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 Post subject: When does manufacturing, etc. outweigh energy savings?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 3:45 pm 
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I'm moved to ask this after reading about this solar-powered Nintendo DS List. It strikes me that the manufacturing overhead thrown into that solar panel, plus whatever it took to ship it (not to mention the spray-paint these guys used) would outweigh any energy savings generated.

OTOH, pumping up demand for solar panels is, in general, a Good Thing, right?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:17 pm 
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Also, it make you able to not have to plug it in for charging. I guess it's at least as much that as the actual savings that'd be the draw for me.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 4:33 am 
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I guess it comes down to how much use you get out of the panels. I'd imagine a huge amount of resources are required during manufacturing, so solar is probably only green when mounted on a house and used for decades.

But I get the impression this project wasn't about building a green DS. More about "man this would be cool, let's see if we can make it work." :)

EDIT: You're right, though, there have to be early adopters for a technology to advance. Solar may not be ideal now, but it'll only get better. Thin-film polymer cell seem very promising, as they require fewer materials than silicon cells. I think manufacturing is also much less complex as well. Only problem is I don't think efficiency is nearly as high as traditional designs.

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 Post subject: Re: When does manufacturing, etc. outweigh energy savings?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 11:55 pm 
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padmewan wrote:
It strikes me that the manufacturing overhead thrown into that solar panel, plus whatever it took to ship it (not to mention the spray-paint these guys used) would outweigh any energy savings generated.


The approximation to this answer are given by various Life Cycle Analysis models.

I don't have data at hand now, but for modern computers the energy consumed exceeded energy in production before five years. This data, AFAIR, was for a computer pre-2003, and energy consumption has increased rapidly since.

Another way to look at this is also include material input per service unit (MIPS) and some life cycle assessment tools try to include these.

I'm also debating this issue myself with my current use.

For me, the option is to use my laptop (fairly low energy consumption) as often as feasible and postpone upgrading as long as possible (both desktop and laptop). Of course, not using unnecessarily goes without saying.

Back to the original question: is it worthwhile buying a solar charge for a handheld gaming device (low power). I do not believe so. Even for best solar systems, the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) payback is several years. Most handheld gaming devices do not have a usage-life of several years. Also the solar-chargers used in cheap devices are not anywhere near best of breed.

So, I'd conclude that buying such devices (solar chargers for small hand held devices) amounts to not much more than: self delusion and ecological waste. Of course, it does give a signal to the market: "yes, we want these, please improve them." and that alone may be important.


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 Post subject: Re: When does manufacturing, etc. outweigh energy savings?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:49 am 
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halcyon wrote:
So, I'd conclude that buying such devices (solar chargers for small hand held devices) amounts to not much more than: self delusion and ecological waste.
This is what the environmentalist movement is all about anyway - self delusion, like one person could really make a difference...

These solar panels kind of remind me of how catholic church used to sell indulgences, so a man could pay for his sins (in money). These days you are buying your way out of the collective guilt of polluting by recycling, buying hybrid cars or these Nintendo DS systems with solar panels. Even if the energy cost of solar panel never pays itself back, it makes you feel better about yourself and makes you look better among your peers, and that's what the environmental movement is all about, feeling better about yourself.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:27 am 
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This is what the environmentalist movement is all about anyway - self delusion, like one person could really make a difference...


and when you have 6 billion people thinking that way, you get the situation we have today. Have you ever heard of the "tragedy of the commons"?

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These solar panels kind of remind me of how catholic church used to sell indulgences, so a man could pay for his sins (in money).


Nice religious analogy, but not really accurate. Every technology needs early adopters, who will pay a lot of money for something that probably won't perform as well as advanced versions (for example later versions of Geforce 8XXX series GPU will probably use less power + better performance) they will pay the premium simply to have the newest tech.

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These days you are buying your way out of the collective guilt of polluting by recycling, buying hybrid cars or these Nintendo DS systems with solar panels.


If I did buy a hybrid car it wouldn't be out of guilt; hybrids tend to use less fuel than ordinary saloons, so as long as the purchase price doesn't wipe out the fuel savings it would be a purely financial decision. Of course, some very good diesel engines can be more economical than hybrids, so the numbers would really have to stack up. Also, in London, you are exempted from certain taxes if you buy a hybrid (ie congestion charge), so that is a factor as well.

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that's what the environmental movement is all about, feeling better about yourself.


