Fireplace

Energy-Efficient Alternatives to a Wood-Burning Fireplace

There is nothing better in winter and autumn in relation to heat, smell, and the crackle of a wood-burning fire in your home. It is an ancient, enviable and intimate family ritual for many.

The Problem With Burning Wood

Unfortunately, while wood-burning fireplaces are charming, they’re not all that great on the budget, your lungs or the environment! They can also be dangerous.

Conventional hearth chimneys waste about 90% of the heat a fire creates and siphons off some of the heated atmosphere of your house, as stated by the EPA. Not efficient.

Inhaling burning wood smoke is also as dangerous as smoking cigarettes; wood smoke is loaded with carcinogens like benzene.

Burning wood fuels global warming, too. Worse, the leftover soot is a heat-trapping pollutant.

Wood-burning hearths need a lot of maintenance, including a professional cleaning every other year along with regular ash clean-ups.

Three Energy-Efficient Alternatives

Electric Fireplace Insert

There are three popular alternatives to burning wood: gas fireplace inserts, alcohol fireplace inserts and electric fireplace inserts. All are great alternatives whether or not you are in possession of a working chimney and hearth.

1. Direct-Vent Gas Insert Hearth

gas insert fireplace

2. Electric Fireplace Insert

electric fireplace insert

3. Alcohol Gel Fireplace with Faux-Log Insert (Ventless)

alcohol gel fireplace insert

Note: if you are using any form of ventless heater, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector in the same room. The device must satisfy UL 2034 security standards.

A Caution About Using Ventless and Alcohol Inserts

Ventless ethanol hearths use ethanol, which is frequently touted as a clean-burning alternative to wood and gasoline.

However, Ethanol emits nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide; some alcohol fuel gels also spew formaldehyde and benzene. They are also considered a fire hazard because they are highly flammable.

With any ventless fireplace (except for electric fireplace inserts which use no fluids to simulate fire), exercise caution if your house is tightly sealed. Since they are duct- and chimney-free, carbon monoxide and other nasties go airborne inside the house while sucking up oxygen. Some alcohol inserts also create water vapor, which can cause mold to develop. Ventless fireplaces are outlawed in Massachusetts and California and in a few municipalities.

Side-By-Side Comparison

Here’s a comparison of wood-burning fireplaces vs. the other three choices:

comparison of 3 wood burning fireplace alternatives

solar panels for home

Surprising Facts About Solar Panels For The Home

The number of people acquiring solar panels for the home has been increasing gradually.

This is being driven by the desire to have green or cleaner energy. Solar energy is also renewable and does not pollute the environment. However, the uptake of solar panels especially in the home is still quite low. This is being experienced despite the mass campaigns.

The following are some reasons why investing in a solar panel is beneficial:

1. Durable

Great strides have been made in solar panel technology. A few years back, the photovoltaic panels were not very strong. Actually, many would rarely last for more than 10 years. However, modern panels are quite sturdy. They feature stronger material and designs. Most of the solar panels found today can easily last for 40 to 50 years.

2. Cheaper

Cost has always stopped many people from investing in solar panels. Initially, the panels were quite pricey. However, this is no longer the case; in fact, the price of the panels for solar is always coming down. This is credited to increased competition in the market. Also, better technology is making it cheaper to produce them. Good brands that last for as many as 50 years will not cost much.

3. Zero Maintenance

One of the real benefits of photovoltaic panels is zero maintenance. Once you install them, you simply forget about it. They don’t require any monthly service or maintenance. They rarely breakdown. And they are not affected by the elements. They can withstand the harsh sun and strong winds. The material such as glass does not fade. This ensures optimum power production is maintained.

4. Sell Excess Power

More and more people are installing solar panels in their home. The power generated by the home grids is growing quite fast. The federal government is asking power generating companies to buyback the excess power generated by the home solar systems. Homeowners are therefore making money from their investment. Within a short time, an individual will have recouped his cost.

5. Easy Installation

solar panels for home install

Installing solar panels for home is quite easy.  It follows a very simple process which most installers are familiar with. Actually, many vendors will offer the service as part of their after sale service. DIY (Do-it-yourself) home solar kits can be installed by any person with basic skills. Adding a new panel is also simple and straightforward.

6. No Noise

Solar energy is the most silent source of power. The panel produces no noise because there are no moving parts in the entire system. The complete kit is made up of a solar panel, a charge controller, a battery, and an inverter.  Due to the panel’s silent nature, it can be used anywhere. It also creates a peaceful environment.

