Popp! Goes The Past

fresnel lens Popp, she said, it just made Popp! and the light bulb was gone. (Thus are the ways of my domestic assignments.)

The bulb was gone, and with it, a good piece of history: it was one of the last remaining good old incandescent light bulbs. Oh, how I hate to see them go! The modern, “energy savingfluorescent lamps have a very questionable overall ecologic value (given they are full of electronics, toxic substances and some heavy metals). They tend to give a greenish light rather than a comfortable warm one, and take minutes to reach the full brightness.

At this point, nothing and nobody stops me from stockpiling huge amounts of incandescent light bulbs in all wattages, shapes, clear or matt, with bayonet socket (UK) or a regular E14 or E27, … The world of light bulbs is my oyster!

Or, is it? I cannot really ignore the argument of 60 watts (incandescent) compared to 12 (fluorescent). Not now, when folks meet in Copenhagen, agree to cut CO2 emissions, and probably plan to build a couple new nuclear power stations to fill the gap with “clean” energy.

I don’t need to tell you where the madness lies in this, but in terms of replacement light bulbs, I am defeated. At least, I notice that they do get better in terms of start-up performance and colour temperature.

Bye Bye, Thomas Alva Edison!


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Efficiently Inefficient

appleTree I rented a Toyota Prius once again. I like the Prius. It looks OK (to me, although the design is often considered boring), and it drives real nice. The car feels safe, reliable, and well-designed. It has a lot of torque, oh, and yes, it has this marvellous hybrid engine. The “synergy drive”, as Toyota calls it, employs an energy-efficient combustion engine in combination with an electric engine, a regular tank of fuel, and a pack of heavy-duty batteries.

When the car rolls downhill or breaks, or simply runs on petrol, the batteries charge. When the car rolls gently along, it can run on electric power, or use both power sources together. Clever, huh?

Toyota is proud to display a fuel consumption graph in the car, showing 70 miles per gallon (4 litres per 100 km) are in reach when cruising a flat highway at constant speed.

These cars are a huge success, and sell in huge numbers. They aren’t cheap, but you get to save the planet whilst driving. How’s that?

I tell you how that is. It is a brilliant marketing ploy, but it doesn’t save the planet, and it’s not very fuel efficient to begin with.

I run my rental Prius over 330 miles in total (530km). It uses a rubber tank of 6..12 gallon capacity (subject to ambient temperature); the common assumption is 9 gallons in the moderate weather conditions that we experienced. So, it run on an average of 330 miles / 9 gallon = 37 miles per gallon, or (for the continental Europeans) 7.6 litre per 100 km.

My ten-year old Vauxhall Astra does the same, or even slightly better, on a straight and not very optimised V8 combustion engine. Latest figures are 39 miles per gallon (7.25 litre per 100km) in mixed-mode driving. I can get it down to under 6 litre with ease on a steady motorway cruise (47 mpg).

Just goes to remind me that one ought to think twice about every advertisement slogan and marketing hype, and when done, think it twice over again.

So, my next car is not going to be a Prius. I hope hydrogen technology matures, and hydrogen availability increases over the next few years, though. Unless Tesla Motors come up with a nice and affordable family car of course, in which case I shall re-consider. Too bad Tesla will probably go bust before they can do that.

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It Was Only a Matter Of Time

grumpyGirlDrummer It was only a matter of time until another blogging break was coming along. Think of it as the last gathering of energy before the Christmas finale.

I expect regular blogging to recommence on November 24th. Until then, take care of yourselves and enjoy all the nice pictures and recipes here.

The Voice of Reason


(Belated due to the H4P1 pause and other issues…)

He failed to apply his trademark style of offending lack of diplomacy and seemingly careless choice of words this time, but once again, his is the voice of reason. A long last, someone speaks up against Patio Heaters.

Ken says "We need to call a halt towards this trend for wasting energy in this way. I hope garden centres and other retail outlets will reconsider the promotion of these patio heaters." (BBC report here)

These things always seemed outrageously insane to me, blowing heat from gas burners into the great outdoors while enjoying a drink in the reflected warmth and discussing concerns about global warming.

My mother told me that the Kaffeehaus Fridericus (no homepage?) in my home town of Neustadt had found a very German, pragmatic and environment friendly solution to the problem of outdoor seating during the chilly season: They provided each outdoors seat with a fleece blanket, so you could curl up, wrap warm, enjoy an overpriced Latte and discuss concerns about global warming with a clear conscience.

Having just returned from the equally environment-aware Stockholm, I can report blankets on chairs there, too (although we also spotted patio heaters).

Very good!

Lights Out!

E27 Light Bulb

I assume you turned your lights off last night and read by candlelight for at least one hour last night? (some photos are here)

I did, and I think it’s a good idea: We will save some energy (always a plus), but most of all, will all be reminded that power doesn’t simply come out of a socket in the wall.  Always better than just a plus.

So. Don’t wait for your major’s next publicity stunt. Just turn all your lights off for one hour, one day in each week. Every week.

