Monday, February 8, 2010

Easy Ways to Conserve Water and Save Money

How many times a day do you give thanks for the clean, potable water that comes flowing out of your faucet? Although we may take it for granted, the fact is that less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use, and over 884 million people in the world lack access to safe water supplies.

This is approximately one in eight people. (Now do you feel lucky?)
Many people are worried about global warming, and the climate change crisis that is occuring all over the globe. However, experts are predicting that soon the number of people without access to clean drinking water will climb past 1 billion. This water crisis will have repercussions all over the globe as different cultures scramble to secure lifegiving water for consumption and agricultural uses.

It's important that we all do our part to make the best use of the resources we have, which means finding ways to reuse water and reduce our daily consumption.

Here are some easy, inexpensive ways that you can get started:

1. If it's broken...fix it!
It might seem like a no brainer, but leaking faucets and dripping shower heads are some of the biggest household water wasters. In fact, just a small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 75 litres of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of litres!!!

Don't forget that toilets can leak too, but it's harder to spot. Put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. Don't flush it, and if the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately.

Take a few minutes to check on all the faucets and toilets in the house, and if you notice a leak, break out your wrench, or call up a plumber.

2. Install aerators
We all take showers and baths to stay clean, and use the bathroom sink to brush our teeth and wash our faces. But have stopped to think about how much clean, drinkable water is rushing down the drain during these hygiene rituals? The average home shower blasts out about 25-35 litres of water per minute, which means even if you're only taking a ten minute shower, you've already waster 350 litres of water before breakfast! If you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth or shave, you could be sending 35 litres of water down the drain.

The good news is that both of these problems can be solved by installing an inexpensive device called an aerator or restrictor into your faucets and shower heads. Aerators work by mixing air into the water stream, which gives you a nice even pressure, even though you're using a fraction of the water.

3. DIY low-flow toilet
If you're shocked about the sheer volume of water you're wasting at the sink and in the shower, get ready to brace yourself. Toilets use about 30 percent of the total water used in a household, and if you're still using a conventional single flush toilet, you might be wasting up to 5 litres of water in one flush.

If you don't have the money (or desire) to replace your conventional toilet with a more efficient one, it's easy to convert your existing throne to a low-flow toilet all on your own.

Put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save 35 litres or more of water per day (from

4. Catch it if you can!
The average Indian uses about 135 litres of water per day, and you might find it hard to believe that a staggering 30 percent of that isn't even used for drinking, cooking or cleaning: it's used to water lawns and gardens, wash automobiles, maintain swimming pools, and cleaning sidewalks and driveways.

It's important to remember that while we can't necessarily drink the water that falls from the sky as rain (air pollution!) we can use it for these other, non-consumptive applications. In order to take advantage of this free, and often squandered source of water, you can install rain hrvesting systems on your roof or rain barrels around your home.

5. Be smart
Even if you can't manage to make any of these upgrades or additions to your home right away, there are plenty of behavioral changes that can be made to reduce your family's water footprint.
•Turn off the water when you're washing dishes by hand, brushing your teeth or shaving.
•Only run the clothes washer or the dishwasher when you've got a full load.
•Avoid baths and take shorter showers.
•Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants in your yard, and put down mulch wherever you can to help water from evaporating too quickly.
•If you must water your garden or lawns, be sure to place your sprinklers in such a way that no water will fall on sidewalks or driveways, and only water in the early morning or evening, when the weather is cooler.
•Use a broom, and not a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalks.
•Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
•Use the garbage disposal less and the garbage more (or better yet compost!) and you could save 200-500 litres a month.

- Anand Varadaraj
As Mark Twain said "Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Roll on 'em, babe !

Sainsbury "rolls out" Kinetic energy plates in their store to capture energy from moving vehicles. "Energy will be captured every time a vehicle drives over "kinetic road plates" in the car park and then channelled back into the store."

Now you can drive in to your store and still feel good about it.
Oh wait a min ! "....the energy generated by the devices is not totally "free". Rather, they capture a tiny amount from each car that passes over them, increasing each vehicle's fuel consumption by a tiny
amount." !!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better Place ~ Building build infrastructure for electric car

Better Place, a company working to build infrastructure for electric cars, has released a video showing how its technology for swapping spent car batteries works.

