• Solar Energy: An Overview of the Benefits and Disadvantages

    One of the world’s greatest sources of renewable energy, solar energy is clean, plentiful and easy to collect. At a time when global warming and the buildup of carbon monoxide are of grave concern, solar energy can be an invaluable solution to help protect our planet.

    Benefits of Solar Energy

    • Free Source of Energy – With the exception of the initial installation and maintenance, this type of energy is free. Unlike other types of energy, solar energy requires no raw materials.
    • Does not Emit Greenhouse Gases – Produced by radiation from the sun, solar energy does not produce any pollution, gas or chemical by-products.
    • Self-Reliance – Solar energy helps communities in sunny areas become self-reliant. This ability to produce electricity off the grid is especially useful for people who live in rural areas where the cost of installing power lines and maintaining power can be costly.
    • Produces Jobs – One of the most advantageous features of solar energy is that it produces new jobs. The jobs come in many forms including jobs regarding solar energy power, development, research and design, developing and maintaining solar panels and more.
    • Does not Destroy Eco-Systems – Solar energy does not rely on raw materials so it does not result in the destruction of eco-systems and forests that can occur with many other fossil fuel operations.
    • Solar energy is quiet
    • The power cells require little maintenance and can last a lifetime

    Solar Energy Disadvantages

    • Inefficient – Solar energy is inefficient because it takes sunlight to run it. This means that energy must either be store or gotten elsewhere at night.
    • Bulkiness – Solar panels are bulky, especially the traditional silicon wafer models. These are large solar panels covered in glass.
    • Cost – The cost of installing solar power is high. Even though the energy is free, the upfront costs of installation are expensive.

    There are two categories of solar energy systems, active and passive. An active solar system involves the active use of technology to collect the energy of the sun with the help of solar panels and solar hot water systems. This includes using photovoltaic (PV) cells to capture the sun.

    A passive solar system uses the heat and the light from the sun for heating, lighting and cooling. Passive solar systems are especially useful if you are building a new house and can design it from the start to use the power of the sun. Older homes can also be remodeled to uses passive heating and cooling.

    How a Solar Panel Works

    PV cells are made of conductors such as silicon. When light strikes the cell, some of it is absorbed into the silicon. This energy knocks the protons loose and allows them to flow freely. These PV cells feature at least one electric field that forces the electrons to flow in a specified direction. This flow, known as a current can be drawn by placing metal contacts on either side of the PV cell. On a small scale, think of a solar powered calculator. This is how the mechanism works inside of the calculator and the basics on how a solar panel performs its job.

  • 10 Ways to Reduce Household Paper & Plastic Waste

    1. Assess the amount of waste your household produces

    By examining the amount of waste your household creates, you may be able to find the areas where you can make changes to your habits and the amount of garbage you toss out on a daily basis. Take steps to reduce the amount of household waste you produce and make your home environmentally friendly. When shopping opt for packaging that produces less waste.

    2. Recycle

    If you do not already do so, start recycling. Recycling can help reduce the amount of paper and plastics that you throw out each day. Learn how to dispose of recyclables in your area if you do not have curbside pickup available at your house or business. Learn which items are recyclable in your area.

    3. Compost Pile

    Food matter accounts for a huge portion of household waste. A compost pile is one way to get rid of this waste. This waste, when it decomposes creates compost, which can be used to add vitamins to the soil flowerbeds and vegetable gardens and can be used as mulch. You can place items including peels from vegetables and fruits, eggshells, and other household waste including grass clippings and paper into the compost pile.

    4. Repurpose Items

    It is habit to toss items into the trash once they have completed their original purpose. Repurpose items that can be used in another way. For example, use newspaper to wrap gifts, repurpose empty juice jugs for other beverages or use egg cartons to start plant seeds.

    5. Choose Reusable Items

    Disposable items such as paper plates and plastic flatware are convenient but fill up the landfill fast. For example, use washable dishrags instead of paper towels, buy cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins and use cloth tote bags versus paper bags to bring home groceries.

    6. Quality Counts

    Buy quality items that can withstand everyday use. You may pay more initially but you will find that you have to replace these items less often, which will save you money down the road. For example, select wooden toys for your children versus plastic ones or glass storage containers versus plastic.

    7. Maintenance

    Maintain the items that you own either by keeping them in good condition or by repairing them. For example, keep your appliances clean and perform regular maintenance on them, mend torn clothing and get your shoes repaired.

    8. Buy in Bulk

    Buying in bulk not only saves you money but also allows you to cut down on plastic packaging. Many stores that sell bulk foods will even allow you to bring in and fill your own reusable containers.

    9. Skip Plastic Baggies

    When you are grocery shopping, do not put your vegetables into those little plastic bags. Instead, place them right into the cart. While we are on the subject of baggies, instead of using plastic zip top bags for leftover storage, choose either wax paper or a glass container to store left over food in.

    10. Do not Buy Items in Plastic

    When shopping, buy items in glass or paper packaging instead of plastic. These days even items like laundry soap can be found in paper and you can then use that to refill the plastic bottle you already have at home.

