrical Contractors. This feature went over some of our most prominent projects and explained information in regards to the benefits and savings that is provided by commercial solar lighting systems.
Want to read the article? Check it out on EPSMag’s November Digital Issue.
Topics: SEPCO News & Information
11/20/14 9:30 AM
It’s that time of year again. The smell of turkey cooking, green bean and sweet potato casserole and of course grandma’s pumpkin pie, but while we are thinking of what we are thankful for don’t forget about Mother Nature. After all, without her we would not be able to enjoy the food on our plate. It may be a little too late to completely rethink your entire plan for Thanksgiving, but there is still time to make a few adjustments to keep your Thanksgiving green and maybe even start some new family traditions to pass on to our future generation.
I have already bought my turkey, farm raised locally, and some of the other essentials for my traditional dinner, but I usually try to buy my vegetables and fruits as close as possible to my meal. There are few ways you can help the local economy and environment with very little effort. Let’s start before we even walk out the door. Grab your reusable bags of any kind to carry your haul home. Any kind of bag you have around will do even those old grocery bags you saved from your last trip to the store. I am guilty of always forgetting my cloth reusable bags when I go to the store so I do regretfully have a stock pile of plastic grocery store bags, since most of us already have them repurpose them. Reusing any extra bag you have lying around is greener than buying a new one, not to mention even easier on the wallet.
Where I live there are green markets that happen every Sunday or food co-ops, so it is easy to go pick up those last minute items that will be fresh and perfect for my Thursday meal. Most of the time not only is the food fresher, but it does not come with unnecessary packaging or chemicals and is usually cheaper. It is easy to grab a few containers along with your bags and put any loose items in them instead of the plastic produce bag. I can buy my lettuce without the plastic package and make sure I have all fresh leaves this way. Many times the farmers will have things like tomatoes, green beans, and blueberries in baskets that are already weighed out. Since it is going to be a big dinner buying in bulk should not be a problem and any extra you may have can be put in the freezer to use at a later time.
An obvious way to go green is to use regular plates and silverware versus the plastic utensils or Styrofoam plates that most of the time are not recyclable and can actually be harmful to the environment. If you don’t have enough of the same matching plates and silverware you could use the regular stuff for the kids table that way you don’t have to worry about the fancy stuff and kids usually don’t judge how pretty their plate looks. Use cloth napkins and repurpose those mason jars as flower vases or beeswax candle holders. Get creative and make some personal decorations. You can create your own potpourri by simply using cinnamon sticks and dried berries. My kids love making crafts and the family loves seeing what their works of art; my personal favorite is the traced hand turkey.
Over indulging is easy to do and something I am guilty of at every holiday meal, but food waste is one thing that can easily be avoided. Instead of stacking as much on your plate as possible start with small portions, it is easy to make a second trip and you are also less likely to consume as many calories. Try to make platters smaller so there is less leftover and not as much temptation to eat so much. I tend to drink water instead of soda as much as possible but it is easy to put more water in my glass then I consume. Any easy way to avoid water waste is to let guest refill their glass as needed and don’t worry about refilling when the glass is half full, or if there ends up being extra use it to water your plants.
Since we are putting smaller portions on our plate it is very likely we will end up with leftovers so try asking your guest to bring to-go containers and that way it doesn’t all end up in your fridge and thrown away because you can’t eat it all before it spoils. Being prepared with to-go containers will make you less likely to use saran wrap, Ziplocs, or a paper plate to send food home. If your family is anything like mine we always have a ton of desserts that we could not eat if we tried. A solution to this may be to plan accordingly so there are not as many made or give it to a neighbor, take it to work or even throw a dessert party for your kids’ friends.
Last comes the dreaded clean up. There are easy steps to take to reduce waste when cleaning up. First uses rags instead of paper towels and sponges and then hang them to dry after use. Turn the water off between wiping down counters and adding dish soap. In my home I try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products which are pretty easy to find and use much less harmful chemicals. Your guest can even get in on the action by properly disposing their waste into different containers that are marked recyclable or trash. Compost the food scraps like vegetable peels and eggshells which can be turned into garden soils. If composting is not an option check out different ways to use the remains for new meals like using vegetable scraps and the turkey carcass to make stock or soups by boiling them down. Leftover break crust or rolls can be used to make croutons for salads later in the week.
We would like everyone to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and try to keep in mind what we are thankful for and what is the most important, our family, friends and the earth we live on. Let’s all do our part to make sure that they are all preserved for years to come by doing all we can to keep it green.
Happy Thanksgiving from your SEPCO Family.
11/18/14 9:30 AM
Commercial street lighting provides light along streets for driver safety, but the costs of installing, maintaining and monthly electrical bills can add up. There are steps you can take to reduce the costs and save money in the long run. Here are a few ideas, and feel free to share yours below in the comments.
Illuminating the streets uniformly provide the best lighting levels for security purposes. Spotty lighting does not allow for the safety that is needed on roadways and is basically wasting light and power. Provide even illumination and eliminate dark areas makes sure you are using every bit of energy to its maximum potential.
Switch to LED fixtures
LED lights provide better illumination while reducing operation costs and reducing maintenance. LED fixtures are more costly for initial purchase, but compared to HID, LPS and HPS fixtures, they can reduce the power consumption by a third or more and only need replacement once every 10 to 25 years. Best of all, LEDs use most of the power they draw for lighting purposes, unlike older style lamps that only use a small percentage of the power to provide light, the rest produces heat.
Provide maximum lighting when needed
Instead of running a 150 Watt LED fixture at full intensity all night, most streets can reduce the wattage of the fixture by lowering the fixture on the pole and only provide the lighting necessary for the application. There are few applications where high powered lights are required such as on a highway or major intersection. Also, reducing the fixture by utilizing dimming features with LEDs when there is practically no traffic, lowers the power usage for off peak times.
Install commercial solar street light systems
Using commercial solar street light systems in areas where there is no grid power nearby allows for the ability to provide the same safety and security in rural areas. These areas can sometimes be more dangerous than urban areas since there is more wildlife that can wander out in the middle of the road and without proper lighting, can cause fatal accidents. Mixing solar power with LED fixtures, maintenance will be minimal and there will be no electrical costs or worries for underground wiring to destroy the roads in these areas.
What other steps do you think would improve the efficiency and help save money when it comes to street lighting?