Category Archives: energy saving

Your Next Roof Could Be a Solar Roof



Solar City logoWhen Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors acquired SolarCity earlier this year, there was much speculation as to whether or not this was a good idea. SolarCity’s business is based on installing solar power systems, and the company has struggled financially. But Musk must see something good in what SolarCity is doing. Indeed, there are definitely some parallels between the overall missions of Tesla Motors and SolarCity. the main one being to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. To that end, SolarCity recently announced it will begin installing solar roofs.

I now what you’re thinking. Haven’t solar panels been installed onto roofs for decades? Yes, that’s true. But SolarCity isn’t talking about retrofitting an existing roof with panels. Instead, the company’s new roofing system is made entirely of the solar panels themselves. SolarCity cites data that shows there are more than 5 million roof replacements per year in the U.S. Instead of having those roofs replaced with traditional shingles or other materials, and then possibly adding a solar system afterward, why not just build the new roof completely out of solar panels instead?

SolarCity is expected to roll out its new solar roofing product in the coming months. The company will also be able to install Tesla’s new whole-house batteries, allowing a home to run on solar power 24/7.


Transparent Appliances from Morphy Richards at Gadget Show Live



Morphy Richards LogoWhen I arrived at Gadget Show Live, household and kitchen appliances weren’t at the forefront of my mind, but I was astounded by Morphy Richard’s transparent toaster and iron. Yes, you read that right – transparent – you can see right through them. Impressed and with thoughts of transparent aluminium, I chatted with Leon about the new “Redefine” range.

Morphy Richards have four appliances in the new range; a hot water dispenser, kettle, iron and toaster. While all are beautifully designed, it’s the latter two which make an impact with transparency when there’s a expectation of solidity. There are no tricks here with hidden wires either; the ThermoGlass is the heating element and gets hot to smooth the clothes and brown the bread. Aside from the visual impact of a see-through toaster, the ThermoGlass provides a lovely even heat across the whole surface and it’s easy to see how toasted the bread is.

Morphy Richards Toaster

In addition to the good looks, the new appliances focus on energy efficiency. The benefit of the hot water dispenser is that only the right amount of hot water is heated every time and the ATOMiST vapour iron uses 75% less energy and 80% less water.

The Redefine range has been on sale since before Christmas. The toaster is GB£199, the kettle is £99, the iron is £249 and hot water dispenser is £149. They’re pricey but you’re not just buying a kitchen gadget, you’re buying an aesthetic experience.

Morphy Richards iron


Intelligent Energy Unveils Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Powered Devices at CES 2016



Intelligent Energy logoIntelligent Energy the intelligent energy company, has unveiled a number of consumer electronic prototypes powered by an embedded hydrogen fuel cell, to significantly extend the up time of the devices and provide a solution to the battery life conundrum facing consumers today.

Intelligent Energy’s presence at CES 2016 will demonstrate how embedded hydrogen fuel cell technology can untether people from the constraints of traditional energy sources and infrastructures. By embedding a hydrogen fuel cell into a phone, drone, tablet or laptop, consumers of energy can become producers of energy and have the freedom of instant energy for their electronic devices when they want it.

Embedded_fuel_cell_phone Intelligent Energy

The fuel cell technology fits into the existing hardware. There is no need for any existing battery technology to be removed to accommodate the fuel cell, but instead the two work side by side.

In the last 12 months, Intelligent Energy’s technology has been recognized by awards at CES 2015 (Innovation Award Honoree), Edison (2015 Gold Award winner) and Business Green (Breakthrough of the Year and Technology of the Year.)

Intelligent Energy will be at the Embedded World event at the Venetian Hotel. You can also find Intelligent Energy at Suite 31-318 at CES 2016.


Devolo Entering Smart Home Market



Devolo LogoPowerline networking experts devolo have announced their intention to enter the smarthome market with a comprehensive array of products including movement and smoke detectors, radiator thermostats and switchable power outlets, taking on the likes of Nest and Belkin. Branded as “Home Control”, the products will be debuted at this year’s IFA show in Berlin in September.

Focused on providing customers with greater convenience, security and energy efficiency through innovative smart home products, devolo Home Control is the first smart home system that you can build yourself. Whether it’s a coffee machine that automatically starts ten minutes before breakfast, a switch that sets the entire house to night mode, or a motion detector that can tell people from pets, the possibilities for creating a smart home are endless.”

Devolo Powerline Data Rates“Simplicity is the promise of devolo Home Control with an easy installation process removing the need for tools or cables, and a range of components that can be combined as desired. Taking example from their successful Powerline ranges, Home Control products will be available in helpful starter kits, with the ability to expand and tailor the smart home through individual products.

I run devolo Powerline at home and while their gear is more expensive than the equivalent from Belkin or TP-Link, it’s very reliable and I’ve never had to reset any of the adaptors. In addition, the complementary “Cockpit” software and app is much easier to use and runs on both my PC and my tablet. Amongst other features, the app shows the data transfer rates between the paired adaptors and makes adding in new adaptors very simple. Going back to the new Home Control, the press release mentions that the Home Control products will have a “My Devolo” and if they can keep it simple with a cool app, I think devolo will have a winner on their hands.

Interestingly, what isn’t mentioned is whether the Home Control devices will use Powerline, ZigBee (or Wi-Fi) for the controlling signals. I have problems with ZigBee and the solid walls of my house, so a Powerline-based system could be a huge advantage. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of devolo at IFA.


Voltz Electric Bikes at The Gadget Show



Personal electric vehicles were very much in evidence at The Gadget Show with bicycles, scooters and skateboards all on show from different vendors. Voltz Bikes covered two of these categories; bicycles and scooters.