  • Learn More about how Organic Farming Works

    Organic farming, a trend popular since making headlines in 2000, is based on the concept that the farmer should let nature run things. It involves natural pest control, crop rotation and keeping the soil fertile naturally. Although it may sound vague, the concept is simple.

    Many products that we use every day can be grown on organic farms. Items including cotton, eggs, grains and vegetables may come from organic farms. Additionally, we may get meat and dairy products from organic farms too. These things are considered organic when they are grown on farms that do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on crops and do not use medications on their livestock including synthetic hormones and antibiotics. The animals are allowed access to the outdoors and fed organic feed.

    Crop Rotation

    Crop rotation is part of the organic farming strategy. The purpose is to help the soil retain its fertility. For instance, one year a farmer may grow corn in a field. The next season he may allow livestock to graze and the following year he will plant clover. By adding variety to the field, he will prevent the soil from becoming depleted. Using the field for the same purpose year after year will deplete the minerals from the soil and render the field useless eventually.


    Compost is organic and made with decaying organic wastes. It is spread on gardens and in fields to promote beneficial fungi and bacteria growth and create nutrient rich soil. Both home gardeners and farmers can use it. Some examples of organic compost items include:

    • Yard waste including grass clippings, leaves and wood chips
    • Food including coffee grounds, tea bags, fruits and vegetables
    • Manure including horse, cow and chicken

    Cover Crops

    Cover crops improve the quality of the soil. They are also used to protect the soil from wind and water erosion and to maintain the organic matter level of the soil. These are all methods used to keep the soil healthy and nutrient rich.

    Cover crops are used to distract the pests from the garden and help keep weeds under control. Cover crops can be grown in places that are bare to prevent weeds from growing in these areas. The concept of using cover crops for pest control is to both attract welcome pests while deterring those that are annoying and give them an alternate food source. For example, if you want to attract ladybugs, since they eat aphids, plant fennel, dill or geraniums as a cover crop. This will keep aphids away and give other insects an alternate plant to eat instead of your garden vegetables and plants.

    Criticisms of Organic Farming

    Due to the restricted use of antibiotics in organic farming, there is some concern over the levels of microbes in manure and its potential to cause E. coli. At this time, there is not sufficient evidence to support these concerns.

    Furthermore, a 2002 report suggests that free-range and organic chickens may be more likely to have campylobacter infections, which can also cause food poisoning. Again, further studies are underway to prove that this is true.



  • Learn How EPA Fuel Economy is measured and why it varies from Actual Mileage

    Measured under controlled circumstances in a laboratory, fuel economy of a vehicle is measured using a standardized test procedure that is specified by federal laws. Carmakers test their own vehicles and then report the results to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

    Step 1

    In the laboratory, the vehicles drive wheels are placed in a dynamometer, a machine that is like a large treadmill. The dynamometer stimulates the driving environment. The rollers of the dynamometer can be adjusted to account for the weight of the vehicle and to mimic wind resistance.

    Step 2

    While the vehicle is on the dynamometer, a professional driver puts the automobile through a standardized schedule that simulates a typical driving trip in the city and then another test that will simulate highway driving.

    Each test dictates the speed in which the vehicle must travel during each moment of the test. The driver will watch a computerized display, which will show his or her driving statistics to ensure they are following the specific schedule.

    • The city driving program: Designed to simulate a rush-hour experience. The test is done when the engine is cold and includes frequent idling and stop-and-go traffic. The automobile is driven for a total of 11 miles with 23 stops. This test lasts for a total of 31 minutes. The speeds for this test average 20 miles per hour with a top speed of 56 miles per hour.
    • The highway-driving program: Designed to simulate freeway driving with a warm engine. There are no stops included in this test. The automobile is driven for a total of 10 miles for 12.5 minutes and includes an average speed of 48 miles per hour with a top speed of 60. All accessories, such as the air conditioning and heat are off during both of these tests.

    Step 3

    In automobiles that use gas, natural gas or diesel, a hose is attached to the exhaust to capture all of the engine exhaust during the test. The amount of carbon present in the exhaust is calculated to determine the amount of gas that is burned during the test. This result is more precise than using a fuel gauge.

    Environmental Protection Agency Ratings vs. Actual Fuel Economy

    The automobiles that are used for testing are new vehicles that have been broken in and are in perfect mechanical condition. When actually driving a vehicle, several factors can influence the actual fuel economy. For instance, minor upkeep factors such as incorrect air pressure in the tires can affect fuel economy.

    Testing is also done without any cargo, passengers or accessories such as air conditioning engaged. All of these things play a role in the actual mileage. The heavier the automobile is, the more fuel it will burn to reach and maintain its speed. Other factors that can affect your actual mileage include weather, terrain, traffic conditions and trip length.

    A Useful System

    Even with the inaccuracies of the EPA fuel economy vs. actual fuel economy, this information is useful. By using this information, new car shoppers can get a rough idea of how a particular automobile will perform against others in its class. If you are comparing two vehicles and one is estimated to get better gas mileage, you can safely assume that you will be paying more to keep one gas tank full over the other. This rating is also valid for identifying the relative efficiency of an automobiles model range.

