This article was originally published in the March/April 1995 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online March/April 1995
Newspapers and magazines are filled with articles about the information superhighway, its power, and how it can change our lives. Yet few people know how to access the highway or navigate once they get on it. Of the million new users the Internet is supposedly gaining each month, 950,000 of them can probably be described in Net lingo as DWC (driving without a clue). Of those who are connected, few have found useful information on saving energy in their home. But useful information on energy conservation and renewable energy can be found online.
For instance, accurate, honest, up-to-date assessments of product performance and application guidelines can be found on the Internet--valuable information to those involved in making homes and small commercial buildings more energy efficient. These days building technologies sometimes change faster than information about them can be printed. Some publications are outdated before they are widely circulated.
Now, however, anybody with a computer and modem can access the Internet 24 hours a day from an office in Seattle, a cabin in Aspen, or a hotel room in Brazil. They can access databases of training events and building products, participate in international discussions on scores of topics, download software files, take interactive college courses on energy topics, locate energy experts, review energy legislation and late-breaking news, and even get a new energy-related job.
If you feel some natural fear or mistrust of a global telecommunications system, you're not alone. Fear not. Just as computers have become easier to use over the past decade, electronic information resources are also becoming easier to use.
In a successful search on the Internet, one good source of information leads to another. A comment on a bulletin board discussion forum may lead you to a new File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Web site or someone doing relevant research. This is very useful, considering that the resources available on the Internet are constantly changing and increasing. A sense of humor and patience are thus invaluable tools.i
The following is a partial listing of some electronic energy information resources. Many more energy-related resources are available. Some specific details of the resources listed may change soon, but that should only improve their value.
How many of these resources you can reach depends on what type of entrance ramp you have onto the superhighway. Anyone with a computer and modem can access most of the bulletin boards listed, while the other resources require Internet access. Using a modem, you can get to some bulletin boards that include Internet resources. The Energy Ideas Clearinghouse, for example, allows you to gateway to many Internet resources. Some resources are accessible in more than one format. For example, Arcitron is a Web site, a gopher, an FTP site, and a listserv (see Internet Basics, p.46). Try not to stumble over foreign names and terminology. With just a bit of effort, you can search gopherspace with Veronica, use a hypertext reader to reach Web sites, and transfer files from FTP sites.
The bulletin board (BBS) began as a medium for people to post and read short announcements. While BBSs still offer these features, they have evolved into vast, interconnected libraries without walls, offering the opportunity to carry on long-distance discussions.
In most cases you should set your modem to: no parity, one stop bit, eight data bits, and echo off.
The Architects On-line Network--The BSA BBS
Who: The Boston Society of Architects.
What: Covers a wide range of architectural issues, including some renewable energy and environmental topics plus file libraries of demo software and symbols for computer aided design.
Connecting: By modem, dial (617)737-8102. You can request a free disk to take advantage of their graphical interface. This BBS is part of PlanNet, a national network of 15 architecturally-oriented BBSs with free gateways between them.
For more info: Call (617) 951-1433 ext. 221 or (508) 927-6796 (tech support).
Building Design Assistance Center (BDAC)
Who: The Florida Solar Energy Center.
What: Provides information about energy-efficient building methods, including listing of books, periodicals, reports, and articles; short reviews of articles on recent experiments conducted at the BDAC; and a product list of energy-efficient building materials.
Connecting: By modem, dial (407)730-2322.
For more info: Call (407)783-0300 ext. 195.
CEC Energy-Efficiency Division BBS
Who: California Energy Commission.
What: Contains the CEC's entire database of appliances in dbf format. This includes over 70,000 models of water heaters, ballasts, furnaces, and others. Each database lists dozens of characteristics for each model, including capacity and efficiency, and are updated twice monthly.
Connecting: By modem, dial (916)654-4069.
For more info: Call (916)654-4021.
Who: The Institute for Global Communications (IGC).
What: A very wide range of environmental and renewable energy information, especially in energy.effrefs, energy.forum, europe.energy, gain.energy, en.energy, and wind.energy conferences. The amount of environmental information here seems to be as much as you'll find anywhere.
Connecting: By modem, dial (415)322-0162. For telnet connections type <telnet igc.apc.org>. Econet charges $15 to sign up and a monthly subscription fee of $12.50. Connection time is also billed at $2-$5/hour--call for rate details.
For more info: Call (415)442-0220.
Energy Design On-line
Who: Energy Design Associates.
