Archive for Červenec, 2012

Practicality rules with kids’ rooms

Pátek, Červenec 27th, 2012

WHEN it comes to designing younger children’s rooms, there’s little need for designer touches– chances are they will want them replaced in a couple of years as their tastes change. What young children really need is a practical space that allows them to easily access their toys, books and clothes.

Unless the child has a separate play room, their bedroom is likely to be the place where they spend a lot of their play time, so the room layout needs to maximise floor space, too.

Bed: As the child progresses from the nursery to a “proper” bedroom, try to buy furniture that grows with them. A high bed isn’t appropriate, so look for one that expands lengthways from cot bed to a full-size single. Use bed rails to prevent the child rolling out.

Painted walls: There is no need for fancy wall coverings for this age group – paint works best as it is easily touched up.If you have wallpaper, make sure there are no corners or edges sticking out – they are perfect tearing fodder. A room border of the child’s favourite character is an easy way to add some fun and colour and is easily replaced with a different theme as the child gets older.

Bunting is such a happy accessory and a great way to “bring down” a high ceiling. If the room doesn’t have this issue, you can string it along book shelves and window sills.

Book shelves and baskets: Include lots of low shelving or small baskets, which are ideal for holding books and they can be moved around too.

Bed: If the child is old enough to manage a ladder, then a cabin-style bed makes bedtime fun and is great way to create extra floor space. The space underneath the bed is great for constructing train sets, marble runs, car races or shops without the worry of Mum tripping over them. As the child gets older, they will also appreciate the space as a “quiet” area for reading.

Dens or tents: Hang fabric to create a “den” or invest in an indoor play tent. Kids this age love hiding places where they can let their imagination carry them away, so anything that creates a secret place is ideal.

Wall art: Use the wall area for stimulating pictures but you don’t need to splash out on expensive art. Consider getting some of the children’s own work framed and mounted or create a collage of photos.

Minimal theming: Most children love having their heroes or favourite characters in their bedroom, but if you’re not a fan of garish duvet covers or wallpaper, opt for a border or frieze and restrict Buzz Lightyear and Fireman Sam to pictures or stickers. Don’t cover the entire walls in a character theme – children soon grow out of favourite characters.

Toy Storage: A really important consideration for a kids’ room is toy storage. Use brightly coloured containers as open “drawers” in an open-fronted unit that are easy to reach and means that toys can be quickly scooped away. A clutter-free room promotes good sleep practice for younger children, as there’s nothing to distract them. I believe toy boxes are fine for slightly older kids but my experience is that youngsters don’t choose to play with toys they can’t see.

Fun lighting: Lighting in a kids’ room is where you can have some fun and let your creative juices run. You can buy LED lights that change colour automatically, so consider making a funky light fitting as a point of interest. Finally, many young children like a night light. The Tooli Night Lights from Oxo are ideal as they are cool to touch and can be picked up and moved around. They last long all night and are simply recharged by placing back on their stand.

Jefferson neuroscientist helping astronauts sleep better

Pondělí, Červenec 23rd, 2012

A new sunrise takes place every 90 minutes. Docking maneuvers sometimes occur at odd hours. Then there’s that feeling of apparent weightlessness.

No wonder astronauts aboard the International Space Station can have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep.

Now, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University is among those working on a solution: light.

George C. Brainard is advising NASA as it prepares to replace the aging fluorescent lights on the station with high-tech LED fixtures. The lights, which received the agency’s go-ahead earlier this year, can be adjusted to enhance or relax an astronaut’s state of alertness at the appropriate time of day.

The plan is the outgrowth of research by Brainard and others that has established how light plays a powerful role in regulating our various biological clocks. Changes in light exposure can affect sleep, digestion, cognitive performance, and mood — a phenomenon known to people who experience jet lag, night-shift work, or the seasonal blahs associated with the shorter days of winter.

Initially, NASA planned to replace the lights on the space station with LED fixtures purely because they last much longer than fluorescents and are energy efficient. But when Brainard heard about the plan, he and a handful of other experts urged the agency to modify the specifications so that the lights could be a tool for maintaining astronaut health.

“Bud was instrumental” in making the case for the adjustable lights, said NASA flight surgeon Smith Johnston, referring to Brainard by his nickname.

Aboard the station, astronauts average as little as six hours of sleep during a 24-hour period, even though they are allotted 8.5 hours, Johnston said.

