Category Archives: Green Technology

OnePlus Plants Trees for Trade-Ins with Ecologi



OnePlus LogoEcologi Script Logo on Green and Blue SplodgeTo help reduce the impact of its products on the planet, OnePlus has partnered with Ecologi to plant a tree every time a phone is traded in for a new one. Ecologi is a climate action organisation that helps both individuals and businesses offset their activities through the planting of trees.

Based on the current trade-in rate for new phones such as the 10T, Nord 2T and 10 Pro, OnePlus expects several thousand trees to be planted on its behalf. The trees will be planted in dedicated forest areas around the world and so far, Ecologi has planted over 50 million trees on behalf of its supporters and clients. This represents a reduction of 2.2 million tonnes of CO2.

At OnePlus we’re renowned for our community spirit, and looking out for our users. By giving OnePlus fans the chance to help the planet every time they get a new phone, we’re helping them make a positive difference to the planet,” said Tuomas Lampen, OnePlus’s Head of European Strategy. “By partnering with Ecologi as part of our wider environmental work we hope to continue to reduce our impact on the world and become a more sustainable business.”

In addition to planting trees, OnePlus has worked to reduce the amount of plastic in packaging, extend product lifecycles and has established recycling schemes. The customer benefits as well, with a trade in bonus available throughout October. When customers trade in an old phone for new phones they’ll receive an additional GB£200 or 200€ back on top of the trade-in value of their phone.

Linda Adams, Head of Partnerships at Ecologi, added: “While there is still work to do in the consumer electronics industry, it’s great to see OnePlus taking important steps to reduce the environmental impact of its products through its trade-in scheme, alongside supporting reforestation projects. Given its global presence and huge customer base, we hope OnePlus can act as an example to other companies in the sector – inspiring them to join the collective fight against climate change.”

If you are interested in offsetting your own personal carbon footprint, have a look at Ecologi. As a social enterprise (they’re not a charity), they work with tree planting partners to reforest local areas with appropriate trees to encourage wildlife and biodiversity. You can take out a subscription to Ecologi to cover part or all of your carbon footprint and there are family options too that will even cover your pets. 85% of the subscription goes to funding trees and similar projects. There’s a bit about the company over over at TechCrunch.


City of Phoenix Offers Free Sustainable Home Design Plans



Home Design Plans CompetitionRooted firmly in mid-century modern design and with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses, the City of Phoenix and the American Institute of Architects ran a “Sustainable Home Design Competition for a ‘near net-zero energy’ single family home” in 2018.

The design was to be for a house in climate zone 2, which indicates a need primarily for cooling, and was part of the City’s goal to become a carbon-neutral and zero-waste city. As a step towards achieving these goals, the City of Phoenix wanted to encourage the construction of ultra-low energy use homes.

The prize was US$100,000 and the winning design, Home NZ, came from Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, in partnership with SCL Consulting, Henderson Engineers and Desert Skies Energy Services.

The building is 2,185 square feet and sits on 60′ by 110′ lot. Inside there are three bedrooms, family and living rooms, kitchen, laundry, bathroom and garage for a build cost around US$350,000. As built, it has a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index of 33 but with the addition of renewable energy sources (solar), this falls to 0. For comparison, a standard new home has a HERS rating of around 100.

Home NZ Side View

By using heat reflective glazing, passive cooling and natural convection, plus low energy lighting and smart systems, the Home NZ can expect to save around $2,000 in comparison to a similar standard property. Of course, it’s not just about saving money, it’s about saving the planet…

These competitions are often great exemplars of technology, but in this case, it’s an affordable family home that can be built today. And even better, the City of Phoenix has made the plans available for free. All you have to do is go here, sign the disclaimer, and download 88 MB of pdf.

And if you are ever in the Phoenix area, I’d recommend a trip to Taliesin West in neighbouring Scottsdale to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright.


Grow Your Own with Opcom Indoor Hydroponics at CES 2018



When I hear “hydroponics” I always think of scifi and long missions to deep space. Fortunately, hydroponics is much more rooted in reality than the genre suggests, and this brings us neatly to Opcom Farm and their indoor hydroponics systems. Todd digs with Ray from Opcom and discovers how to garden in your garage.