What: Offers comprehensive design assistance and ideas for implementing energy savings in commercial and residential projects. This includes a library with back issues of energy and environmental periodicals, a product information database, research abstracts, and software for downloading. It also includes a network system with e-mail, a calendar of upcoming events, energy-related newsgroups, and the opportunity to have energy questions answered by Ned Nisson, editor of Energy Design Update. First half hour is free, then subscription is $17 per month.
Connecting: By modem, dial (212)662-0388.
For more info: Call (212) 662-7428 or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC)
Who: U.S. Department of Energy.
What: Good source of renewable and residential energy efficiency information, including free DOE publications. Also has referrals sections for government and nonprofit organizations.
Connecting: By modem, dial (800)-273-2955.
For more info: Call (800) DOE-EREC.
Energy Ideas Clearinghouse (EICBBS)
Who: The Washington State Energy Office with funding from the Bonneville and Western Power Administrations, U.S. DOE, and USDA.
What: The EICBBS provides information services to utility representatives and other energy professionals. It includes a national training calendar; jobs and resume listing service; comprehensive database of programs and organizations; large files library which includes back issues of energy magazines and newsletters; scores of discussion forums on energy technologies, organizations, and building sectors, including relevant newsgroups imported from the Internet daily. It also provides Internet mail and gateways to many other information resources listed in this article such as Econet, EREC, ERMIS, CREST, Sunsite, and ECIX.
Connecting: From the Internet, telnet to <eicbbs.wseo.wa.gov>. By modem, dial (206) 586-6854; toll-free numbers are available in some locations; call for details. Download a RIP file to take advantage of the graphical interface.
For more info: Call (206)956-2237
Energy and Regulatory Matters (ERMIS)
Who: Michigan Public Service Commission with support from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and U.S. DOE.
What: Notes from the Commission's hearings, energy and environmental file libraries, discussion forums, many databases, press releases and legislative updates. Messages from 12 forums are exchanged with the Energy Ideas Clearinghouse daily.
Connecting: By modem, dial (517)882-0021 for 9600 baud or (517)882-1421 for 2400 baud service.
For more info: Call (517)334-6240.
Home Power Renewable Energy Communication System
Who: The Redwood Alliance and Redwood Environmental Education Institute.
What: The focus is on renewable energy and getting off the grid. All past issues of Home Power magazine are available along with photovoltaic, micro-hydro, wind and other files.
Connecting: By modem, dial (707)822-8640.
For more info: Call (707)822-7884.
Who: PlanNet Professional On-line Service
What: A rapidly-expanding collection of architectural information bulletin boards which are linked, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area, including City of San Francisco, Princeton Architectural Press, and some other government agencies. Call for fee details.
Connection: By modem, dial (415)332-9076.
For more info: Call (415)332-1457 or e-mail to <email@example.com>
Newsgroups are international discussion areas on the Internet. These can be accessed through your Internet server, or by using gopher to get read-only access from a university. Some bulletin boards also import newsgroups (including the Energy Ideas Clearinghouse, ASME, EcoNet, and Energy Design Online).
Some newsgroups are moderated by a person who reviews items before adding them to the group. The bulk of newsgroups, however, are unmoderated and allow direct posting, resulting in a higher volume of postings and wider variety of conversations.
Before posting in a newsgroup, first read some messages without posting any (an activity known as lurking in Internet lingo) to get a feel for what's appropriate for the particular group. Another way to learn about a newsgroup is to read the FAQs (frequently asked questions). These are compiled with answers to questions and posted on the newsgroup at regular intervals (once a month is common) and stored on certain computers. The following newsgroups cover a broad range of energy-related topics:
Discussions of architectural trends and practices outside of the mainstream, such as rammed/stabilized earth construction and building energy efficiency. About ten posts per day. Unmoderated.
Discussions of perspectives and options in research, development, and use of information-technology, telecommunication and automation for the private home. Very active group with over 50 postings/day. This group is moderated by Kresten Bjerg of the Psychological Laboratory, University of Copenhagen. The moderator can be reached via e-mail to <home_request @vax.psl.ku.dk>.
All aspects of the science and art of lighting methods and solutions for safe, productive, and enjoyable use of the constructed environment, and in theater and film and related fields. This group tends to focus more on academics and research than practical applications. About ten posts per day. Unmoderated.
Discussions of current technology and applications of wind, solar, biomass and other forms of renewable energy. Low volume group with about seven posts/day. Unmoderated.
Listservs (also called mailing lists), like newsgroups, are another electronic discussion forum. Some newsgroups start out as listservs and become newsgroups as their popularity grows. Some listservs are also carried as a newsgroup. Instead of having to use a special news-reading program, the messages from a listserv come right to your computer as e-mail. And instead of sending e-mail to an individual, you send it to the listserver; a computer which distributes your message to other subscribers.
