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How do Modern Building Designs Promote Energy Efficiency?

While architecture for many years was solely related to the appearance of a building, there have been many changes in recent years. Given the level of environmental awareness that we are all now expected to have, modern architecture is reflective of this. Today’s new buildings are greener and more energy efficient than ever before. We looked at how modern designs promote this new outlook, and what the long-term impacts and results will be.  Location Location No, there isn’t a glut of buildings under construction in a particular part of the world because it has more exposure to sunlight or wind. However, the location of buildings in terms of how they are constructed plays a central role in determining energy efficiency, especially when it comes to relying on solar power. A building that faces the south, for example, can expect to enjoy more natural light than it otherwise would. These buildings can therefore benefit more from solar harnessing, should they engage in it, or a massively reduced energy bill as they wouldn’t rely on artificial light during the day. Material Gains The range of materials used in the construction industry is perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to promoting energy efficiency in new builds. In recent years, products such as ETFE, texlon, and other tensiles have become widely used as designers look to create the most environmentally friendly constructions possible. The benefits that can be enjoyed from such materials is enormous. As well as the environmental positives that lead to a huge reduction in energy usage and costs, they are also great for bringing down the actual construction costs, too. The low weight of most of these also means that the use of metals such as steel and iron has been reduced dramatically, which is another positive step. The Bigger Picture Modern building trends are moving towards completely sustainable constructions, rather than those that may have a solar roof that can heat 50% of a buildings’ water, for example. Today, initiatives such as carbon capture are high on the agenda of designers and scientists, so that any emissions buildings do create can be re-used positively. The growing use of on-site waste and water recycling practices are also combining to make buildings more efficient than ever before, with owners happy to become accountable for their carbon footprint and act accordingly to reduce this. In today’s environmentally conscious world, energy efficiency is regarded as a minimum expectation, and any aesthetic or other benefits that extend from this are seen as a welcome addition. How something looks isn’t the beginning and the end of the debate anymore, which can only be a...

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How to Use a “Kill A Watt” Energy Meter
Dec05

How to Use a “Kill A Watt” Energy Meter

Want to test your household appliances to see how efficient they really are?  A Kill A Watt Energy Meter allows you to safely and accurately measure the power consumption of household appliances. You can check the amps, volts, and even see the cumulative consumption of your appliances by kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is the measurement your utility company uses on your bill.   This tool exposes those dreaded vampire loads around your house.  A vampire load is an appliance that uses energy even when they’re “turned off.”  Some of the main energy-sucking culprits in your home could be the microwave, PC, coffee maker, or television. You could have a number of these vampire loads running 24/7, costing you hundreds of dollars every year.  Anything with a digital clock is a suspect, so let’s learn how to test an appliance! This little gadget will make it easy to determine what’s costing you the most. You can set the Kill A Watt Energy Meter to measure the cost of running an appliance by adjusting this energy meter to a rate(s) that’s comparable to what your utility company charges per kWh. The Kill A Watt Energy Meter is particularly helpful for estimating the amount of energy used by appliances that cycle.  I decided to plug our refrigerator into the Kill A Watt to see just how much energy it draws.   Step 1. Plug it in To get started, plug your appliance directly into the Kill A Watt and then plug your Kill A Watt into the AC wall outlet.  Currently drawing 118.8 Volts Now you can reference the Kill A Watt’s LCD display to see the voltage (Volts) and current (Amps).  In addition to volts and amps, it’ll show you Watts (which is volts x amps), and frequency in Hz.   Over time, the Kill A Watt will rack up kilowatt-hours.  To get an idea of how much it costs to run my fridge, I have the rate set at $0.25 per kWh.   I’m presupposing that that I pay my utility company a quarter for every kilowatt-hour I use.   Step 2. Check the Clock You might want to take a note of the time you plugged it in, even though it will tally the hours that it’s connected.   Come back in a day, a week, or whenever.   Step 3. Write it Down Once the Kill A Watt has been plugged in for a while, you can read the sum of the energy your appliance consumed in kilowatt-hours. After reading the LCD display for the cumulative kWh, you can use this information to calculate the average amount of energy used by the...