First up is the Voltz eTrail, an electric mountain bike which was recently road-tested on The Gadget Show itself. With a range of up to 50 miles, the 1.9 kW motor can give some serious “oompf”, technically speaking. Looking over the bike, the attention to detail and component quality is impressive, which is not entirely unsurprising given that it costs around GBP £8,500, which is not cheap.

Voltz eTrail

Next is the brand new eScoot is a electric scooter with a range of 30 miles and a top speed of 20 mph. A range of accessories will be available including the neat trailer shown in the photo below. Also not cheap at £2000 but I could see myself buying one of these or similar – my job requires me to travel between sites that are usually no more than a few miles apart and a vehicle like this would be ideal for those journeys. No worries about parking either! Both the eTrail and eScoot are made in Britain which is great to see in these economic times.

Voltz Bikes Scooter

Dan, who helps make “awesome fun products”, reviews Voltz range with me at The Gadget Show.


Ford Electric Concept Car



Ford LogoTodd takes a look at Ford’s C-Max Solar Energi concept car, which amongst other things, features a solar panel roof that uses a special light concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass to improve the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. Ford reckons that a day’s worth of sunshine is enough to charge the hybrid’s battery, which is good for 21 electric-only miles.

This is good news for the environment as it would reduce yearly carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the average US car by as much as four metric tons – the equivalent of what a American house produces in four months. This probably assumes a perfect sunshine record and maximum electric mileage each day, but, hey, every little bit helps.

Review by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Xi3 Low Power PCs



Xi3 Corporation LogoDavid shows off Xi3‘s latest developments including the X7A modular computer and the Z3RO Pro. If you haven’t seen Xi3’s offerings before, you need to check them out – they’re small cube-like units totally unlike your normal case.

The X7A is aimed at the power user with a quad core AMD Trinity processor, Radeon graphics, 8 GB RAM, SSD (up to 1 TB) and more ports than you can shake a stick at. The modular part means that in future you’ll be able to upgrade components without replacing the whole unit. Prices start at $1099.

The Z3RO Pro is more budget friendly, starting at $549. With only a dual core processor and 4 GB RAM, it’s more suited to general office activities, but it will run two monitors. The killer feature here is that it consumes only 15W of power.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Switch Lighting LED Lamps



Switch Lighting Co.LED lamps are undoubtedly one of the most energy efficient ways of producing light, but even then the conversion from household AC to low voltage DC creates extra heat that needs to be dissipated. Switch Lighting Co have developed a technique that not only keeps the lamps cool but provides are more natural diffuse light. Todd and Don are illuminated by Gary Rosenfield from Switch Lighting.

Switch’s Infinia lamps are filled with a liquid silicone solution that distributes waste heat throughout the bulb, letting heat leave from a larger surface area. The warm white (2700 K) light is diffused over 300 degrees as well and the lamps can directly replace traditional 40W and 60W bulbs with equivalent Infinia bulbs of only 10W and 6W. The lamps are on-sale now with the 60W bulb available for around US$15 from good retailers nationwide.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Gigabit Powerline from Trendnet at CES



TRENDnet LogoNetworking over electrical power lines has come a long way since the first HomePlug specification back in 2008 which was was rated at 14 Mb/s. Today network specialists Trendnet have announced a gigabit class, Powerline 1000, with the launch of the TPL-420E2K adaptors.

Trendnet Powerline 1000Based on the HomePlug AV2 standard and using MIMO techniques originally used in wireless data transmission, Powerline 1000 doubles the speed of the previous implementation.

Zak Wood, director of global marketing of Trendnet said, “Trendnet’s TPL-420E2K is designed to easily handle multi-HD streams in a busy connected home.

For the first time, Powerline products use all three electrical wires: the live, neutral, and ground (earth) wires. MIMO technology sends information over the fastest two out of the three available electrical wires. If a user lives in an old home which is not cabled with ground wires, the maximum throughput is reduced from 1,000 to 600 Mb/s.

The TPL-420E2K connects over electrical lines for distances of up to 300 m (a little less than 1000 ft), which is roughly the size of 5,000 square foot home. Powerline 1000 is compatible with existing Powerline 500, 200 and HomePlug AV rated products but when connected to a lower speed adapter, speeds are reduced to the lower rated adapter.

As you’d expected, the communication between the adapters is encrypted and to reduce energy consumption, the TPL-420E2K units go into standby mode when not in use.

The MSRP is US$169 but the Powerline 1000 units are not expected until June 2014. I’m looking forward to testing these already, especially if Trendnet produces an adaptor which incorporates a fast wireless access point.


Practical Meter for USB Charging



Practical MeterWith the plethora of USB charging power sources and charging rates, it was probably inevitable that someone would develop a meter to measure the power going to a device. The bragging rights go to Utah-based Power Practical and the Practical Meter, a USB in-line power meter. Looking much like a USB dongle, 5 LEDs show the power transfer from 1 W up to 10 W.

Originally a Kickstarter campaign that met its funding back in the July raising nearly $170,000, the Practical Meter has been today recognised as International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.  “Just last week we shipped out the 10,000 pre-order units we received during our Kickstarter campaign to have the Practical Meter come to market,” says Matt Ford, CEO of Power Practical. “It’s crazy that a week later we’re being honored by something as prestigious as the CES Innovations awards.

As a pure USB device, it will work with anything that charges via USB such as smartphones, mp3 players or battery packs. Practical Meter is available now for $24.99 online and includes a 3-in-1 fast charge cable with mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple connectors.

Practical Meter Charging