Swapping stations, the company said, would facilitate longer trips for battery-powered cars — say over 100 miles or so — by allowing drivers to roll up and swap out a spent battery for a freshly charged one. (For shorter distances – commuting for example – the cars can simply be recharged at home or at work.)

The video, taken from a demonstration on Wednesday in Yokohama, Japan, shows a white Nissan electric crossover sport-utility vehicle driving onto a ramp in a tidy, covered white station. Machines remove the battery from the bottom of the car and click in a replacement, amid whirring and clinking sounds.

The company says that the entire process takes 80 seconds, though that’s difficult to verify from the slickly cut video.

Better Place plans on beginning construction of more battery swap stations, which it calls “Switch Stations,” later this year — though unlike in the video, ramps will not be used in the future deployment of the swap machines, according to a Better Place representative.

One hundred of the stations — which cost around $500,000 apiece — will be rolled out in Israel by 2011, with additional stations slated for Denmark and later, Australia, California, Hawaii and Ontario.

Though it uses a sport-utility vehicle for the demonstration – not the greenest choice – the company said that it can recharge the batteries using solar panels, “creating a truly zero-emission solution,” according to an e-mailed comment from Sidney Goodman, a Better Place vice president.

“It will be as quick (if not quicker) than refueling a traditional gas-powered vehicle,” Mr. Goodman said, “but will be much cleaner and convenient, allowing consumers the opportunity to either get out of the vehicle during battery switch or remain inside the vehicle while the operation is completed.”

~ Anand Varadaraj

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wireless power for your laptop

Wireless power has been on the news ever since Tesla, but recently Intel hit a breakthrough. Intel claims advances in lighting wireless power in their developer forum - wirelessly powered 60-watt bulb

NYTimes gives background on Intel's improvement to the 'wireless resonant energy link' technology pioneered at MIT, where researchers achieved 50% efficiency of power transmitted several meters via magnetic fields. Intel reached 75% efficiency. Now they just have to make those coils a lot smaller.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What makes up the price of Gasoline?

Consider the game of chicken that plays out every day across Pennsylvania Highway 441. In Marietta, where the road hugs the Susquehanna River, a Rutter's Farm Store gas station stands on one side, a Sheetz gas station on the other.

Kelly Bosley, who manages Rutter's, doesn't even have to look across the highway to know when Sheetz changes its price for a gallon of gas. When Sheetz raises prices, her own pumps are busy. When Sheetz lowers prices, she has not a car in sight.

She calls Rutter's headquarters to report the competition's new price and wait for instructions.

"I call a lot of times and say, 'They went down, hurry up! Hurry up! Call me! Call me!' Or it could be where theirs goes up, and I'll say, 'Take your time! You know, I like being busy.' But I have no control over that."

You think you feel helpless at the pump?

Bosley makes a living selling gas -- and even she has little control over what it costs.

So how exactly are gas prices set? What determines the hair-pulling figure you see displayed in large electronic or plastic numbers? Why is a gallon of gas, say, $4.11 -- not $4.10 or $4.12? Why is the price different across the street?

It all starts with oil.

The biggest factor in the skyrocketing price of gasoline is the historic ascent of crude oil, which has surged from $45 per barrel in 2004 to more than $135 last week, setting new record highs all the while.

In the first quarter of this year, based on a retail price of gas that now seems like a steal -- $3.11 a gallon -- crude oil accounted for all but about a dollar, or 70 percent, of the cost, according to the federal government.

The rest is a complex mix of factors, from the cost of turning oil into gas to taxes to marketing costs to, sometimes, nothing more than the competitive whims of gas station owners.

Not that understanding the breakdown makes it any less cringe-inducing to fill 'er up.

Step by step

First a primer on how gas gets to your tank:

Once oil is pumped from the ground, it can be sold on the spot market, a last-minute trading arena where oil companies and distributors buy and sell to each other, or straight to refiners. After it's brewed into gasoline, the product can again be sold on the spot market, or directly to wholesalers, who in turn can supply their own stations or sell it to other retailers.

Each step of the way, buyers and sellers negotiate a price.

At the starting point of all this is the price of oil -- which, like the oil itself, is nothing if not crude.