7. Tax Credit

The push for the adoption of solar energy is always growing. This is simply because power from the sun is among the cleanest and most abundant.  Governments are giving people incentives to purchase the panels.  Homeowners may be able to receive tax credits or rebates after making a purchase, bringing the cost of ownership down.

8. Easy to Increase Power

Increasing the power output in other systems is a lengthy process, that may require additional resources, materials, and labor.  Nonetheless, increasing the power output in a solar system is pretty simple. It is just a matter of adding or connecting another panel. No transmission costs and no costs of wiring.

9. User-friendly

Compared to other sources of energy both renewable and non-renewable, solar energy is the most user-friendly. First, it incurs a one-off installation cost. Second, it has zero-maintenance. Third, it is quite flexible. Four, it is the most eco-friendly.

10. Versatile

Solar panels for the home come in a wide assortment. This is credited to enhanced technology. The most common type is the flat and rigid solar panel. Nonetheless, other types are being invented.

There is the rollable and foldable solar panel which is quite portable. It is mainly used for small appliances. These include lanterns, radios, phones, pumps and more.

Solar energy is commonly referred to as the energy for the future. Energy from the sun is expected to replace that from fossil fuels in the near future. This being the case, homeowners should think about investing in solar panels.

Now is the right time considering the drop in prices. The panels are also long-lasting. The solar panels for home also come with longer warranty from the manufacturer.

solar panel array outdoors

Power from the sun – clean and unlimited

Solar Energy: The ultimate energy source

It provides the earth with light, heat and radiation. Every hour the sun radiates onto the Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year.

When sun’s energy is harnessed and made useable it is called solar energy. While many technologies derive fuel from one or the other from form of solar energy, there are also technologies that directly transform the sun’s energy into electricity.

Solar energy is our earth’s core source of renewable energy since generating electricity directly from sunlight does not deplete any of the earth’s natural resources and supplies the earth with energy continuously.

Solar energy generating electricity

Photovoltaic devices produce electricity when sunlight strikes them. Electricity generation relies upon chemical. When sunlight strikes a PV cell, chemical reactions release electrons, thus generating electric current. Using PV is a cheaper option than new electric lines for providing power to remote locations.

Solar Power Plants – generates electricity when the heat from solar thermal collectors is used to heat a fluid to produces steam that is used for power generation. Use the sun’s heat to generate steam to drive an electric generator.

Solar energy for lighting

Solar cells collect and distribute sunlight to provide illumination. This technology replaces artificial lighting. Solar lights charge during the day and light up at dusk. These are a common sight along walkways.

The environmental impacts

The best part about PV system is they operate without producing air, water or solid wastes. However, manufacturing these cells involve generation of some hazardous material.

When constructed as grid-connected systems, they require considerable amount of land, which can impact existing ecosystems. On the other hand, most PV panels are installed on buildings forming a distributed system that use little or no land.

Similarly solar-plants generate zero air emissions, though some emissions are created during manufacture. Water used for solar thermal plants is extensive.

Major disadvantages of solar energy

The amount of sunlight that arrives at the earth’s surface varies. It changes from location to location, season to season, weather conditions.

The sun is not constant at delivering that much energy to any one place at any one time. Because of which a large surface area is required to collect the energy at a useful rate.

The Future of Solar Energy

Solar energy technology is undergoing significant growth in the 21st century. More research, more architects and common man are recognizing the value of solar energy and learning how to effectively incorporate it into building designs. Solar hot water systems compete efficiently with conventional systems in some areas. As costs of solar PV continue to decline solar systems will be adopted increasingly in the markets.

As the solar industry continues to expand, there will be occasional roadblocks in the road. However these problems will come to an end and solar energy will play an integral role in ending dependence on fossil fuels. Thus bring an end to the threat of global warming, and assuring a future based on clean and sustainable energy.

climate change model

Climate Change

Climate change isn’t just about a few degrees variation

The Earth’s environment is changing faster than we can possibly predict the consequences. The debate is not whether changes are coming but how severe they’ll be.

Global Warming

Global warming is the gradual raise in temperature of the Earth’s surface that has aggravated considerably since the industrial revolution. Over the past two decades the effect has become more than noticeable. The global average temperature has increased 14 to 18 degrees C since the late 1800’s. Many experts estimate an additional 14 to 18 degree rise in the average temperature during the next 100 years.

