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New and Notable

May 01, 2008
May/June 2008
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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The USB Ecostrip

Though we may turn off our lights, and lower our thermostats, the most energy-conscious of us are still inadvertently leaving our computers, DVD players, and other electronic devices on standby mode, even when they are switched off. This wasted standby power, also known as phantom load, is sucking energy unnecessarily from the electricity grid. Here at the Home Energy offices, we are encouraged to flip the big red switch (BRS) on our power strips after turning off our desktops in order to staunch the flow of unneeded electricity. This is an action that requires some of us to bend over, some to climb under our desks, and some to remember to do it in the first place. It is easy to know that a light is on in a room, but the (sleeping) scanner or printer? There are motion control devices that know you have left the room and turn off the lights for you. What if your power strip knew it wasn’t needed?

One power strip, made by Belkin and called the Conserve Surge Protector, has a remote-control hand-held (also wall-mountable) giant light switch device that lets you turn off the whole strip, or certain outlets within the strip (in case your alarm clock is plugged into it). Another device, the USB Ecostrip, made by Beamingsun, is designed for the PC and its peripherals—scanner, printer, lamp, speakers, and so on. Released in Europe in 2005 and now available in the United States for about $30, the Ecostrip is getting  lots of praise from people who like to do good, with and without knowing about it. With a payback time of about three years, it is a surge protector, but it also eliminates phantom load by turning off your computer’s peripherals when you shut down your computer (which it can sense via a USB cable), (see Figure 1). (While some may prefer to reach for the BRS  themselves, thus eliminating  the need for yet another plastic gizmo, the Ecostrip’s popularity and convenience may set the scene for all power strips of the future to have this function built in.

For more information the USB Ecostrip, go to www.Beamingsun.com. To learn more about the Conserve Surge Protector, go to www.belkin.com.


Sunshine Energy Solar Array in Rothenbach Park

Celebrating the largest solar-power system in Florida, with 1,200 solar panels, producing 250 kW of electricity, Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) continues to solidify the state’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With an area equivalent to half of a football field, the 1,200-panel array, on land provided by Sarasota County, is the first solar installation that is a result of customer participation in FPL’s Sunshine Energy program. Customers who opt in, tack on an additional $9.75 to their monthly utility bill, and the proceeds ensure that FPL, the largest green power program in the Southeast, will continue to dedicate its efforts to promote the use of clean, renewable energy.

The solar panel array will prevent 680,000 lb of CO2  from entering the air each year. That is equivalent to not driving nearly 761,000 miles annually. And the 250 kW of electricity produced by the array is enough to power about 45 average homes.

For more information, go to www.fpl.com/residential/electric/sunshine_energy.shtml.


Climate Registry: Oregon Businesses Show How It’s Done

Incorporated in March 2007 in Washington, D.C., the Climate Registry is a nonprofit organization established to measure and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions of participating states, tribes, and businesses in a common, accurate, and transparent manner consistent across industry sectors and borders. Thirty nine U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, three Native American tribes, two Mexican states, and the District of Columbia are the founders of the organization, and Gina McCarthy is chair. Among the first 54 businesses to join as Founding Reporters are two Oregon businesses familiar to Home Energy readers.

Earth Advantage, Incorporated, works with builders, developers, and industry partners as a primary resource for green building and climate solutions through education, training, consulting, and third-party building certifications.  Ecos Consulting works with clients to reduce energy use, manage carbon emissions, and make operations more environmentally sustainable. Many more of Home Energy’s readers and contributors will be joining this timely and important organized tracking and reporting system for making our homes more sustainable and efficient.

For more information, go to www.theclimateregistry.orgwww.earthadvantage.com; and www.ecosconsulting.com.


EPA’s “Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s An Easy Call”

Cell phones (of which there are more than 1.2 billion in use worldwide) are made from precious metals and copper (read mining), and plastics. The mining of metals, the manufacturing of cell phones, and their disposal is resource and energy dependent. With our increasing attachment to cell phones,  as well as to personal digital assistants (PDAs), comes our obsession with replacing them every time a new feature, color, or cheaper rate plan appears. What to do with the old ones (and their proprietary accessories)? There are thousands of different ways to donate, sell back, and recycle a used cellphone. But according to EPA, only 20% of consumers recycle them, in part because they don’t know how and where to do so. So EPA has mounted a campaign called Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s An Easy Call, in partnership with several cell phone companies and Plug-In to ReCycling (a partnership between EPA and electronics manufacturers). The campaign encourages consumers to do the less harmful thing with their old phones. Through printed advertising, public service announcements, and podcasts, EPA presents facts about the environmental, social, and economic benefits of recycling electronic waste—mostly telephones—with an emphasis on just how easy it is.

The cell phone companies involved include  AT&T, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung. They offer mail-in programs as well as drop-off boxes in their stores. All of them will take your batteries, devices, and accessories, regardless of the maker, and some companies even offer a buyback program.

According to EPA, 100 million cell phones in the United States are ready for recycling. If they were all disposed of properly, EPA argues, enough energy would be saved to power 194,000 U.S. households for one year.

To download the public service announcements go to www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/plugin/cellphone. To download podcasts, go to  www.epa.gov/passiton/cellphone/newspods.htm.

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