Archive for the 'Comfort and Convenience' Category

Air-tight, energy-efficient homes kill…

February 25, 2011

… just hamsters so far, according to this report. But this does make us think of 1970s-era buildings that were built air-tight and then developed sick building syndrome — like the U.S. EPA’s old headquarters at 401 M St., SE, Washington, DC. Watch out for Obama’s weather strippers!

Cost of electricity: ‘It has to be painful’

October 23, 2009

What will President Obama’s “smart grid” bring our way? Consider this excerpt from today’s ClimateWire:

Michael Godorov, PPL’s manager of smart meter operations, said that a real-time pricing strategy requires a big differential between peak and off-peak prices to be effective. “It has to be painful enough for a customer to want to save money,” he said. “If you leave it to the consumer, you definitely have to put in enough incentives. The market has to make it imperative for customers to manage their use.”

“How do we get people to care enough about this?” asked David Mohler, chief technology officer of Duke Energy, at a conference in Washington last month.

If millions of motorists with plug-in hybrids were to arrive home at 5 p.m. on the hottest day of the year and want to do a quick recharge on a 220-volt appliance circuit, the electricity grid would have severe problems handling the load, Mohler said.

“We should have an ability to differentially price that,” he said. The fast-charge price could be equivalent to $20 for a gallon of gasoline, he suggested. Motorists content to charge overnight, when power prices are lowest, might have to pay the equivalent of 75 cents a gallon — a bargain price. “Until we can give them a way to painlessly respond to that price signal, I don’t know how we get to where we need to go,” he said.

Companies like Dallas-based Oncor that have committed to smart grid and dynamic pricing strategies believe most consumers will come along. Oncor has outfitted a truck trailer with a mini-classroom to show customers how its smart grid would work, and more than 22,000 people have taken a look since last year.

“We’ve had some people say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want this meter.’ They don’t understand it,” said Oncor CEO Bob Shapard. “They don’t like people coming in their backyard to change it. ‘What’s the matter with the meter I’ve already got?'” they say. “You get some of that pushback. The lion’s share of our customers, though, takes the other approach. Virtually all the customers that have been coming through the education center are asking, ‘When can I get my meter?'”

Here’s what you need to know about the smart grid and smart meters:

Smart = Consumer (gouging plus pain)

“Smart” is the new “stupid.”

Water rationing via the IntelliH2O water meter

September 9, 2009

Capstone metering will begin marketing the “first intelligent water meter for residential use” this month, reports SmartGridToday.

The meter’s upside seems to be the ability to use water flow to generate and store its own power in a rechargeable battery.

The meter’s downside is that it will allow local water companies to remotely “monitor and restrict water flow due to conservation program requirements.”

Not a good trade-off.

TVA smart meters: When the homeowner’s away, we will play

August 11, 2009

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to control your home appliances when you’re not there.

According to SmartGridToday, the TVA is planning a $400 million smart meter pilot program, including $200 million of Obama stimulus money, that would allow the TVA to turn off appliances when people are away from their homes and businesses.

And just how will the TVA know when you are away? What if you don’t want your appliances turned off?

New green ‘technology’: Turning off your AC

August 11, 2009

In an article titled “Calif. looks to storage technologies and people to balance its grid” (Aug. 11), ClimateWire reports that,

Another technology [seen as key] is demand management, a process by which consumers adjust how much electricity their homes or offices are using based on real-time information from the grid on prices and other indicators of how much supply is available at the moment. Such communication… would be based on a smart grid, which will automatically receive information from the grid operator and adjust electricity use — for example, by turning off a house’s air conditioner for five minutes during times of peak demand.

Only in the bizarre world of green-think would your local utility’s ability to turn off your air conditioning when you need it the most be considered “technology.”

Consumption haters: Why greens oppose cash-for-clunkers

August 4, 2009

For insight into why greens oppose the cash-for-clunkers program — even though it would reduce tailpipe emissions — read this op-ed by Gwen Ottinger in today’s Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

First, even when new cars and appliances are more efficient than the ones they replace, the act of replacing them entails environmental costs not accounted for in the stimulus programs. Building a new car, washing machine or refrigerator takes energy and resources: The manufacture of steel, aluminum and plastics are energy-intensive processes, and some of the materials used in durable goods, especially plastics, use non-renewable fossil fuels as feedstocks as well as energy sources. Disposing of old products, a step required by most incentive and rebate programs, also has environmental costs: It takes additional energy to shred and recycle metals; plastic components often cannot be recycled and end up as landfill cover; and the engine fluids, refrigerants and other chemicals essential to operating products end up as hazardous wastes.

Cash-for-clunkers, you see, just breeds new/more consumption — and consumption is evil.

Take home message: Stop consuming. Start Decomposing.

Gwen Ottinger: If I only...

Gwen Ottinger: If I only...

... had a brain!

... had a brain!