We have upset the balance

Global warming is occurring because we have upset the delicate balance of gases that traps heat in our atmosphere or allows life to exist. A combination of carbon dioxide, methane or water vapor traps enough heat in our atmosphere to allow life to exist. But we have upset the balance.

Substantial evidence exists that most of this warming has been caused by human activities. We have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through an increase of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide.

Green-house gases, the hazardous of them being CO2, are emitted every time we burn fossil fuels like coal or petrol. These greenhouse gases, act to form a planetary blanket retaining too much of the sun’s heat, or cause global warming. This temperature rise in the earth’s atmosphere is causing increasingly severe environmental changes such as desertification, melting icecaps or sea level rise, not to forget, species extinction or the spread of disease.

Too much CO2

We have introduced massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels like coal, building energy-inefficient buildings, or driving cars that use too much petrol to get us from one place to another. Earth’s atmosphere now contains 32% more CO2 than it did in the mid 1800s. That means we are basically changing our planet’s climate. The northern hemisphere is now significantly warmer than any point in the last 1,000 years.

There is serious scientific disagreement about such crucial questions as to how fast or far temperatures, seas, or storm strength could rise. Warmer waters, could lead to more hurricanes. Studies predict that hurricanes might be torn apart by wind conditions associated with rising temperatures. This uncertainty is humanity’s biggest foe, experts say, that the ever multiplying global population in coming decades, will be ever more vulnerable to floods, famine, or other climate-driven threats.

The dangers arising from global warming such as drought, famine, rising seas — appear to be decades off. The way to prevent them is with sacrifices in intellectual way: with smaller cars, bigger investments in new energy sources, keeping a count of carbon footprints.

Global Warming is a matter of life or death… we need to act now!

greenfield

Green Living

Benefit Your Health and Preserve Planet Earth

The definition of “green living” is something more than choosing paper instead of plastic grocery bags, recycling beer cans and newspapers, driving a fuel efficient car, eating organically grown food.

These activities certainly contribute to keeping our planet Earth and our personal health in good shape… But understanding “green living” and what exactly does it have to do with improving personal health and energy brings us to a broad definition of green living: Green Living is any action or activity that results in a positive impact, to any degree, on the environment so that the planet can continue to support the generations to come.

Looking at it from a different prospect, the practice of green living minimizes or eliminates toxins from our environment as well as reducing and eliminating purely destructive habits. A lifestyle that undertakes reduced use of the Earth’s natural resources. Practitioners of green living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet.

The basic goal of green living is preserving and improving the health of planet Earth and all who live here. This lifestyle embraces our personal environments, including our home, work and social environments as well as the planet as a whole.

Re-thinking environment and our future

Green technology is the application of the environmental expertise to conserve the natural environment and resources and to curb the negative impacts of human involvement. These solutions need to be socially equitable, economically feasible, and environmentally sound. These include the three R’s:

Reduce

Reducing or cut back in key area of ones life is one of the easiest ways to be a good environmental citizen.

Some of the most important resources you can reduce consumption of are:

Energy

Developing alternative renewable energies such as solar, wind, geothermal which help to reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources to power our lives.

Water Preservation

In many parts of the world, drinkable water is in very short supply. unless properly treated, every time a drop of water goes down the drain makes it unsuitable for consumption. Sewage treatments are important as they purify water in levels of its pollution.

Solid Waste

There is very little space available for solid waste disposal, and because landfills are so tightly packed, it takes a great deal of time for material to decompose. The easiest way to reduce solid waste is to reduce ones consumption of daily products.

Reuse

Reuse is simply the act of finding a alternate use for a product to prolong its life. Reuse is an important step after the step of reduction has been carried out to its best, but before you are ready to recycle.

It is a process that many of us already follow in our daily lives without realizing. The success of reuse lies in creativity. Reuse is preferable, but don’t dump your junk!

Recycling

Recycling is the process of taking a product at the end of its useful life, using all or part of it to make another product. It helps preserve natural resources from being depleted and reduces our waste sent to landfills

Check Your Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint is the measure of all greenhouse gases we individually produce and has units of tons of CO2 equivalent. It is the impact our activities on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases generated in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. Avoid waste, keep public water public and cut down on your travel-related carbon emissions.

Go deeper into what it means to have a green life!!

co2 tax life cycle

Guide to buying a carbon Offset

If you are environmentally aware and you plan on taking full responsibility for your own actions that may be affecting the environment, then buying yourself some carbon offsets is the best new option.