Come on!

The Buzz

Nature is fairly economical with energy. Large birds, for example, sail over long distances with minimal energy investment. Other animals shut down or throttle non-essential functions, or simply do nothing most of the time in order to minimising the amount of food and water needed to keep the system going.

Humans have evolved way beyond the point of reason, so much that we actually need to exercise to burn off the excess calories.

I don’t think excess calories are on a fly’s mind, though.

Why the heck can a normal fly not just sit still on the window and admire the sight? Why do they have to buzz around all the time like mad? Given that they don’t feed that way (I presume they mostly feed on horse manure and the content of my compost bowl), what’s the point of that constant buzzing around?

British Water

KettleAlmost any public warm water tap in Britain is accompanied by a sign saying Caution! Hot Water!

Some even read Very Hot Water, and provide even more serious warnings related to the water temperature.

The famous hot water taps in Heathrow airport must have scaled the hands of countless travellers. Can anyone tell me the logic behind maintaining a hot water supply at ludicrous temperature levels? I can see the anti-bacterial effect, but if it requires serious health warnings and causes scalding in turn, plus of course an enormous waste of energy, then I am not so sure.

Is there any reason, of is it just an insane cultural habit?

The Daylight Savings Trap

Navajo_country I cannot imagine that the daylight savings scheme saves any energy whatsoever, although I believe that this was the plan. Maybe I am wrong. If any of you know, please share your knowledge.

I do know, however, that the daylight savings scheme boosts economy:

Every year for some while after switching to summer time, I need to discipline myself and watch the time. With the natural "Gosh it’s dark already. Time to stop working" gone, I need to set an alarm for a couple of days until I got used to the different daylight pattern.

Energy Savings My A*

Some tell me to gradually replace traditional light bulbs with those Energy Saving ones. Apparently, this will save the planet.

First, the smallest of these is as big as a regular sized traditional bulb, and most models are still the size of a balloon.
Second, even the cheap ones still cost a great deal more than "proper ones."
Third, they are nowhere near as bright as a real bulb even within the acclaimed wattage equivalent.
Forth, they make a green-ish light, even the more recent models with less green spectrum. 
Fifth, they aren’t instant on.
Sixth, they don’t support half of what proper bulbs do (dimming, colouring, electronic switching).
Seventh, they cannot be disposed through the household rubbish (glass shatters and needs depressurizing, fluorescent coating is poisonous).
Eighth, significant more energy is required to make them than traditional bulbs.
Ninth, these bulbs contain electronics with all the usual concerns about recycling, or the lack of recycling methods, for these.

Sounds like a pretty rubbish solution to me – except for the makers of energy savings light bulbs.

I  was tempted and bought a new one recently. Contemplating all the above I am in favour of considerate use of the light switch, combined with a good old 60W or 100W bulb. I imagine the net result on the environment should not be worse.

Anyone ready to convince me otherwise?

Testosterone ‘R’ Us

Atv Yahoo News reports falling testosterone levels among (North) American males.

Upon recent personal inspection, this appears to be incorrect. The number of moustache-wearing rolled-up sleeves American males wasting time and energy with all terrain vehicles (ATV), moto-cross bikes, or other noisy means of propulsion across land or water isn’t matched by any other country I have been to before. Add the insanely-sized tricks and pick-ups, coach-sized camper-vans (RV), the fact that every second car in Utah tows a boat on a trailer, or many other subtle hints, and I am sure you will join me in concluding that this fall of testosterone levels isn’t concerning at all.

It might just be the first step towards normality.

The Wrong Walls

Damn it, my house has the wrong walls! Honestly, it does.

In January, the New Scientist wrote about Windsave Ltd, a Scottish company manufacturing wind turbines for domestic use, including an embedded generator unit that quite simple plugs into a standard (UK) 13 amp wall socket. With a bit of a breeze, the unit starts feeding energy into the grid. While your electricity meter may not run backwards (most are designed not to), this could still make an impact on the electricity bill. It would certainly make a huge impact on my conscience, on the grounds of it may not be much but I’m doing what I can.

It’s too bad I haven’t got the right walls. I need to think about other ways of mounting, but I doubt my chimney is strong enough. Just while I write those lines not a single leaf moves outside, anyway.

Ready for Take-Off?

Oil PumpFurther on the subject of alternative energy: Surely fossil energy will run out shortly – give or take 10 years, but we are likely to be alive when it becomes a very, very, rare resource.
People are now discussing alternative sources for electricity (wind, solar, tide, even nuclear fusion and fission, etc), heating and transportation.

Electric cars may not yet perform very well, but at least these are available immediately. We could heat our homes smarter and drastically reduce the gas bill (better isolation, heat exchangers, solar panels, geothermal heating, etc). I guess there’s a lot in the works, and there is hope (but probably no light at the end of the tunnel just yet).

Now we’re talking runway extensions and new airport terminals again.

Does anyone know how we plan to propel aeroplanes and ships in ten or twenty years from now?