Germans hoard incandescents ahead of ‘light bulb socialism’

July 29, 2009

From Spiegel:

As the Sept. 1 deadline for the implementation of the first phase of the EU’s ban on incandescent light bulbs approaches, shoppers, retailers and even museums are hoarding the precious wares — and helping the manufacturers make a bundle…

But — like laws on bent cucumbers — many have mocked the light bulb legislation as just another example of an EU bureaucracy gone wild. Holger Krahmer, for example, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Germany’s business-friendly FDP party has accused the EU of imposing ‘light bulb socialism’.”

Snow-more fun: Obama to cut snowmobile use in park

July 27, 2009

The Obama administration has proposed to cut snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park by more than half (318 vs. 720 per day).

Why GE wants to raise the cost of electricity

July 23, 2009

If you want to know why General Electric is lobbying for the Waxman-Markey energy tax bill — and the higher electricity prices that would result from it — the company provided yet another reason today.

GE announced that it would develop and manufacture appliances that will supposedly interact with the coming “smart Grid” to reduce energy use. GE-provided examples of this interaction include:

  • A refrigerator will delay its defrost cycle – a cycle that takes more energy than normal operating mode – until the energy load is lower;
  • A dryer will reduce the wattage used by the heating coils;
  • A dishwasher will delay its start until a time of day when energy usage is lower.

Supposedly consumers would be able to override appliance actions, but who knows how easy that would be or whether that capability might be controlled or even phased out over time.

GE has been running a pilot “demand-response” program with Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) utilizing GE employees as pilot participants — folks who now seem unduly concerned with saving energy. According to the GE media release,

Dana and Mark Bryan of Louisville, KY stated the appliances also have led to changes in their energy using habits. “It’s helped me get more organized,” says Dana. “I now unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning and then fill it throughout the day. After dinner, I set it to run and the smart programming delays it until after 10 p.m.” Mark reports a 20% reduction of total electrical consumption in the months he has participated in the program. “As part of the pilot, I have an in-home energy monitor. It lets me know the rate I am paying and the instantaneous electrical consumption. Watching that meter has driven behavior changes in my house that have resulted in reduced energy consumption. That explains a portion of the 20% reduction.”

So how much of your time at home do you really want to spend monitoring your family’s electricity usage?

The average monthly electric bill in the U.S. is about $100. If obsessing over the in-home energy monitor saves the Bryans less than $20/month, then I’d suggest that meter-watching is not really a productive use of anyone’s time — unless, of course, you enjoy that sort of thing.

But, if global warming regulation is enacted and electricity prices skyrocket and/or energy is eventually rationed, then meter-watching could, for many, become more of a necessity as opposed to an optional fetish, particularly for those in lower income brackets.

GE will profit, of course, from selling the home monitors and the more-expensive “smart” appliances. But it’s not at all clear that consumers will get any benefits at all since they’ll be paying more for the appliances and more for electricity.

The common sense public policy move would be to increase our electricity supplies and reduce its cost by building needed power plants and transmissions lines and forgoing government mandates on fuels and emissions — so that we don’t have to sweat electricity use.

I’d bet that GE would make more money from making electricity cheaper than it would from making it more expensive.

NY state employees: Green urinals stink

July 21, 2009

The greens are giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “pissed off.”

The Albany Times Union reports that,

The [New York Department of Environmental Conservation] has been getting complaints by state workers that waterless urinals at their building have created a fetid mess complete with “splash back,” “puddles (of urine) on the floor,” and “unpleasant odor.”

Those using the restrooms at DEC’s 625 Broadway headquarters grew so disgusted that in April they filed a union grievance alleging a health hazard and a violation of work rules protecting employees from “elements, such as filth or pathogens,” according to records obtained by the Times Union.

The grievance was dismissed by DEC, then taken to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations earlier this month where it also was dismissed.

Nonetheless, GOER’s Assistant Director for Safety and Health, Charles Vejvoda, conceded that “if indeed back splash or public urination is occurring, there is a violation of human dignity and decorum.”

He also recommended that the union and DEC try to work out the issues. Displaying some bureaucratic humor, he listed possible remedies including the use of such protective equipment as rain gear, aprons, rubber boots, gloves, or even reducing fluid intake, but concluded that wasn’t feasible.

Since its grievance was dismissed, the Public Employees Federation union has begun urging DEC employees to e-mail and otherwise inform management when there is a problem.

New York blames its employees. Although Assistant Director for Safety and Health, Charles Vejvoda, conceded that…

“… if indeed back splash or public urination is occurring, there is a violation of human dignity and decorum…”

… he also wondered…

… if workers were exaggerating the extent of problems, writing “this reviewer does find the assertion that someone is ‘urinating above the urinals’ quite troubling inasmuch as such a healthy stream would be uncommon in a workforce whose average age is 48.”

He also suggested that “certain individuals may come up short,” as an explanation for the complaint about puddles.

Now that the greens have screwed up urinals, who wouldn’t want to hand over national energy policy to them?

The new green catch-phrase?

The new green catch-phrase?

H/t to WGY’s Al Roney for bringing this item to our attention.