Sleep becomes even harder with disruptions, such as the occasional emergency or a docking procedure that may require the crew to get up in the middle of their sleep time. Some astronauts take short-acting sleeping pills, but the addition of adjustable lights will be welcome, Johnston said.

“If you’re chronically sleep-deprived, you don’t perform as well,” the NASA physician said. “You’re moody. You don’t have as good coping mechanisms.”

It’s a cause for concern during a six-month stay aboard the space station, let alone for an eventual Mars mission that could last three years, Brainard said.

“Every one of us has probably done an all-nighter or two in our lives,” Brainard said. “You feel crummy the next day, but you bounce back. And you also get your recovery sleep. They [the astronauts] are not getting their recovery sleep. That’s the problem. Day in, day out, they’re missing the ingredients for best health and best behavioral regulation.”

The specs call for the new fixtures to fit precisely into the 7-by-26-inch rectangular sockets now occupied by fluorescent bulbs, said Debbie Sharp, a senior manager at Boeing, which is overseeing the project. The first of 100 new LED lamps will be delivered to NASA in mid-2015, she said. A variety of tests are needed first, including an evaluation to ensure that the lights can handle the rigors of space travel.

Solar Power – 7 Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

Čtvrtek, Červenec 19th, 2012

In today’s world, we are becoming more and more aware that the fuels of yesterday are causing damage to the world we live in. There is more pressure to find energy sources that will not damage the fragile Earth. One of the more common of these options is solar energy. With all of the hype about solar energy, more and more myths are being created so that people do not want to make the switch from fossil fuels. This article will review seven popular myths about solar energy systems.

1. The first myth is that solar energy will not work in cool or cloudy climates. The fact is that the cold temperatures make the energy transfers more efficiently. Solar panels work off of the UV rays of the sun which get through the clouds.

2. Solar panels do not require regular maintenance contrary to popular belief. It is recommended that a hose off once a year is done so that the solar panels are clean. It is also prudent to check for debris and clean it off as soon as possible.

3. Solar panels will not cause the roof to leak or collapse. The companies normally install a rail across the roof for the panels to go on top of. The companies make sure that everything is waterproof before they are done installing.

4. The fourth myth is that the solar system is so expensive that it will not pay for itself. Solar eliminates the electricity bill which is why most people are getting the panels installed. The companies normally have several financing options and the money saved typically pays the system off in around seven years depending on the state.

5. The next myth is that solar panels add to global warming. The solar panels do not burn harsh chemicals or fossil fuels which release the greenhouse gases associated with global warming. The only carbon footprint is when they are made and transported.

6. Solar panels may seem delicate but, they are actually pretty resilient. NASA uses them all the time out in space where there are plenty of hazards. They are black so snow melts off of them quickly as well.

7. Solar power systems can either use batteries or they are grid tied. In modern day systems they are grid tied which is cheaper for most families. It also allows them to feed the excess to the electric company so the get credited for the power that would be sitting in the batteries. It also allows them to not worry about storing energy for the night and bad weather days.

A company official said the solar division is in talks with integrators – people assembling solar energy rooftop equipment – to offer the Avancis range of modules. The company hopes to build a network of integrators who will use the modules, besides acting as a distribution chain. Saint-Gobain sees particular potential in the hospitality and healthcare segment, where there is keen interest for solar photovoltaic and solar powered-steam generation applications.

The policy environment for distributed energy generation capacity is slowly falling in place, with support for solar power generation as a part of renewable energy options. Also, grid power shortage in many States is driving residential and industrial consumers to set up backup power.

The company is also a major supplier of components the for solar power generation capacities being set up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

It manufactures curved mirrors for solar concentrators and flat mirrors used in solar thermal applications. It has supplied mirrors to power over 150 MW of such applications under the scheme, the official said.

Baltimore Convention Center To Save

Úterý, Červenec 17th, 2012

Constellation , a business unit of Exelon, and the Baltimore Convention Center today announced an energy performance contract (EPC) to install approximately $10 million in water and energy conservation measures.

Under the terms of the EPC, the water conservation and energy efficiency improvements provided by Constellation require no upfront capital from Baltimore Convention Center and are guaranteed to provide approximately $18 million in cost savings over a 15-year period. Baltimore Convention Center will use the guaranteed savings from the conservation measures to fund the project.