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New World Record Efficiency for Solar Cells
Oct15

New World Record Efficiency for Solar Cells

Thanks to researchers at EPFL`s Institute of Microengineering in Neuchatel, Switzerland, a new world record efficiency of 21.4% has been set for solar cells. This feat was done with HIT solar cells (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer), and is by far the highest conversion efficiency ever achieved with the substrates that were used. Image credit: EPFL PV-lab These types of solar cells basically combine the best of monocrystalline and amorphous silicon. The team has applied a tiny film of amorphous silicon, not more than one hundredth of a micron thick, onto traditional monocrystalline wafers. This increases the effectiveness of the sensors, which ultimately boosts electrical output. The research was recently presented by professor Cristoph Ballif, director of the Photovoltaics Laboratory (PV-lab), at the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany. The theory behind solar cells based on heterojunction technology has been around for quite some time now. The main work of the Swiss research team has been to optimize the interface between the different silicon types. They have come up with a process that uses p-doped silicon, which is the most common and cheapest type of crystalline silicon. By adding an ultrathin layer of amorphous silicon, the conversion efficiency of monocrystalline silicon has been pushed from 18-19% alone, to 21.4% with the hybrid solar cell. The process has been validated Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany. The research paper is set to be published by the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics. Although the technology is still years away from being ready for the market, the innovation marks an important leap forward in the solar industry. Meyer Burger, one of the companies involved in the development of the process, has begun the work of commercialization machines that are capable of assemble the heterojunction sensors. “Within three to five years, we expect to reach a production cost of $100 per square meter of sensors” estimates Stefaan De Wolf, one of the researchers at PV-lab. I`m curious to see if this innovation is just as exciting a couple of years down the line, and if it will actually help bring the cost of solar panels down.   _________________ Guest Post by Mathias Aarre Maehlum.  Mathias is doing a Masters in Energy and Environmental Engineering. In his spare time he writes about solar power and other sources of renewable energy at his blog Energy...

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Living Green on a Budget for the Socially Conscious Consumer
Jul12

Living Green on a Budget for the Socially Conscious Consumer

There are plenty of ways to become more energy efficient while pinching your pennies.  Going green is more than green consumerism; it’s a mentality, a lifestyle, a discipline.  Though the environmental impact of our lifestyles may appear to be lost in abstraction, there are real-life changes we can make to reorient our mindsets and actions to help our planet.   The easiest technique to begin this journey is to create new, environmentally-conscious habits.  According to the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, it takes an average of 66 days to normalize a repeated behavior, forming a new habit.  Make it a goal to turn off the lights every time you exit a room.  See if you can do this for two months- it’ll stick.   It’s far too easy to move around your place, flipping on the lights and wasting energy.    Limit your driving by coming up with alternative modes of transportation.  Next time you’re headed somewhere in town, make it an activity.  Cruise on a bike or walk to your destination.  If you live in an urban area, make use of public transportation.  If you do need to drive, plan to knock out several errands at once, making your trips more gas efficient.  Do you live by your coworkers?  Get in the carpool lane and avoid traffic.   Consume local produce, which requires less fossil fuels used to transport the food.  Consider growing a garden, using kitchen and yard waste as organic compost.  Furthermore, you might want to think about reducing your consumption of meat, particularly beef.  Cattle rearing releases an obscene amount of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere (for more information, see this article).Pay your bills online and request direct deposit to save trees.   Landscape, or “naturescape,” your yard with plants that are native to your region.  Indigenous plants require little maintenance and support biodiversity.  Traditional landscaping uses exotic plants that are often invasive species, which muddle up the natural balance as they dominate their environment.  Ditch the fancy landscape and harmful fertilizer.  Credits to Alex Koutzoukis, Landscape Architect Hit up local thrift stores for clothes, furniture, and household items.  Yard sales are another eco-friendly alternative to the shopping mall.  And when you’re washing your clothes, use cold water and hang them on a clothesline to dry. Reuse old products.  In the move towards green consumerism, there are plenty of companies that push the idea of green products.  Eco-friendly cleaning products and energy efficient appliances are fantastic.  Green household items, on the otherhand, are wonderful if you actually needto purchase new items.  Instead of buying a brand new product that’s made from recycled materials,...

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energy efficiency is the ticket to success

According to a recent report released by McKinsey & Company, a consulting company energy efficiency can save the U.S. 0 billion by the year 2020. Also the report states our country can reach half our target towards lowering carbon emissions through energy efficiency. The report called, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy” stresses not only the environmental benefits but highlights the economic benefits investing in energy efficiency. Even though energy efficiency is one of our largest sources of energy, it has been ignored in public policy, why? Today many new products are being released to decrease energy usage in homes and businesses. For example LED Light Bulbs are becoming more affordable and are a great way to create “negawatts” in our energy supply. How do you invest in energy...

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