For example, to subscribe to the Alternative Energy list described below, send an e-mail message Subscribe AE <your firstname> <your lastname> to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with no subject. The listserver will notify you that your subscription is valid and provide other introductory information. Thereafter, e-mail from anyone who sends a message to that listserver will be routed to you and your posts will be routed to all other subscribers. As with newsgroups, you should just lurk at first.
To send messages to a listserv you must be careful of the address you use. Don't use the same address used when subscribing. Form a new address by using the name of the list followed by the part of the address following the @ used when subscribing, such as <email@example.com>.
Alternative Energy (AE)
What: Discussions of the current state-of-the-art and future directions of alternative energy sources that are renewable and sustainable. This listserv list has about 500 subscribers and features from 10 to 30 posts per day.
List Name: AE.
For more info e-mail: Clyde R. Visser at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
What: Architectural information; see listing under web sites.
List Name: Arcitron
For more info e-mail: <email@example.com> or call (216) 672-2789.
Biosphere and Ecology
What: The BIOSPH-L list covers general environmental issues, including sustainable lifestyles, renewable energy, and low-impact consumption.
List Name: biosph-l.
For more info e-mail: Dave Phillips at <V184GAVW@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu>.
What: Discussions of energy-efficient building design, construction, and retrofit. This includes all aspects of building energy use, including building envelope, heating, cooling, ventilation, and more. To subscribe, just send message saying subscribe.
List Name: Buildings.
For more info e-mail: Ned Nisson at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
What: The Lighting list is an unmoderated discussion forum on the topics of lighting, mostly pretty academic. It gets about 1 or 2 posts per day and has 150 subscribers.
List Name: lighting.
For more info e-mail: Jonathan Hardis at <email@example.com>.
Many computers on the Internet have files that the public can access. FTP (file transfer protocol), is used to access them. FTP sites should only be accessed after hours (6 pm-6 am). Searching through directories in FTP involves common DOS commands.
Connecting: At the system prompt, type <ftp> followed by the address of the site. After connecting, the computer will ask for a user ID or name. Enter <anonymous> at this prompt. The computer then asks for a password. Type your full Internet e-mail address at this prompt.
Changing directories: After logging on, typing <dir> will list all the files and subdirectories contained in the current directory.
Typing <cd> followed by a space and the name of a directory will change to that directory. The pub or public directory is where many systems keep files the public can access.
Typing <cdup> will move you up one directory in the directory hierarchy.
Transferring files: All computer files are coded in numbers. With some files, called ASCII text files, the code used for the file can be interpreted by almost any computer program. Other files, known as binary files, have special codes that can only be read by a specific software program. ASCII text files usually have a file extension that ends with .txt or .doc. Binary files, which can be graphics, executable programs, compressed, or other types, may have the following extensions: .pic, .gif, .wpg, .wmf, .com, .exe, .zip, .arc, and .zoo. The file type determines which transfer mode to use for retrieving files. If the file is compressed, you need another program to decompress it (which is beyond the scope of this article).
Typing <ascii> puts the system in ASCII text transfer mode. Most systems are configured to go into ASCII transfer mode upon connecting.
Typing <bin> sets the transfer mode to binary.
To transfer a file to your computer, type <get> followed by a space and the name of a file causes the file to be transferred.
To transfer more than one file at a time, type <mget> followed by a space and then the names of the files, each separated by a space.
Some computers run a program which automatically searches FTP sites all around the world for the files they contain. You can make use of this by running a local Archie client, by telnetting to an Archie server, or through e-mail queries. (Look at a good book on the Internet for more information).
Energy and Climate Information Exchange (ECIX) Files
Who: Sponsored by the Institute for Global Communications (IGC).
What: This site consists of files on a variety of energy and climate-related topics including an archive of issues of several electronic journals. These files may be sent to you through FTP or you can send e-mail requests and they will be mailed to you. Unfortunately, this site has not been updated in the past year.
Connecting: Type <FTP 126.96.36.199>, log in, move to the /pub/ECIX directory or the /pub/ECIXfiles directory. To have the files mailed to you send an e-mail request to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
For more info e-mail: <email@example.com>.
Sunsite (University of North Carolina)
Who: Operated by the Office of Information Technology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
What: UNC maintains an excellent collection of alternative energy fact sheets, newsletters, and other documents. Alternative Energy FAQ is stored in the Alternative.Energy.FAQ subdirectory of the directory listed below, and the Energy Efficiency Software FAQ is stored in the faqs subdirectory.