“The Baltimore Convention Center is committed to sustainable operations,” said Peggy Daidakis, executive director for Baltimore Convention Center. “This EPC with Constellation helps us to meet our goals of reducing overall water and energy usage and to satisfy our customers with whom we are actively engaged in promoting greener meeting spaces.”

Theodore Atwood, director of the Baltimore City Department of General Services, added that, “The Convention Center project is another step in our efforts to reduce Baltimore City government’s electric power use by 20 percent by 2015.”

By implementing water and energy conservation measures, Baltimore Convention Center expects to conserve an estimated 100 million gallons of water and avoid the creation of 6,058 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually over the next 15 years.

Click here to view a brief video about the Baltimore Convention Center’s conservation efforts through its energy performance contract with Constellation.

“Energy performance contracting is a valuable resource for private and public entities to leverage their existing operational budget for needed capital improvements,” said Michael D. Smith, vice president of solar and energy efficiency sales for Constellation. “We look forward to working with the Baltimore Convention Center to help maximize energy savings and meet its environmental goals.”

The conservation measures installed by Constellation include: energy efficient LED lighting and lighting controls; HVAC repairs and controls upgrades; thermal blankets on steam valves and fittings; low-flow toilets and faucets; building envelopment improvements such as caulking and weather stripping; and installation of a “cool roof” membrane to reflect heat.

“In a time of diminishing resources for councils it is important that councillors and managers are armed with the best information about the public’s priorities and experience of services so that budgets can be invested accordingly.

“The survey ends on 3 August so I hope that anyone approached to take part does so and makes use of their chance to influence how we spend 64 million on roads and transport.”

Questions include a measure of general satisfaction with road and transport conditions, as well as more specific aspects such as gritting during winter, street lighting and dealing with illegally parked cars.

Hartz site proposal heads to Bloomfield council

Čtvrtek, Červenec 12th, 2012

With Hartz Mountain preparing to leave Bloomfield, the site’s prime location on Bloomfield Avenue next to an array of transportation options is an ideal spot for a “hybrid” mixed-use development, a planner said.

The township’s professional developer consultant, David Roberts of Maser Consulting, told the Bloomfield Planning Board on Tuesday that the proposed development’s close proximity to the Watsessing Avenue Train Station, Grove Street Light Rail and eight bus routes would make it a “transit-oriented district.”

The plan resembles a “hybrid” mixed-use development because the project does not conform to vertical development normally associated with those projects, he said. While most have businesses on the first floor with residential units stacked on top, this project calls for business fronts along the Bloomfield Avenue property with residential units behind, he said.

“Effectively, this will have to be a self-contained development,” he said.

With a 5-2 vote with four absences, the Planning Board voted to send the project to the Township Council for review. Susanna Sotillo and Richard Stephan voted against the proposal. Questioning Roberts prior to the vote, Sotillo said she had concerns about traffic along Bloomfield Avenue.

While the property can hold up to 395 residential rental units between three and four stories, Roberts said there is no final unit tally. The complex will be exclusively for two-bedroom units, Roberts said. A developer’s representative once said it would have two- and three-bedroom apartments.

As this project is debated, Bloomfield is wrestling on how to deal with at least nine other projects under construction or on the drawing board. The majority of the township council agreed in June to explore a study for the township’s short- and long-term planning.

Save Bloomfield Now released a statement prior to Tuesday’s meeting, stating it is interested in finding out if there an environmental report for the project.

Because the land is a Brownfield site - a former industrial complex - it would need to be cleaned up. “Issues” with the soil may dictate where residential and retail units are located, Roberts said, without elaborating.

According to Save Bloomfield Now’s Facebook page, it is a nonpartisan group not against redevelopment. They fight “over-development and other bad local government policies that sacrifice the long-term best interests of Bloomfield for dubious short-term gain,” according to its Facebook site.

Hartz, a pet goods manufacturer, announced in 2010 that it will close in Bloomfield - where it had been since the 1960s - and move its production facilities to Ohio. Nearly 180 employees will be laid off.

While the company said at the time it expected to be off the land by the end of 2011, it appears some offices there are still in use. A company spokesman could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

About 20 residents attended the meeting, and three asked Roberts questions. Carol Humphries said she wanted to make sure the project is in the best interest of the taxpayers, not the developer. Sue Ann Penna raised concerns about traffic and the number of parking spaces available.