But if you plan on buying some carbon offset, then here are the things that you first need to look at before you start looking for a provider.

Firstly, you need to figure out what the sources are in your life for the emission of carbon dioxide. For the average man in America, the most common source of carbon Dioxide emission in your daily life has to be your driving the car or any other vehicle. There are other ways which might be sources for carbon dioxide emissions as well, for example many household products emit carbon dioxide on their use and even traveling by air will add up to that. Firstly, you must calculate your carbon footprint. This is how much total of carbon dioxide you cause to the environment through your daily activity. In fact you can just try out one of those online carbon footprint calculators that will just make your job of finding out your carbon footprints easier.

Simply put, when you buy carbon offsets it only means that you are paying to have your carbon emissions balanced out so that somewhere in the world, some amount of carbon dioxide harm being caused is being taken care of, and all because of you. So after you have calculated your carbon footprints and understood the whole concept of carbon offsets you now know how much money you would want to spend to balance out your carbon footprints. So now, you have to start looking for a reliable carbon offset provider. You have to find a reliable carbon offset provider as you need to make sure that whatever money you are spending is not going to waste.

So to find a reliable source you would have to make sure that certain requirements are in place and you would have to conduct a thorough research to prove the same. There is some industry standards that each carbon offset provider would have to meet up to so you need to make sure that there is proof of that. Also, you need to check if the portfolio of eth offset provider is audited or not. This way you will know for sure that the money that you are spending has been spent in the right places. So if your offset is legal and valid, you’ll be good to go.

glasss recycling

What good is glass-recycling?

Recycling glass is a simple and cost efficient way to help the environment that is also super beneficial.

The point is that if you throw away a bottle made of glass and you sit comfortably thinking it is being taken care of in the landfill, it is actually not the case.

That glass bottle will easily take up to a million years to actually break down. Till then it would just be polluting the environment constantly. However, in contrast to that if you recycle that bottle of glass then within a month that same glass will be used somewhere else serving a better purpose.

Most glass containers are completely recyclable and should be recycled for better use than just lying in a landfill. The glass containers being completely recyclable it also means that the same container can be recycled several times without it losing the quality of its glass. Thus each time that it is recycled it retains all the purity of quality and thus is of the same standard. Also, if you must know, most glass containers already have a lot of recycled glass as its source. Nearly seventy percent of the glasses used in new glass containers that you are buying are from recovered glass through recycling. So recycling glass is actually quite a tried and tested process and imagine how much help it would be if we all recycled glass instead of just wasting it by throwing them away. Also, not only would you be saving on a lot of pollution that is caused by glass being thrown away, you would also be saving the planet environmentally by reducing the amount of energy that is expended on making glass.

When new glass is made, a lot of sand is heated and heated to high degrees of temperature that means that a lot of energy is taken up just to make new glass from scratch. This only leads to industrial pollution in the environment, all of which can be reduced only if you recycle glass as much as you can. So when you are recycling glass, you are simply crushing the glass container that you do not need anymore and that makes a cullet. So when other glass products are being made through that recycled product of glass called cullet, it takes up a lot less energy than is taken up when a new glass product is made right from scratch, that is because the cullet melts at a very low temperature compared to the sand that is required to make the glass.
So, when you recycle glass you are actually doing a big favor to the environment.

save our planet

Top ten ways of being environmental friendly

If you really want to do your part for the environment you really do not have to take too much trouble on a daily basis to keep that promise to yourself.

In fact there are some very easy daily things that you can maintain and thereby do your bit for the environment.

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: this is a very easy concept. All you have to do to reduce waste and thus reduce environmental pollution is to reuse as many things as possible.Also, recycling those things that are recyclable is the best that you can do to reduce pollution.
  • Avoid heat and air condition: you do not have to live in sweltering heat or the bitter cold for this, just to avoid using the heater and the air conditioner. You could simply install insulation in your wall or weather strips to help do the job for you.
  • Use the right light bulb: Compact Fluorescent light bulbs are the most environmental friendly and so try changing the regular light bulbs that you use for those. These bulbs give out very little heat and also consume little energy.
  • Drive as little as possible: avoid driving to short distances, especially to places where you can make it on foot itself. The lesser you use an automobile, the lesser would be the emissions given out.
  • Go for products that are energy-efficient: whenever you are buying something new that requires energy, try going for one that is environmentally friendly. For example, if you are planning to buy a new car, select one that offers a decent gas mileage.
  • Avoid hot water: this might sound absurd to you but it is actually a fact. The reason behind this is the fact that so much energy is spent in just trying to heat water. So try and conserve on hot water use it as less as possible.
  • Turn it off!: this is actually the easiest way of helping the environment, by switching off all electrical connections that you do not need at the present moment. A collective saving of energy in this fashion helps conserve energy as a whole in this planet.
  • Plant a tree: Another very easy way of helping the environment is by planting a new tree every year. If you do this, you will be helping the environment in the best way possible. Very soon the earth would be running short of trees and its benefits and you would be counter-acting that.
  • Conserve water: Water is another very important component of the environment and you need to use water wisely without wasting any. There might be a massive shortage of water on earth and you should again be countering that from now itself.
  • Encourage others: another great thing you could do is encourage others to be environmentally conscious as well. Only if it is a joint project will it actually help.
wind turbine

