Home Water Heaters can Reduce Electricity Production

the suburbs

Across North America homes have massive tanks of hot water regardless of the outside temperature or other concerns. The energy cost to heat all this water is immense and not only can we reduce this cost we can use the water itself to power homes. The basic idea is to convert the temperature change in water into energy and vice versa to have the water tanks function has batteries. The coolest thing about this idea is that it’s not even a new one.

Here’s how it works. The heat pump water heater is like a refrigerator running in reverse. Instead of taking heat out of the unit (cooling) and dumping it into the nearby room air, the heat pump water heater dumps heat from the air around it into the water. This is vastly more efficient than heating water in the old way, with a high-wattage electric coil.

There is actually a little-known tradition, going back to the late 1930s, of electric companies managing water heaters to avoid short-squeezes on the grid during times of peak consumption. Because water can be kept hot so long, consumers don’t even notice. Originally this was done with timers, later via radio signals, and today through the cloud. And, thanks to smart meters that track energy use by the minute, demand-shifts can be very precisely targeted and valued. Water heaters, reborn as big thermal batteries, are an excellent means by which lots of clean power can be strategically banked for later use. Hundreds of thousands of water heaters have already been quietly hooked up this way. This is just the tip of the potential iceberg.

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Manage the Summer Heat in Your Home Without AC

Global warming is making our cities hotter than ever before, which has led many to turn on the air conditioning. The irony is that to keep us cool we turn on machines which consume a lot of energy, and if that energy comes from a non-renewable state then the local cooling ultimately adds to global warming. Fortunately, there are simple low-cost ways to keep you cool in the summer heat while you’re indoors. Over at Popular Science they’ve put together a handy guide.

A lot of warmth comes into your home via sunlight. In individual rooms, you should control these rays with blackout curtains or shades. If you still want sunlight, open the curtains on windows that don’t face the sun directly; this allows indirect sunlight to filter in.

The color of the curtains’ outward-facing side also matters. We see color because that particular wavelength of light bounces off an object. Because heat radiates as infrared light, “hot” colors like red, orange, and yellow will deflect the most warmth.

Of course, not everyone enjoys living like a vampire. If you need more direct light, consider solar screens and window tints instead of curtains. These treatments can remove certain wavelengths of radiation while letting others in.

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Keystone XL is Dead, For Reals This Time

Standing Rock #DAPL
Protesting works!

The absolutely foolish plan to make a massive pipeline to transport a heavily subsidized non-renewable energy source is dead. It is really dead. We’ve heard before that the project is over, only for it to come back to life. Obama and Trudeau both worked hard to ensure that future generations would have to suffer the ecological damage done by the project, yet in the end it was volunteer activists who won.

The pipeline was meant to open nearly a decade ago, and thanks to the efforts of so many groups it never will. The opposition to the project started small and now it’s a movement that is hoping to block other illogical gifts to the oil industry.

Keep protesting, never give up!

It’s easy to forget now how unlikely the Keystone fight really was. Indigenous activists and Midwest ranchers along the pipeline route kicked off the opposition. When it went national, 10 years ago this summer, with mass arrests outside the White House, pundits scoffed. More than 90 percent of Capitol Hill “insiders” polled by The National Journal said the company would get its permit.

But the more than 1,200 people who were arrested in that protest helped galvanize a nationwide — even worldwide — movement that placed President Barack Obama under unrelenting pressure. Within a few months he’d paused the approval process, and in 2015 he killed the pipeline, deciding that it didn’t meet his climate test.

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I See Your Red Roof and I Want to Paint it White

the suburbs

On solution to avoid catastrophic climate change is as easy as painting buildings. It’s known that white pain has benefits for cooling cities and on individual buildings it can reduce the use of air conditioning. This has led to a wider adoption of white paint on buildings, and more research into making a more reflective white paint. Prof Xiulin Ruan at Purdue University in the US alongside a team of researchers has created the most reflective white paint ever!

The new paint was revealed in a report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Three factors are responsible for the paint’s cooling performance. First, barium sulphate was used as the pigment which, unlike conventional titanium dioxide pigment, does not absorb UV light. Second, a high concentration of pigment was used – 60%.

Third, the pigment particles were of varied size. The amount of light scattered by a particle depends on its size, so using a range scatters more of the light spectrum from the sun. Ruan’s lab had assessed more than 100 different materials and tested about 50 formulations for each of the most promising. Their previous whitest paint used calcium carbonate – chalk – and reflected 95.5% sunlight.

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Solar Panels are Undervalued by Traditional Markets

Solar Panel School

Solar panels are getting more efficient and the cost to produce them are decreasing by the day, already solar is cheaper than coal. Yet, due to previous policies and outdated economic models the real value of solar is underappreciated. While people wake up to the reality around the economics of solar the rest of us can call attention to the non-economic benefits of switching to sustainable power generation. Things like grid resiliency, if every home has solar panels then blackouts will become a thing of the past.

“Anyone who puts up solar is being a great citizen for their neighbors and for their local utility,” Pearce said, noting that when someone puts up grid-tied solar panels, they are essentially investing in the grid itself. “Customers with solar distributed generation are making it so utility companies don’t have to make as many infrastructure investments, while at the same time solar shaves down peak demands when electricity is the most expensive.”

Pearce and Koami Soulemane Hayibo, graduate student in the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab, found that grid-tied PV-owning utility customers are undercompensated in most of the U.S., as the “value of solar” eclipses both the net metering and two-tiered rates that utilities pay for solar electricity. Their results are published online now and will be printed in the March issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

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