Maybe a little bit; but the pristine environment we have in the West didn't happen by accident, you know. Go look at China and India and see what happens to the environment without environmentalists around.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:14 am 
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jaganath wrote:
Quote:
This is what the environmentalist movement is all about anyway - self delusion, like one person could really make a difference...

and when you have 6 billion people thinking that way, you get the situation we have today. Have you ever heard of the "tragedy of the commons"?
Even so, a person is not responsible for how other people think. It's almost like a classic prisoner's dilemma, where some people betray (litter), because they know the rest (environmentalists) will stay silent (recycle). Lucky for us environmentalism also works even if there are free riders in the system.
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These solar panels kind of remind me of how catholic church used to sell indulgences, so a man could pay for his sins (in money).


Nice religious analogy, but not really accurate. Every technology needs early adopters, who will pay a lot of money for something that probably won't perform as well as advanced versions (for example later versions of Geforce 8XXX series GPU will probably use less power + better performance) they will pay the premium simply to have the newest tech.
I think it was fairly accurate, I think most people recycle and do environmental acts at their expense, only because because it makes them feel better and there's always a price to pay for that feeling, be it time, money, or some other effort.

My premise is, that people who are substituting normal batterys or gasoline aggregates with solar panels, do so not because they want to pay extra for more environmental technology, even if it is inferior to more conventional technology. It seems like your premise is, that people are buying solar panels instead of batterys and gasoline aggregates, because they just want the latest tech (even if it is inferior).

Your GF8x00 example compares present day technology to future tech, my analogy was based on the assumption that present day solar panels are a substitute for present day batterys and aggregates. It cannot be compared to the adopting of new technology like GF8x00, because in that particular case, the new tech is always superior, where as even new solar panel technology is inferior to the products it is trying to substitute.

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These days you are buying your way out of the collective guilt of polluting by recycling, buying hybrid cars or these Nintendo DS systems with solar panels.


If I did buy a hybrid car it wouldn't be out of guilt; hybrids tend to use less fuel than ordinary saloons, so as long as the purchase price doesn't wipe out the fuel savings it would be a purely financial decision. Of course, some very good diesel engines can be more economical than hybrids, so the numbers would really have to stack up. Also, in London, you are exempted from certain taxes if you buy a hybrid (ie congestion charge), so that is a factor as well.
Your reasoning would make it an economical choice instead of ecological. It only means you don't share the collective guilt. Tax exemptions can only make the car more economical for an individual at the expense of the community. If everyone bought a hybrid car, where would the government get taxes to support public sector? Not everyone is going to buy a hybrid and get a tax exemption, so it kind of means that those who are getting exempted are evading their responsibility for their community by evading taxes (although lawfully). In a way perverted way these people are acting the same way as those people who don't recycle, except the non-recyclers are slipping away from their ecological obligations and the hybrid car owners are slipping away from their economical obligations for others. There's no such thing as a free luch, if you cut taxes, it's away from some other cause, like public health care.

I'm still sure, that 99.9% of people who buy a hybrid car, do so because of ecological values or public image reasons (watch South Parks Smug Alert! episode to know what I'm talking about ;)).

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that's what the environmental movement is all about, feeling better about yourself.


Maybe a little bit; but the pristine environment we have in the West didn't happen by accident, you know. Go look at China and India and see what happens to the environment without environmentalists around.
I think people are more then welcome to feel better about themselves and environmentalism is just as good a way to do so as any other. But environmentalism is a luxury, that we rich westerners can afford. In time, China, India and Afirca can afford it as well. This is also why nice neighborhoods turn into slums (even in western countries), when you put poor people in there. They let their neighborhoods degrade, because when you are poor you have other things to worry about, then your environment.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 6:01 am 
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Tax exemptions can only make the car more economical for an individual at the expense of the community.


The community also receives cleaner air; they are "buying" that cleaner air with the tax exemption. It is not only a cost, there is also a benefit. Whether the cost/benefit ratio is appropriate is a different discussion entirely.

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If everyone bought a hybrid car, where would the government get taxes to support public sector?


Uh, income taxes, capital gain taxes, value added tax, all the usual places where government get tax.

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There's no such thing as a free luch, if you cut taxes, it's away from some other cause, like public health care.


Cutting the congestion charge does not take away from public health care; all the money from the congestion charge goes back into transport spending anyway (ie road maintenance etc).