The knee-jerk villains are the oil companies, fat with multibillion-dollar profits, frequent targets of populist anger. But wait: The oil companies don't set the price of oil or the cost of gas.

Prices are a function of the open market, the result of futures contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange and other exchanges around the world.

Buying the current July crude oil futures contract means you're buying oil that will be delivered by the end of July. But most investors who trade futures have no intention of ever accepting the underlying oil: Like stock investors who frequently buy and sell their holdings, they're simply betting prices will rise or fall.

Lately, oil futures have been rising.

Why? Blame the falling dollar. Oil is priced in U.S. dollars, and the weaker the dollar gets, the more attractive dollar-denominated oil contracts are to foreign investors.

The rush of buyers keeps pushing oil futures to a series of new records, and the rest of the energy complex, including gasoline futures, has followed. That pushes up the price of gas that goes into your tank.

"Crude is the driver," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Ill. "As long as it stays up there, gasoline's not going to be able to decline much at all, even if demand slips. That's just the way it is."

There is some evidence Americans are buying less gas as the price marches higher, and common sense suggests they would cut back even more if gas rose to $4.50 or $5 a gallon.

Lower demand should mean lower prices -- but it takes time for that to happen, given the enormous scale of refining operations that produce gasoline.

"Once demand begins to slow, that needs to translate into inventories, then you get some price weakening," Ritterbusch said. "But it takes a while."

Oil and gasoline prices often move in the same direction, but they aren't linked directly. In fact, while oil prices have more than doubled in the past year, gasoline is only up about 19 percent during the same time.

Oil prices often fluctuate with production decisions from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies about 40 percent of the world's crude, or when conflict in the Middle East or Nigeria threatens supplies.

As for gasoline prices: They're closely tied to demand from U.S. drivers and how efficiently refineries are operating. Falling production or inventories often send prices skyrocketing.

Those prices can vary greatly depending on the region.

The Gulf Coast is the source of about half the gasoline produced in the United States, and areas farthest from there tend to have higher prices because of the cost of shipping gas via pipeline and tanker truck all over the country.

Beyond oil

It's not only about the price of oil. Other costs are a factor -- though they've remained relatively stable.

For example, federal and state taxes added 40 cents to a gallon of gas in the first three months of this year, roughly the same amount as they added four years ago.

California's 63.9 cents of tax is the nation's highest, Alaska's 26.4 cents the lowest. (Iowa's is 40.1 cents; Illinois, 57.9; and Missouri, 36.0 cents per gallon.) How the money is used varies from state to state, though the federal take helps to build and maintain highways and bridges.

Marketing and distribution costs -- the tab for delivering gasoline from refiner to retailer -- were 27 cents to start the year, only 6 cents above the cost four years ago.

The cost of refining added 27 cents to a gallon in the first quarter of this year, a nickel less than what it added in 2004, according to the Energy Information Administration.

That refining occurs at sprawling industrial complexes across the United States, with most of the biggest along the Gulf Coast. Barrels of crude arrive each day by pipeline, ship and barge. The refineries, by heating, treating and blending the raw oil, turn out products like diesel and lubricating oil.

And, of course, gasoline.

Maintaining a balance

What happens when that gasoline makes its way to your neighborhood gas station?

Major oil companies own fewer than 5 percent of gas stations. Most are owned by small retailers -- and many of them say they're struggling these days to turn a profit on gas. That's because wholesale gasoline prices have risen sharply in recent months -- again, blame it on crude -- but station owners have been unable to raise pump prices fast enough to keep pace.

And you can't keep jacking up the price when drivers are buying less.

Gas station owners face a balancing act: They must try to maintain a price that allows them to afford the next shipment of gasoline but not give the competition an edge.

Stations pay tens of thousands of dollars for each gas shipment before they see a cent in the register. Eventually, many make only a few cents on a gallon of gasoline, a margin that can disappear altogether when credit card fees are added in.

Thank goodness for beef jerky and sodas.

Most gasoline retailers long ago got past any illusion they can make money selling gas. They rely on gas sales to drive traffic to their shops, where they hope auto repairs or food and drink sales will help them turn a profit.

