AT&T is about to help you become a bit more green friendly by introducing a new phone charger that will turn itself off when you don’t need it.

Most people don’t realize that when you leave a recharged plugged in to the wall socket, even if you do not have anything plugged into it, it is drawing power.  So whenever you unhook your cell phone when you leave home, but you leave the charger plugged in for convenience, you are still drawing power the entire time.  It is estimated that Americans waste around $12 billion a year in electrical bills in this way according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cell phone carrier AT&T has decided to do something about this by releasing a new phone charger known as the “Zero Charger.”  This new smart charger will cut off any electrical draw when it detects that there is no phone attached to it, completely eliminating what is known as “vampire draw.”

Because this device is essentially just a USB adapter, it should work with a wide range of phones as you will simply plug your USB cable into it, so it should work phones and devices that aren’t even carried by AT&T.  Just think about your iPods, cell phones, mobile gaming devices … you start to realize just how much power you may be wasting in your every day life to keep all of your devices juiced.

There is no word on how much this charger will cost as of yet, but I am definitely keep my eye on it.  Release is slated for May.

Categories: Cell Phones, Green Living   
 

The official launch of Bloom Energy was today, and with that comes even more evidence that this company could really change the future of the world.

Just the other day we brought you the story of Bloom Energy and its new product called Bloom Energy Servers (the press has been instructed to stop calling them Bloom Boxes for some reason).  Essentially these devices are renewable fuel cell power sources, and depending on what type of fuel you use in them, they can be completely carbon neutral.

The Bloom Energy website has also finally launched, and if you check out the stories of corporations that have been testing the technology, it’s easy to see how this new system may change the world.  Imagine Walmart stores that are totally carbon neutral in their energy consumption.  The mega-retailer has installed the devices at two stores in California, and while they are not yet on biofuel, which is the option for completely eliminating their carbon footprint, each store eliminated 1 million pounds of carbon.  If you read through the rest, you will quickly see the potential benefits if even these devices never make it to homes.  Obviously something is seriously going on here when the likes of eBay, Google, Coca-Cola and so on send representatives to speak glowing words about another company at their press conference.

However, homes are in the plans, albeit ten years down the road.  Imagine having a Bloom Energy Server in your garage, hooked up to a solar panel on the roof.  Completely clean energy running your entire home.  The power companies are going to have a fit.

Now, imagine Bloom Energy Servers taken to remote villages in rural portions of countries.

It isn’t that often that you see a new technology which could actually change the world, but for once I think we have.  I think we are seeing the dawn of an entirely new paradigm in energy generation.  Not only will this be cheaper in the long run, but it could help save the environment.  I’m ready to sign up for a consumer version of these devices tomorrow if I could.

Categories: Green Living   
 

Every so often someone comes along that claims they have found a solution to the energy problems of the world, but rarely do they have real world examples of their technology in place before they start blowing their own horn.  Luckily it looks like Bloom Energy decided to hold its tongue until it could point to actual emplacements of its technology that were up and running.

Last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl interviewed former NASA employee, K.R. Sridhar about his company, Bloom Energy. The company has been working in secret in Silicon Valley for nearly a decade, but it has been building a technology that is exciting enough that it got a staggering $400 million in venture capital to get going.

The company’s sole product is a device called a Bloom Box.  Powered by fuel cells that are made from sand, and coated in specially developed paints, the system uses a mixture of oxygen and fuels such as natural gas, bio gas or solar, and generates energy from the chemical reaction that occurs.

While it sounds like some sort of alchemy, but Bloom Energy has been powering a Google data center for 18-months, and has been supplying 15 percent of the power to the main campus of eBay for nine months.  While the boxes cost between $700,000 to $800,000 each, California, where all the boxes are so far, give tax breaks and incentives that cut the cost nearly in half.  EBay says that in the nine months of operation it has saved $100,000 in energy costs.  Considering the company purchased eight boxes, it is going to take quite a while to recoup their costs, but it is definitely making them a greener company.

Dr. Sridhar says his company goal is to get the cost down to $3000 within ten years, which does seem a bit ambitious, but the hope is to get every home to own one of these, and reduce the strain on the national power grid.