Quote:
I'm still sure, that 99.9% of people who buy a hybrid car, do so because of ecological values or public image reasons (watch South Parks Smug Alert! episode to know what I'm talking about


South Park is not exactly an authoritative statistical source to know what all buyers of hybrid cars are thinking. :roll:

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environmentalism is a luxury, that we rich westerners can afford


See, that's where we differ; IMO with today's population size environmentalism is a necessity. You simply can't feed 6 billion people (9 billion soon) without a sustainable environment. China will find they have to import a lot of food because they are poisoning their agricultural land, so environmental degradation leads directly to economic costs, whether it be lost hours of work from sick workers or poor agricultural yields.

Quote:
This is also why nice neighborhoods turn into slums (even in western countries), when you put poor people in there. They let their neighborhoods degrade, because when you are poor you have other things to worry about, then your environment.


Yes, I see what you are trying to say; like in Africa, there is a lot of deforestation, because people are so poor they have to cut down wood for fuel. But this is not sustainable; eventually there will be no wood left and the people will starve, so there has to be sustainable management of natural resources (ie environmentalism).


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 6:43 am 
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jaganath wrote:
Quote:
I'm still sure, that 99.9% of people who buy a hybrid car, do so because of ecological values or public image reasons (watch South Parks Smug Alert! episode to know what I'm talking about


South Park is not exactly an authoritative statistical source to know what all buyers of hybrid cars are thinking. :roll:
I'm not basing my opinion on South Park. Even with the tax exemptions hybrids are more expensive, then cheap and economical diesel cars. Environmentalism is the only logical reason to buy one in my opinion.

Quote:
Quote:
environmentalism is a luxury, that we rich westerners can afford


See, that's where we differ; IMO with today's population size environmentalism is a necessity.
If by "we" you mean that I differ from you, you are wrong. I also think it is a necessity. I'm just saying, that Chinese people differ from us.

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You simply can't feed 6 billion people (9 billion soon) without a sustainable environment. China will find they have to import a lot of food because they are poisoning their agricultural land, so environmental degradation leads directly to economic costs, whether it be lost hours of work from sick workers or poor agricultural yields.
China is just paying their industrial growth with poorer agricultural yields (if this claim stands true), Chinas GDP is growing at a rate of almost 10% a year, so even if there would be economical drawback from agriculture, they can certainly afford it better every year. If pollution is the cost for 10% GDP growth, it obviously seems to be worth the price atm. Besides it's not China we should worry about, they are controlling their population growth and can pretty much sustain themselves. But Africa is already overpopulated and they don't have efficient birth control methods. And it's all the fault of western food aid. We are sustaining the unnatural population growth and famine with our food aid. Stop the food aid and let the nature take it's course.
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So there has to be sustainable management of natural resources (ie environmentalism).
Agreed.

Btw my summer cottage is powered by solar panel. Imagine that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:59 am 
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There need not be an either/or choice between individual responsibilty and large-scale policy. Without individual commitment to energy conservation, we cannot pass policy that gets us there communally, at least, not in a democratic society. If more individuals were willing to pay higher gas taxes, we would have higher gas taxes in the US instead of CAFE standards that encourage SUV's.

Individual tastes that have backlashed against SUV's have some impact on their decline (higher gas prices do, too).

The pride that people develop alongside their own personal contributions is fundamentally important to a large-scale movement regardless of the actual value of those individual choices. So let's not pit personal lifestyle choices as the antithesis of true environmental change. At worst it's orthoganal, but with good organizing, it should serve as the foundation and prime motivation of true change.


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 Post subject: Photovoltaics
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:50 am 
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The OP raised a very good point, not often discussed in mass media, but something that is definitely considered in the science and engineering of Solar arrays. Is a renewable energy source always efficient? The answer is yes an no; but in general an array of photovoltacis will pay for itself in the long run.

The newest processes are producing cells that reach the "break-even" point in about 10-15 years (used to be 25-30 years). The cost of the array reflects the cost of materials used to produce, most of it is the energy used in the entire production chain...from the first tier resources to the final product. That means, all things considered, an average array in good lighting conditions will save more money then used to produce in about 10 years, thus it generates more energy then used to produce it. Now consider that a well maintained array could last a great deal longer than its break-even point, at least 50 years, and you have a very good source of renewable electricity.

In general, the smaller the panel, the cheaper it is to make because less is spent on connecting everything together, thus that break-even point decreases as area decreases. I don't know by what factor, so don't quote me on that.