Roberts said the abandoned train track next door could be turned into a pedestrian walkway, connecting the former Hartz property with Watsessing Avenue station.

First of all

Pondělí, Červenec 9th, 2012

At the risk of coming off as unsophisticated, it seems to me that more and more things are popping up in life that we Midwesterners, well … just aren’t ready for.

Not just a mayor in New York who would deny us our 64-ounce Big Gulps. No, read the newspapers there and you will find mention of the $1 million parking space at a Greenwich Village condo project or the hip thing in men’s underwear: briefs that cost $100 a pair, with the added bonus that they cannot be thrown into the dryer. That might strike the average fly-over-country guy as something a little too impractical to have behind his fly.

Or the baby trademarking thing: Jay-Z and Beyonce protected their daughter’s name, Blue Ivy Carter — a step that I’ve found occurs to very few Kansas parents, who probably have already lost exclusive rights to Emily and John. I know, hard to look at your kids as so special now, isn’t it? Their product placement opportunities are practically zilch.

It’s folks like the Zs who are probably the target consumers of baby athletic shoes, 0 to 6 months, now on the market. They come with cleats. Makes it easier for their kids to crawl over yours into that exclusive day care.

We Midwesterners have to admit to ourselves that some things may simply be beyond our sensibilities, such as fusion cuisine at Bryant’s.

Recently came an un-Kodak moment when a photographer took his snaps using an adapted but real 150-year-old human skull. The photos were described as eerie. Ya think? I recommend Missourians stick to their Instamatics.

As one of the taciturn people of the Plains, I’m also appalled at the idea of sitting on planes next to somebody who already knows things, such as your age, favorite quotations and sexual proclivities. We have the Dutch airline KLM to thank for this “Social Check-in” breakthrough in seat selection through shared Facebook or Twitter postings.

Trying to ignore the quotations being hurled from the next seat, you might reach for your Sky Mall catalog. Anyone on an airplane in recent years knows these cater to folks with, uumm, very specific tastes.

I am not bad-mouthing the life-size, zombie head, arms and emerging torso. That worked great in Aunt Edna’s rose bed. It looked very natural, and, ultimately, so did she.

And yes, the wineglass holder necklace does has some appeal, especially after my last white carpet episode with some Johnson County folks who never seem to invite my wife and me back.

But in between the analog day-of-the-week clock wall, floating poker table and the beer can remote is … the Sumo Wrestler Table.

Naturally, the figure wears only his mawashi/belt/thong. Otherwise he’d look simply like one more fully clothed fat man crouched in the living room with your lamp on his back.

“Our table is topped with a … tempered glass top for views from any angle,” goes the sales pitch. Judging from the photos, one of those angles could scar young psyches for a long time.

Do we really need the Eco-Egg Washing Machine (it just looks like an egg, it doesn’t wash them), the Microwavable S’mores maker (a little robot thing holds down the concoction for zapping) or the Waring Pro Automatic Martini Maker for folks who have forgotten how to shake things?

And then there’s the nearly full-size cake that looks like a toilet with a semi-sweet chocolate lid, which is what they’re really selling. “With every Chocolate Toilet Seat order, we will personally walk you through every step it takes to make this unique eye catching cake,” says the ad for Creative Chocolates of Vermont.

MTU Researcher Develops Low Cost Integrated PVT System

Pátek, Červenec 6th, 2012

Tiny houses don’t have much room on their tiny roofs, and that’s a problem when it comes to finding space for solar panels, let alone a combined solar power system that can generate both electricity and heat. However, help is on the way in the form of a new compact photovoltaic thermal energy system under development at Michigan Technological University, and it could help make off-grid solar power more cost-effective for larger buildings, too.

The installed cost of solar power would be substantially lower with an integrated system that maximizes all of the available solar potential in a relatively small space.

The good news, according to MTU, is that commercially available solar systems are already highly cost-efficient at collecting solar energy for heat and hot water.

The bad news is, thermal systems are not as popular as they could be, because all you get is the heat and hot water. For electricity you need photovoltaic panels, and since conventional solar panels can easily take up all of the available roof space, that leaves the thermal system out in the cold.