Connecting: Type < ftp sunsite.unc.edu > log in, and move to the /pub/academic/environment/alternative-energy.
For more info e-mail: Lawrence London at <london@sunSITE.unc.edu>.
Gophers are menu systems that allow access to information from various organizations. Unlike FTP sites where you have to know where you want to go, you can wander through gopherspace from one menu to another until you find something of interest. You can also use Veronica to help you. Universities, government agencies, and private companies organize these menus with choices that connect to information resources relevant to that organization.
Veronica is like Archie but is used with Gopher. In most gophers, you'll find Veronica by selecting Other gopher and information services at the main menu and then select Searching through gopherspace using Veronica. There's also a program similar to Veronica called Jughead.
Accessing a gopher menu is commonly as follows: Ask your system administrator if your network has a gopher on it and how to start it. Often typing <gopher> at the system prompt will connect you to the first menu of your network's gopher. If you have gopher access, type <gopher> and then the address. Gophers can also be accessed by telnetting to different public gopher sites. At the system prompt, type <telnet> followed by a space and then one of the following:
Use <gopher> as the log-in name.
Finally, software can be installed on your computer (if you have a SLIP/PPP connection) that will allow access to different gophers (see Internet Basics, p.46).
The following is a partial list of energy-related gophers. Note that some of the resources listed under Web sites are also accessible as gophers.
EPA Futures Group Gopher
Who: The U.S. EPA Future Studies Group within the Office of Strategic Planning and Environmental Data.
What: Information on population, critical technologies, energy, agriculture, industry/commerce, and environmental justice/ security/ habitat issues. To connect to energy related graphics from the main menu select: <12. Sector-based issues/> and then: <2. Energy graphics/>
Connecting: Gopher address: <futures.wic.epa.gov>.
For more info e-mail: <Manning.Micheal@EPAmail.EPA.gov>.
Who: The Division of Recoverable and Disposable Resources (DRDR) at the University of Virginia.
What: EcoGopher contains a very large collection of environment-related documents. A keyword search (the most effective way to browse this resource) on renewable, for example, yielded 266 entries, including many documents from the Energy and Climate Information Exchange, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the BIOSPH-L listserv.
Connecting: Gopher address <ecosys.drdr.virginia.edu>.
For more info e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
WORLD WIDE WEB SITES
The World Wide Web (WWW) is another system for organizing information resources on the Internet. Unlike gophers, which organize resources by menu systems, WWW bases its organization on a system known as hypertext. With hypertext, all information is arranged in documents. Instead of finding a main menu when you connect to a WWW site, you find a document called a home page. The home page contains links to other documents that are reached by selecting keywords. Keywords are distinguished by highlighting, coloring, or by a number in square brackets following them. Keywords are selected using arrow keys, a mouse, or typing a number. Up and down arrow keys move the cursor through all the keywords in the document. The right arrow key selects a new document and the left arrow key goes back one document. With a mouse, just click on the highlighted word.
You can be connected to a site in France reading about a study done in Hawaii. Select a keyword and suddenly you'll find yourself connected to the University in Hawaii that did the study. You don't need to know where that is or how you got there--a great time savings considering how long and complicated Internet addresses are.
Most commercial services that offer Internet access run a program called Lynx on their system. Lynx provides a nice interface that includes help and a status bar on the bottom of the page. To start Lynx, type <Lynx>. To open WWW sites from Lynx, type <g> for go, and then the name of the Web site. For example, typing <g ornl.esd.gov> from Lynx will connect you to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Type <h> for help while in Lynx. Lynx operates only on UNIX and VMS operating systems. There are other browsers or client programs available for use with Windows and Macintosh operating systems. For Windows users, there is Cello, WinWeb, Netscape, and Mosaic; for Macintosh there is Mosaic for Macintosh, Netscape and MacWeb.
URLs - Uniform Resource Locators
URLs function in much the same way as filenames do. Full filenames, including the drive and directory, specify a unique location on a computer's hard drive. URLs specify the unique location of a resource on the Internet. To use a URL, first telnet to a WWW site. Once connected, type <g> (g for go) followed by a space and then the URL. URLs can also be used with Cello, Mosaic, and the other Web browser programs, but the exact commands differ from program to program.
Arcitron (Electronic Journal of Architecture)
Who: Kent State University School of Architecture and Environmental Design
What: A comprehensive referenced journal covering architecture. Subscribers are sent notices of new articles with tables of contents. Users can download finished articles which may include still images, video, sound, and editorial comments. Timely book reviews and news notes are also available. This resource is also available as a gopher and an FTP site.