Finally, it also depends on where it is used. If you are charging your DS in the desert or high altitude, that's an efficient use of the array. If you rarely playing the DS and charging it in the North under the shade of a tree, it will take a great many years longer to reap the benefits of its cost. Compare that to the price of batteries, including it's eventual "pitch-and-pay" cost, and a solar DS might be a good use of precious solar arrays. But for my part, I think NiCad rechargeable batteries are the best we got for small electronics like these. The cost of electricity is really pennies for rechargeable batteries.

There is a lot of discussion about this in the scientific community. Two months ago either Nature or Science had a great article on the combined uses various energy sources. Check them out for more info.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 7:11 am 
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I will say this about buying new things to reap energy savings: very few of the compact flourescent bulbs I have purchased have anything of the lifespan of the incandacents I used to use. Many of the compact flourescents burn out after only 6 months. This has happened to about 6 out of 15 bulbs in the last 3 years, which is far short of their claimed lifespan of 5+ years.

It's possible that these bulbs are more sensitive to fluctating house currents (which is why I do use UPS for line conditioning) or to constantly being turned on and off. But these real-lilfe conditions need to be factored into their durability and ultimate ROI. Knowing that these bulbs also contain far more hazardous materials than an incadescent, I think my use of them has been a net loss to the environment.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 7:44 am 
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padmewan wrote:
Knowing that these bulbs also contain far more hazardous materials than an incadescent, I think my use of them has been a net loss to the environment.


This is another argument against the politicized environmental arena, and the whole product regulation verses subsistence regulation. (Do we ban bad things outright, only bad things that have a major impact) For example; Some states are promoting fluorescents, while others are banning them directly or indirectly. Take Ohio for example, the Ohio EPA got the state to begin banning all mercury products, which includes florescent bulbs.

Walk into any Lowes or Home Depot and ask about LED lights... probably wont find them. These are a light source that uses milliwatts of power for the same "light" that a normal incandescent uses. They are orders of magnitude more efficient in terms of cost, life-span, and enviornmental impact than both incandescents or fluorescent bulbs. Everyday I walk past a display with Engineering LED projects dating back up to 7 years, and not a single bulb is burned out.

G.E was making them two decades ago, but yet today you can only find them in specialty stores/online or in obscure places in the big-boxes. One has to wonder, why?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:02 am 
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CraftyChicken wrote:
Everyday I walk past a display with Engineering LED projects dating back up to 7 years, and not a single bulb is burned out....G.E was making them two decades ago, but yet today you can only find them in specialty stores/online or in obscure places in the big-boxes. One has to wonder, why?


I do wonder why. I was looking for them a few years ago, and found them only on geek websites. We use them for athletic applications (hiking, biking, running), and there sure are too many of them on computer equipment. Is there a good reason why no one is pushing them? Is the light too "harsh"? (It took them decades to get flourescents right).


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:05 am 
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Quote:
One has to wonder, why?


http://www.santaslites.com/FAQLED.htm

Quote:
6. Question: we have seen so many advantages LEDs have over incandescent light and florescent bulbs, are there any disadvantages LEDs exhibit compared with incandescent or florescent bulbs?

Yes, the most significant disadvantage is the light output limitation of LED. Currently available LEDs emit limited amount of lights at a relatively small angle range, while incandescent and florescent light bulbs illuminate in all directions and give out much more brightness of light. And this is the reason why LEDs currently can not be used for general lighting applications.

The second significant disadvantage is the high prices of LEDs. The currently available LEDs in the market are 3 ~ 10 times more expensive than equivalent incandescent light bulbs.


Also see: http://www.rpc.com.au/news/newsletters/96May06.html section 5 LED lights.

no doubt as the technology progresses it will supplant conventional lighting, but it is not quite there yet.


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 Post subject: Re: Photovoltaics
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:03 am 
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CraftyChicken wrote:
But for my part, I think NiCad rechargeable batteries are the best we got for small electronics like these.

NiMH batteries perform a lot better than NiCads and the latest generation of low-discharge (Eneloop, Hybrio, Acculoop, etc) batteries are really great since they nearly eliminate the issue of batteries needing a recharge every couple months regardless of whether or not you're using them.

padmewan wrote:
I will say this about buying new things to reap energy savings: very few of the compact flourescent bulbs I have purchased have anything of the lifespan of the incandacents I used to use. Many of the compact flourescents burn out after only 6 months. This has happened to about 6 out of 15 bulbs in the last 3 years, which is far short of their claimed lifespan of 5+ years.