Lead researcher Joshua Pearce focused on thin-film silicon technology, which is far cheaper than conventional solar cells based on crystalline silicon. For rooftop applications, it also has a weight advantage.

However, thin-film technology faces a major obstacle. Its efficiency can degrade significantly after prolonged exposure to light, an effect called the Staebler-Wronski effect.

Pearce’s solution, developed in collaboration with the company ThinSilicon and Queen’s University in Canada, basically involved creating thicker thin-film cells that can be applied directly to a solar thermal energy collector.

The thicker cells essentially overcame the Staebler-Wronski effect, and the research team also found that they could even boost their electrical efficiency by about 10 percent, by “baking” them in near-boiling temperatures once a day (a process called spike annealing).

Aside from helping to spread the solar love around to more building owners, a high-efficiency, low-cost PVT system could have important implications for the Obama Administration’s national energy policy.

One element of the policy is the transition to smart grid technologies that rely more on distributed energy, including rooftop installations. Along with supporting more clean energy and energy efficiency, the distributed energy model will help to reduce the threat of widespread power outages in an era of increasingly erratic weather.

Another key element is the SunShot Initiative, named after the iconic 1960′s era Moon Shot program that rapidly vaulted the U.S. from an also-ran to the winner of the race to the moon.

The aim of SunShot is to bring the cost of solar power down to parity with fossil fuels, while propelling the U.S. back into the leadership position it once held in the global solar energy market.

Part of the SunShot effort relies on increasing the efficiency of solar cells, but equally important is its focus on simply lowering the cost of installing solar systems, and that’s where Pearce’s integrated PVT system could offer the most significant savings.

LED street lighting delivers up to 85 percent energy savings in global trial

Středa, Červenec 4th, 2012

Results from a global trial of light-emitting diode (LED) street lights confirm that the fixtures can deliver electricity savings of up to 85% over existing technologies. The two-and-a-half-year pilot, called LightSavers, tested 533 LED lamps in 15 trials in 12 cities, including New York, London, Hong Kong, Toronto, and Sydney.

Findings from the trials are presented in a report co-released by The Climate Group, electronics giant Philips, and HSBC earlier this month on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit. The Climate Group launched LightSavers in 2009, supported by the HSBC Climate Partnership, with the goal to accelerate the market adoption of outdoor LED lighting and smart-lighting controls.

Key findings from the report, Lighting the Clean Revolution: The Rise of LED Street Lighting and What it Means for Cities, include:

LED’s achieve the expected 50 to 70% energy savings, and reach up to 80% savings when coupled with smart controls. Energy savings in the trials vary from 18% to 85%, with 20 out of 27 products achieving savings of 50% or more, and ten showing savings of 70% or more.

Surveys in Kolkata, London, Sydney, and Toronto indicated that between 68% to 90% of respondents endorsed LED’s city-wide roll out. Benefits highlighted included improved safety and visibility.

LED lighting lifespan ranges from 50,000 to 100,000 hours indicating a high return on investment.

The ‘catastrophic’ failure rate of LED products over 6,000 hours is around 1%, compared, for example, up to 10% for ceramic metal halide fixtures over a similar time period.

The Climate Group and Philips are calling for an international low carbon lighting standard to be created and implemented ensuring that citizens worldwide have access to energy efficient outdoor lighting.

“I believe that improving financing approaches will significantly advance the adoption of LED lighting technologies in the coming months. The results clearly show the financial and energy savings of implementing LED’s. Now, cities will have to figure out how to work the funding into their upcoming budgets.”

In California, to cite another example, support for LED street lights project financing has come from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy. In January, Justin Gerdes reported at Forbes that 10 California cities, several of them quite small, had used funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to undertake LED street lighting retrofit projects. Since I published that post, the CEC has announced that about a dozen more California cities have launched LED street lighting retrofit projects courtesy of the same ARRA-funded Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program.

So confident are the report partners in the potential of LED lighting they want LED’s to become the global lighting standard. “All new public lighting – both street lighting and in public buildings – should be LED by 2015, with the aim of all public lighting being LED by 2020,” said the Climate Group’s Kenber in a statement.

I believe that LED outdoor luminaires have reached maturity in terms of their performance. City lighting managers from across the world have independently verified that LED’s can live up to their promise of exceptional perfor-mance, energy efficiency, and public approval, with indicators pointing towards stabilization in light output in many products after an initial period of volatility.