"You're always out there competing with the guy next door -- literally with the guy across the street -- and worried too about how you're going to pay for your next supply," said Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's trade association.

In the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown, Pa., earlier in the week, Sunoco station operator Steve Kehler received a load of gasoline -- 9,000 gallons -- which, at a wholesale price of $3.729 a gallon, cost him 4 cents more than the previous load.

That left him in a sticky situation: Should he raise prices right away to recoup some of his higher gasoline expenses, or should he hold off for a couple of days in hopes his competitors also will have to raise their prices?

"I'm surrounded by $3.89's, and I'm already at $3.91," said Kehler, referring to his prices and those of some nearby competitors. "I'm going to play a little waiting game right now."

The $33,600 Kehler must pay for his overnight gasoline delivery won't be debited from his bank account for a few days. That gives him a little breathing room, time to hold prices steady. Hiking prices too quickly will hurt sales.

"I'll probably change it tomorrow night, at closing," Kehler said. "I'll go up 4 cents."

That will put Kehler at a gross margin of about 20 cents a gallon. After paying credit card fees, labor and rent, Kehler will be lucky to break even on his gasoline sales.

Of course, the plight of retailers is little consolation for drivers.

Mayra Perez said she works two jobs to help support her family, and gasoline is becoming harder to afford.

She was filling the tank of her car in Miami last week to the tune of $3.89 per gallon.

"This is horrible," she said. "On the weekend, my husband and I use only one car to save on gas.

"But then there's the cost of food, milk, eggs, the rent."

As William K. Whiteford quotes “Smell that! That's gasoline you smell in there. You can't buy any perfume in the world that smells as sweet.”

...Anand Varadaraja
By JOHN PORRETTO and JOHN WILEN - The Associated Press

Sunday, June 22, 2008

General Gyan

More & more stores are encouraged to use bags made of recyclable paper, cutting down on plastic bags. Customers are also encouraged to get their own bag.

  • Plastic bags cost about a paisa 50 each, paper costs about a Rs.2 and compostable bags can run as high as Rs.10 each.
  • The bags also must be segregated from regular plastic, making recycling efforts more difficult.


  • Paper bags generate 70 percent more air pollutants and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags, according to the Environmental Agencies.
  • This is because four times as much energy is required to produce paper bags and 85 times as much energy is needed to recycle them.
  • Paper takes up nine times as much space in landfills and doesn't break down there at a substantially faster rate than plastic does.

Public education campaigns about littering and recycling can help more than ineffective bans on products that are used every day by billions of people worldwide.

...Anand Varadaraja

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Concentrating solar power

Read an interesting article on Concentrated Solar Power & this technology has been overshadowed by photovoltaic solar energy.

A brief on Concentrating solar power
Concentrated sunlight has been used to perform useful tasks since the time of ancient China. A legend claims Archimedes used polished shields to concentrate sunlight on the invading Roman fleet and repel them from Syracuse. In 1866, Auguste Mouchout used a parabolic trough to produce steam for the first solar steam engine, and subsequent developments led to the use of concentrating solar-powered devices for irrigation, refrigeration and locomotion.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. The concentrated light is then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant. A wide range of concentrating technologies exist; the most developed are the solar trough, parabolic dish and solar power tower. These methods vary in the way they track the Sun and focus light. In all these systems a working fluid is heated by the concentrated sunlight, and is then used for power generation or energy storage.

The SEGS plants in California and Acciona's Nevada Solar One near Boulder City, Nevada are representatives of this technology.

A parabolic dish system consists of a stand-alone parabolic reflector that concentrates light onto a receiver positioned at the reflector's focal point. The reflector tracks the Sun along two axes. Parabolic dish systems give the highest efficiency among CSP technologies. The Big Dish in Canberra, Australia is an example of this technology.

A solar power tower uses an array of tracking reflectors (heliostats) to concentrate light on a central receiver atop a tower. Power towers are less advanced than trough systems but offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capability. The Solar Two in Daggett, California and the Planta Solar 10 in Sanlucar la Mayor, Spain are representatives of this technology.

Please click here to read more on this amazing technology

Ralph Nader quotes ~ “The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”

...Anand Varadaraja

Source:Wikipedia, Leonardo Energy