We’ve embedded the full segment below, and it is definitely worth watching.  Perhaps the Bloom Box isn’t the ultimate solution, but it is certainly interesting to ponder what this device could lead other companies to try.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Categories: Green Living   
 

thermal tilesEver wished your roof would change color through out the day and seasons? Well, that day may not be too far off.

There has been a lot of studies about how black roof tiles are great for the winter as they help retain the heat, but in the summer, well, they retain the heat. There has been some talk from the government of requiring homes to have white roofs to help with energy consumption and climate change, but what if you could have the best of both worlds all year long without changing your roof each season?

The Inquisitr points out an experiment at MIT that has created Thermally-Activated tiles that react to temperature.  The colder it gets, the blacker they become.  Things starting to heat up?  The tiles will turn to white and help cool the house done be reflecting away the heat.  Named Thermeleon by the students, they say that the white coloring will reflect 80 percent of the sunlight that hits it, while the black coloring only reflects 30 percent.  Reportedly this would result in a 20 percent reduction in cooling costs in the summer.

There is no word on marketing or pricing these new roofing tiles, but it seems like the perfect solution to us for a number of problems in the house building market.

Categories: Green Living   
 

google logoApparently conquering the Web is no longer enough for Google, now they want to get in to your home also.

PowerMeter is a new piece of software currently being tested by Google that will allow home owners to see a graphic representation of how much energy they are consuming, and hopefully help you control your electric bill and your carbon footprint.  With a piece of software on your computer, you will get near real-time information on your energy consumption, and specifics on what exactly in your home or business is using the most power.

Armed with this information, people will be able to better manage their home’s power consumption and get the double benefit of cutting their energy bill and lowering their impact on the environment.  Sadly, The Official Google Blog informs readers that the system is still in the testing stages, but they are actively lobbying to get the software out to the public.  One Google engineer mentions in their promotional video that he has cut his energy consumption by 64% over one year, and saved almost $3,000 off of his bill.  Another Google employee mentions in a testimonial that after monitoring her usage, she changed to Compact Florescent Bulbs (CFLs) and reduced her energy consumption by nearly 13%.

There is no word when this software package will make it out to general consumers, but I for one can’t wait to give it a try.

pmscreenshot

Categories: Google, Green Living, News   
 

With the winter holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to think about what you can do with sending out the annual greeting cards.

Sure you can head to the store and buy some generic Christmas cards, but why settle for something just anyone can purchase?  With printers getting fancier, and cheaper, why not print out your own?  Yes, they will have fronts that anyone can purchase, but all of the wording can be 100% your creation.

By using companies such as Paper Direct, you can order blank cards that you can customize to your heart’s content by using templates they provide you with for your computer.  As color inkjet and laser printers have gotten cheaper, you can print cards that are barely discernible from pre-printed ones that you buy in the store.

The other bonus to going with this method is that you can print just as many cards as you need, saving the blanks for future years or other purposes.  If you buy three or four different designs, you can cycle through them for years, rotating through them.  (Bonus note: buy more cards after Christmas as they will be heavily discounted and you can be ready for next year.)

You can do this not just with Christmas cards, but postcards, birthday cards, Valentines Day and so on.  Make your printer in to a personal print shop, it’s not nearly as difficult as you may think.

 

Ever wanted to control your thermostat from any computer in the world? Well, now you can.

The popular site Ars Technica brought this to our attention a few days ago, and it was just too cool not to research more on our own.  The Ecobee thermostat features a nice touchscreen interface that is easy to read and use, but the true uniuqeness comes in the fact it can also talk to your Wi-Fi network.

Why in the world would you want your thermostat connected to the Internet?  Well, once you buy the Ecobee, you register it with the company and you get a personalized web portal to log into and you can change any of the settings just as if you were standing in front of the physical control.  You can set dates you’ll be on vacation, turned on preset “QuickSave” settings and more.  Imagine an iPhone app for this and it really would be like you were living in the future.

If you wonder why this is noteworthy, think about the implications for what else you could be controlling in the future if something like this takes off.  You could turn your lights on and off while on vacation.  Leave the house and forget to turn off the stove?  We are slowly creeping towards everything in the home using Wi-Fi to give you on the go control, and if you add in cell phone applications, you could be coming home to a house that has turned on the lights and drawn your bath for you.  Sure it may have taken longer than futurists envisioned, but the remote controlled house seems to be inching towards reality.

Categories: Green Living, Home Electronics   
 
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