Opcom offers everything needed to setup a home hydroponics garden except the space. Even then, the GrowPod can create space within another area, such as a garage, for the racks and shelving needed for a hydroponic garden. These days all the lights are LED, so energy costs are kept low, and there’s a range of units from the simple O2-Light to a full GrowWall. It all depends on the budget – a GrowPod starts at US$2000.

There’s plenty of information on Opcom Farm‘s website and some products are available from Amazon.com. Others are on pre-order for delivery in 2018.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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One Size Fits All with Ohyo 2Bag



Back in 2016 I interviewed Guy Jeremiah from Ohyo at The Gadget Show, where he was demonstrating a flexible use bag. Designed by Felix Conran, the bag could be arranged into four different configurations; a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag.

Returning to 2017, the team’s back together with the Ohyo 2Bag, a re-imagining which focuses on daily life. The 2Bag converts between a messenger bag and a larger carry-all, so imagine starting the day with a laptop in the 2Bag but then being able to buy some groceries on the way home. Inside, the 2Bag has two zipped compartments and as the smaller is waterproof, any leakages from the shopping won’t destroy the electronics.

Designed again by Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, the 2Bag has additional pockets for keys and phones, plus a ring to hold a collapsible Ohyo bottle. Focussing on the re-usability of the 2Bag, Felix says, “I think we have a huge amount of responsibility as designers. It’s our job to consider everything and that includes where the product ends up… we don’t want to be designing landfill. I want to make objects that have a longer life-cycle than is expected of them because if you only need to buy something once, this is the ultimate in sustainability.

And it’s way more stylish when shopping than a bunch of tatty plastic bags.

To get the 2Bag off the ground, Ohyo has a Kickstarter campaign with early birds getting in at GB£49 (about US$65). The campaign needs a little help, as it’s just under 50% funded with only a week to go, so don’t delay if you want one. Delivery is expected in December 2017 so it could make a good Christmas present.

Ohyo has a good track record on Kickstarter with two successful campaigns for the earlier Ohyo bag but as with all things Kickstarter, just be aware of the risk.

The Kickstarter campaign video is below.

 


Verv Shows Where Your Energy Goes



London-based firm Green Running have launched Verv, a home energy assistant that uses AI technology to automatically figure out which appliances are running and how much they’re costing. It’s clever stuff and they’ve got 6 patents to prove it.

The UK’s smart meter programme has taken a bit of hammering in the press recently with The Register covering the debacle along with a healthy dose of cynicism. In agreement, Peter Davies, CEO & Founder of Green Running points out, “Smart Meters are being rolled out across homes but they simply don’t provide enough detail to tell the consumer what is actually costing them money. They just provide a total cost of your electricity usage. We are able to sample data at extremely high frequencies enabling us to read the ‘energy signature’ of individual electrical appliances. This means we can show the user in real time how much their appliances are costing them, in addition to an array of other functions such as alerting them if an appliance is deteriorating or if they’ve left something on.

Being able to tell which appliances are electricity is handy, especially if it reveals when an older unit is consuming too much power either through slow failure or that newer models consume far less.

Verv doesn’t need to be installed by an electrician – there’s no fiddling with electricity here. Simply, there’s three parts. A Verv hub, a sensor clamp that goes round the main power cable, and an app for both iOS and Android. The only snag I can see from the installation video, is the hub needs a power socket near the meter.

Verv is electricity supplier neutral too and it doesn’t matter who supplies the power. In fact, it’s probably a good way to check that the supplier is billing correctly as 60% of consumers don’t understand their utility bills.

Integration with Amazon Alexa is touted on the web site though there’s no detail at present on what features might be supported in the skill. There’s also no mention of an interface to any smart home gear, such as Samsung SmartThings, but I would imagine that’s on the priority list as Verv’s competitor, Smappee, is already there. IFTTT would be good too but it’s early days.