It must be the power you are feeding them. I have had only 1 compact fluorescent die on me and it was a 3-way that was DOA. I've got about a dozen of them in service for at least a couple years now.

padmewan wrote:
It's possible that these bulbs are more sensitive to fluctating house currents (which is why I do use UPS for line conditioning) or to constantly being turned on and off. But these real-lilfe conditions need to be factored into their durability and ultimate ROI. Knowing that these bulbs also contain far more hazardous materials than an incadescent, I think my use of them has been a net loss to the environment.

Yes, if your bulbs are dying very prematurely on average, their initial costs (both monetary and environmental) are not worth it. It would be worthwhile figuring out what the break even point is, though.

CraftyChicken wrote:
This is another argument against the politicized environmental arena, and the whole product regulation verses subsistence regulation. (Do we ban bad things outright, only bad things that have a major impact) For example; Some states are promoting fluorescents, while others are banning them directly or indirectly. Take Ohio for example, the Ohio EPA got the state to begin banning all mercury products, which includes florescent bulbs.

Does Ohio realize that the mercury in fluorescents is far outweighed by the mercury emitted by coal burning power plants? Not to mention that with a proper recycling program you can make sure that the mercury in fluorescents is disposed of properly, but once that coal plant spews mercury into the air you're never going to be able to collect it.

Many states now have laws requiring fluorescents to be returned for recycling, I know CA does. I do think they need to make any retailer accept dead bulbs for recycling to make it easier so people aren't tempted to dump them in the trash, just like how auto parts shops accept used oils for recycling.


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 Post subject: Re: Photovoltaics
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:48 pm 
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drees wrote:
Many states now have laws requiring fluorescents to be returned for recycling, I know CA does. I do think they need to make any retailer accept dead bulbs for recycling to make it easier so people aren't tempted to dump them in the trash, just like how auto parts shops accept used oils for recycling.


That's the real problem isn't it. We American's are receiving way too many different signals, no matter what personal political ideologies a person holds to. Several years from now, your average Californian might feel that fluorescents are perfectly fine, while your Mid-westerner might think they are worse than a Nuclear reactor in your toilet. I can't speak for other nations, but my travels to Europe and Asia anecdotally reveal the same discrepancies and confusions stemming from conflicting policy.

I remember one dinner where a Frenchman lectured the "English" in our group about the ills of nuclear reactors (at the time the UK was pissing about buying electricity from France, and the idea of building their own reactors was a hot controversy). Meanwhile, a 3 hour train-ride south would go past no less than 4 reactors the Rhone and Saone. Surrounded by several pHDs and fueled by some fantastic wine, it was only a matter of time before the calculations surfaced about our energy use and "waste." The figures were a wild as they were imaginative, but needless to say we didn't leave with any iota of new ideas.

That story is off tangent, but it shows how little we really "know" about our energy uses in everyday life. I think if we as a society are going to do right by all of this, we don't need to turn into Recycle Cops or ditch the cars. But keeping our massive waste in the back of our collective minds will certainly help move things in the right direction no matter which way the policies go. And to turn back on topic, perhaps a solar DS is a waste of a good resource, I don't know. But I do think it could be a wonderful self-education tool, the kind of tool moves you in a direction you might not have gone before.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 4:31 pm 
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Quote:
I remember one dinner where a Frenchman lectured the "English" in our group about the ills of nuclear reactors


A bit rich considering the French get almost 80% of power from nuclear, compared to the UK's 20%.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:27 am 
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padmewan wrote:
I will say this about buying new things to reap energy savings: very few of the compact flourescent bulbs I have purchased have anything of the lifespan of the incandacents I used to use. Many of the compact flourescents burn out after only 6 months. This has happened to about 6 out of 15 bulbs in the last 3 years, which is far short of their claimed lifespan of 5+ years.


I don't know about quality of electricity, but I do think these bulbs are sensitive to heat. Try plugging on in next to an incandescent in the same light fixture. I tried this once; my bulb lasted less than an hour. I would assume that the quality of the electronics in the ballast is the issue here. I also note that the ballast is usually enclosed in ceramic — perhaps there is an attempt at heatsinking here?

If heat is the issue, I would expect flourescent bulbs in enclosed fixtures to suffer reduced lifespans.


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