  • Getting the Lowdown on Green Building Techniques

    Green building techniques focus on the concept that people are becoming more aware of the effect that their actions have on the environment. These techniques are focused on using a few key concepts to increase energy efficiency and design, the use of sustainable materials and reducing the impact that their home has on the environment.


    Heating and cooling the inside of your home can account for up to 50 percent of the energy use of the average home. Poor insulation is the main cause of energy waste. Use spray foam to seal the gaps in the attic and the walls. Opt for six-inch wide wall studs instead of the usual four-inch wide when building outside walls and select high-efficiency Energy Star low E windows. Use caulk around all doors, windows, ductwork and chases where there may be gaps for air to enter.

    Energy Efficient Equipment

    Use electrical and mechanical equipment that is high-efficiency. Select heating and cooling systems, water heaters, lighting fixtures and appliances that feature the Energy Star blue label to ensure that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed it as energy efficient. You may even opt for a tank-less water heater, which will save energy because it will not keep a tankful of water hot until needed.

    Energy Efficient Design

    When designing a home, design it with the wind and the sun in mind. To help make it energy efficient, plant shade trees on the south facing side of the house or incorporate overhangs that will shade the windows during hot summer months and allow the sun to warm the home during the cold winter months. For cross ventilation make sure to put windows on all sides of the house. Consider using skylights to brighten interior rooms.

    Select Sustainable Building Materials

    Anytime it is possible, use reclaimed lumber. Many areas feature reclaimed lumber sites or offer used construction material trading co-ops free. For decking and trim, use recycled plastic or composite wood. Select materials with long lifespans including cement board siding. Although you pay more initially, it will save money in the end because it will not need replacement for many years.

    Design for a Low Impact on the Environment

    Design buildings that require less land. The extra yard will absorb excess nutrients from the rainwater that will contribute to harmful run-off to watersheds that are nearby. When you design your exterior space, select patio and driveway materials that are permeable and will allow the water to soak in. Use plants for landscaping that are native to the area and will not require chemical treatments or fertilizer to grow. Use low flow toilets, water saver showerheads and water saver faucets.

    Build for Clean Air

    Certain building products release toxic chemicals and vapors into the air causing environmental damage and related health problems. Particleboard, plywood, plastics and paints are the largest offenders. Select alternative products that are labeled “low VOC” (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde-free plywood and particleboard. Alternately, you might select panels that are made of compressed plant materials such as strawboard or wheat board.


  • An Overview of Wind Energy: The Benefits of its use and how it Works

    A clean source of renewable energy, wind produces no water or air pollution. Once a turbine is built, there are nearly zero operational costs since wind is free. Advancements in technology are producing wind turbines that are cheaper and more efficient. Additionally, many governments have begun offering tax incentives to encourage wind energy development.

    Benefits of Wind Energy

    • Clean – When electricity is generated by the wind, it does not cause pollution like other types of energy sources.
    • Cost Effective – Wind energy is the least expensive of all renewable energy sources. Since wind is free, it can provide stable and long-term pricing for power production.
    • Renewable – Wind is readily available, plentiful and will not diminish our natural resources.
    • Fast Growing – Wind energy has an average growth rate of over 20 percent annually. It has been the fastest growing source of energy in the past 10 years.
    • Benefits Society – As a clean source of energy, wind energy helps to reduce the costs associated with air pollution.
    • Local Source of Energy – The projects surrounding wind energy keep money in local communities where the projects are located. These projects create jobs and provide steady income to the landowners where the projects are located.
    • Efficient and Reliable – Wind energy is efficient and reliable. Wind turbines can generate electricity up to 99 percent of the time.

    Parts of a Wind Turbine

    • Blades – The blades of a turbine resemble the wings of an airplane. They work to lift and capture the energy from the wind. Due to the special shape of the blades, a pocket of pressure is created behind the blade, causing it to rotate. The blades spin slowly, at the rate of 20 revolutions per minute.
    • Nacelle – The gearbox and generator are housed inside of the nacelle. The blades are attached to the nacelle by a series of gears. The gears work to increase the speed. As the generator inside of the nacelle spins, it produces energy.
    • Tower – The tower is typically a steel cylinder, white in color that stands up to 200 feet tall. Towers feature a ladder up through the inside of them and a hoist used to lift tools and other equipment to the top.
    • Base – The base is made concrete and is reinforced with steel bars. It is one of two basic designs. Either a deep cylinder that measures 16 feet deep and 15 feet around or it is a shallow flat disk that is three feet thick and 40 feet around.

    How a Wind Turbine Operates

    The principal that wind turbines work on is a very simple one. The wind turns two or even three blades around a rotor. This rotor is connected to a main gearbox, which contains a generator that creates electricity.

    Wind turbines are affixed to the top of a tower where they can capture the most wind energy. When they are mounted at heights of 100 feet, they can capture wind that is faster and less unsettled.

    Wind turbines can be used for electricity production for a single home or building. Additionally, they can be connected to an electricity grid for more widespread distribution.