U.S. Wind Energy Industry Welcomes Grant Announcement

The American Wind Energy Association welcomed the announcement from the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Energy, about the Administration has begun issuing renewable energy grants under a program approved by Congress in the economic recovery package earlier this year. The announcement included grants of nearly $500 million for 10 wind power projects in Maine, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“For these grantees and many other projects that are preparing their applications, we are seeing business activity picking up and turbine and parts orders being sent all the way up the value chain,” commented AWEA Senior Vice President for Public Policy Rob Gramlich, adding, “That activity had all but dried up and it is very encouraging to see this turnaround underway. Time will tell if that market signal is strong enough to keep the 85,000 people working in the wind industry employed for the next couple of years.”

The grants intend to temporarily replace the production tax credit that has been a major factor in the continued growth in wind and other renewable energy projects. The recession and the halt in the credit markets that began late last year rendered the PTC much less useful as an investment incentive.

The U.S. wind industry summed up for 42 percent of new electricity generation plants installed nationwide in 2008, and created 35,000 jobs that year, thus boosting the number of people employed in wind power to 85,000.

Figures for 2009 have shown a slowdown in new wind projects due to economic conditions. In addition to the grants, AWEA has been advocating for a keen national renewable electricity standard (RES) as a way to send a clear signal to financial markets about the U.S. commitment to renewable energy.

ricegrassgreen

The top ten anti-polluting plants

Did you know that there are natural occurring fighters of pollution?

These are plants that you can keep inside your home and your rooms will be free from pollution – much like the latest vacuum cleaner that you might have bought.

Here’s the list of the top ten plants that you can keep at home to help fight pollution.

  1. Feston Rose Plant: helps purify the air in the room and also has a lovely aroma so works like a sort of room freshener. Bears bright colored flowers.
  2. The Devil’s ivy: this fights the most common pollutants in the house such as carbon monoxide and benzene etc. This plant grows like ivy, so you can keep it on your top shelf for it to grow down.
  3. The Garlic Vine: this plant serves the purpose of air purification for sure, but the leaves of the vine also serve the purpose of treating several bodily ailments such as sore throats and cold etc. all which can be treated by garlic itself. So the plant has two uses.
  4. The Peace Lily: this plant is perfect for placing inside your house if you use a lot of nail polish and other adhesives and solvent kinds of substances. These products release chemicals such as benzene and xylene etc all of which are purified form the air by this plant.
  5. Phalaenopsis: this also helps in purifying the air around it and bears very pretty purple and white flowers. This plant should be kept indoors and not under direct sunlight.
  6. The English Ivy: this is the perfect plant to keep your rooms toxin free as it clears the air of all that is toxic such as fecal particles which might just be present if you have pets at home as well as others like Formaldehyde aerosols etc.
  7. The Parlor Ivy: this is also a plant that makes the air in your house fresh and healthy by purifying it of all chemicals that might be harmful to you. The plant bears pretty heart shaped leaves.
  8. The African Violets: again, this plant too is known for keeping the air fresh and has the most endearing look. The flowers are pretty and of bright colors such as violet and others.
  9. The Christmas cactus: this plant is perfect for placing inside bathrooms. Not only do they make the bathroom appear pretty as the flowers the plant bears are very pretty in color but they would also help keep the air of the bathroom fresh.
  10. The Yellow Goddess: this plant is also great for keeping the air of the room in which it is placed very clean and free of toxins. The plant itself looks very pretty with a beautiful yellow flower. The size of the plant is very small yet it bears lovely flowers and thus makes a perfect houseplant.