Connecting: <http://www.kent.edu/>. To subscribe, send e-mail to <email@example.com;; list name is Arcitron. To connect to using FTP or gopher, call for details.
For more info e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (216) 672-2789.
Center for the Dissemination of Demonstrated Energy Technologies (CADDET)
Who: Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
What: A database of international projects demonstrating applications of new energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Querying this database with the word home resulted in a listing of 30 projects.
For more info e-mail: <email@example.com>.
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
Who: Electric Power Research Institute.
What: Database with, as of December 1994, 428 products, 12,847 publications, 27,569 projects, and 217 experts. Of these, the number relating to home is 11, 40+, 40+, and 1 respectively. Also hypertext links to a wide range of federal energy research offices and laboratories. In general, only summary and abstract information is available to non-EPRI members, however non-member access has been steadily improving. This web site is also available as a bulletin board called EpriNet, which provides more comprehensive access and more full text; call for details.
For more info e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (800)964-8000.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN)
Who: The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technical Assistance, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
What: EREN serves as a central repository for information relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as starting point for locating pertinent information at other sites. EREN features links to the following:
Energy-efficient and renewable energy information resources are organized alphabetically, by subject, type of organization, and type of information resource. EREN is an excellent guide to locating energy information on the
Internet. It includes databases, bulletin boards, documents, gophers, FTP sites, WWW servers, resource maps, newsgroups and listservs. Home Energy magazine can also be accessed via EREN (see below). Other electronic information sources including NEIL, the New Energy Information Locator, and pointers to other sites, are also available.
For more info e-mail: <email@example.com>.
Home Energy Magazine
Who: Home Energy, the magazine of residential energy conservation.
What: Articles from the last two years of Home Energy (with more issues to follow.)
For more info e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Energy Science and Technology Database (EDB)
Who: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI).
What: A subset of the full OSTI database covering energy efficiency and renewable energy. Broken down by a dozen subject headings, all types of renewable energy except one for conservation, which currently has 26 abstracts related to home.
For more information e-mail: <email@example.com>.
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Who: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's Center for Building Sciences, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.
What: Access is provided to LBL's gopher, library catalog, and publications list, as well as databases and documents full of hypertext links to other documents or information systems from the Energy and Environment Division.
Connecting: <http://www.lbl.gov/LBL.html> or <http://eande.lbl.gov/Building_Science.html/>. For those without standard Web access, type <telnet www.lbl.gov> and use <www> for the login. Just hit enter when it asks for a password.
For more info e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
LSEO-PB WWW Server
Who: The Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory (LSEO-PB) in Switzerland.
What: LSEO-PB conducts research on natural lighting, building energy systems, building rehabilitation, computer aided building design, ventilation, passive cooling, and photovolataics.
For more info e-mail: R. Campagnon at <email@example.com>
New Energy Information Locator (NEIL)
Who: The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
What: NEIL is a database of electronic information resources on renewable energy and energy efficiency. It identifies databases, renewable energy bulletin boards, and information on diskettes such as directories, listservs, product lists, and service lists.
Connecting: <http://www.nrel.gov>. This same information can be accessed through a gopher at info.nrel.gov>.
For more info e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Who: The Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST).
What: Solstice features links to solar industry product databases, the Rocky Mountain Institute, efficient transportation options, a list of listservs, wind and biomass information, and directories of organizations that provide information on energy efficiency.
Connecting: Type <http://solstice.crest.org/>. This resource is also accessible by FTP. <solstice.crest.org> and gopher <crest.org>
For more info e-mail: <email@example.com>
A recent addition to the collection of on-line resources for energy professionals is on-line training and education. By making energy-related education and training available over the computer, professionals from all around the world have access to courses without having to travel anywhere. Such courses offer flexibility, so they are more easily fit into a busy schedule. On-line courses also offer the opportunity for interaction with professionals from many parts of the country and around the world.
Regional Energy Management Program (REMPRO)
Who: The Regional Energy Management Program (REMPRO) at Edmonds Community College.
What: Energy-related college courses for college credit or audit. Currently courses are offered on demand-side management program evaluation, energy economics, energy codes, renewable energy, commercial auditing, lighting, utility management, and Internet skills.
Connecting: See instructions for connecting to the EICBBS under Bulletin Boards.
For more info: Call (800)959-0051 or (206)355-2745, or e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.--Robert A. Penney
Robert A. Penny is the lead engineer with the Ideas Clearinghouse,
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