Verv is currently open for pre-orders at GB£249 with delivery expected in the autumn (the website says October, the press release says November…)


Pushing Power Back into The Grid



Phase Two Array ResizeI have always been fascinated by solar power. There’s something quite intriguing about the idea of simple sunlight hitting a solar panel and instantly producing electricity.

Home solar systems can take a few different forms. There are power backup systems that require the use of battery storage, as well as systems that allow people the luxury of electricity that live completely off-grid. Today, the most popular form of solar by far is known as grid-tie or Net Metering.

Grid-tie Net Metering

With grid-tie net metering solar power systems, no batteries are used. Grid-tied solar panels feed power back directly into the public electrical grid and can actually make the power meter run backwards. The more solar panels integrated into the system, the more potential power can be fed back into the connected electric grid. Power bills can either be reduced, or in some cases, completely zeroed out, depending on local electric power company policies.Solar Phase One

Solar panels produce DC or direct current. The power grid is AC or alternating current. Therefore, to sell power back to the electric utility, it is necessary to convert the DC power coming from solar panels into AC so it can be fed into the power grid. This is accomplished with DC to AC power inverters.Inverters Resize

I recently visited a home solar system installation where the home owner has been slowly expanding his net metering system over the past seven years. He initially began seven years ago with forty-three 100 watt 12 volt solar panels, placed on top of his workshop.

With this first system, it was necessary for him to run wires down the length of the interior roof to a bank of mounted micro-inverters that needed to be protected from the weather. One of the lessons he learned from this initial installation was that lengthy wires carrying 12 volt DC results in power loss. The longer the lines, the more the efficiency drops. Higher voltages don’t experience as much line loss.

The best way around this problem is to mount weatherproof micro-inverters directly to the backs of the solar panels. Once the power is converted to 120 volts AC, the length of the wires to the grid connection point are somewhat less critical because the voltage is higher.Grid Tie Inverter Resize

With the second phase of his foray into solar, he built a rack on a metal pole complete with a sun tracking mechanism that he built and wrote control software for himself. The rack contains nine higher efficiency 280 watt 24 volt panels with weather proof micro-inverters attached to the backs of the panels.

The weatherproof micro-inverters are of a modular design that can allow additional inverters to be plugged in to the to the system. The rack-mounted system produces as much power as the workshop roof-mounted panels, even though they have less surface area, primarily because they are higher-efficiency panels.Solar Porch Canopy

He is currently working on phase three of his system, which consists of panels that form a sort of porch canopy over the garage door entrance to his workshop.These are also 280 watt panels, each with its own micro-inverter. He is in the process of slowly adding additional panels to continue expanding his overall system capacity.Meter Output

At the moment when I took this picture of the system output meter, the total output was about 5.4 kilowatts.

A great way to learn more about solar panels, inverters and net metering is YouTube. Good search terms include solar power, grid-tie, and inverter.

Many recreational vehicle enthusiasts have developed a strong interest in attaching solar panels and power inverters to their RV’s, which can allow them to have a measure of generator-free and thus noise-free AC power and engage in extended off-grid camping.


Ohyo Folds Bag to Size at Gadget Show Live



Ohyo_400x400Several areas of the UK now charge for plastic grocery bags as a green tax and reusable shopping bags have become very popular. Mind you, carrying round a scrunched up bunch of old bags is never a good fashion statement. Fortunately Ohyo has designed a good-looking accessory which morphs from a pouch to a messenger bag before completely opening up as a shopping bag. Participating in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I chat with Guy from Ohyo about his thing for folding.

Ohyo Folding Bags

Guy and Ohyo has worked with designer Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, to create a flexible bag that changes shape to meet changing needs. The bag can be arranged into four different configurations, a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag. Available in four colours, the RRP is GB£79, but Ohyo are currently running a Kickstarter campaign where you can get in at £59. There’s just two days to go, so get in quick.

Ohyo have a track record in folding things – Guy’s previous invention was a collapsible bottle, which sold over 700,000 units and might be familiar to parents in Britain as it’s been previously sold in Marks and Spencer’s and Boots.