Glacial Energy Blog

Green Friday

Green FridaySales are upon us! Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, and it marks the first shopping day in the countdown to Christmas. People all over the country line up at stores early in the morning, some overnight, hoping to get the best deals. But one has to consider, what kind of effect does this have on our environment? Many people leave their homes early in the morning — some people leave Thanksgiving evening — to go to stores, where they line up outside the doors waiting for them to unlock so they can grab the best deals. With all the increased traffic going out at hours that normally don’t see much activity, we are spreading a lot more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Add on to that that many purchases are electronics, and you’re further heaping coals onto the fire, literally and figuratively. Many electricity companies burn coal to make the electricity that power these electronics.

So, what can be done about it? Instead of rushing out to the nearest big box store to purchase electricity draining electronics, we should visit craft fairs or an art community to purchase one of a kind, handmade — often from recycled material — crafts from local artists. Supporting local artists not only stimulates the local economy, but the gifts can be far more meaningful than an electronic gizmo. Many artists take recycled material, from cardboard and paper to glass and metal, and fashion unique crafts with them. These crafts are sustainable, in that most do not require any outside effort to enjoy them. They require no electricity and no maintenance.

But these crafts don’t have to only be art that is viewed. There are many crafts that not only look nice, but also serve a purpose. Consider the glass globes you fill with water and stick the stem into a potted plant: they look pretty, while keeping your plant watered. Before these were commercially available, some artists created them. The same is true of other local artists: they can make many practical things from reclaimed materials that are also beautiful to look at.

So, this Black Friday, make it a Green Friday. Support local businesses and invest in green products to enrich your life.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Stuffing Savers

Thanksgiving TurkeyThe time is fast approaching for door-buster deals, holiday shopping sprees, fancy dinners, and family gatherings. Why not throw in some savings as well? This holiday season, look for ways to cut costs, from using coupons for food purchases to using crock pots to cut energy costs.

  1. Many local grocery stores offer reward points to their loyal customers, and sometimes the coupons can be redeemed for an entire turkey.
  2. Check low-cost stores for many ingredients for your holiday meals. You can find just about everything you’ll need, including vegetables, broth, and other accouterments for your meal.
  3. Using crockpots for some meals can really cut back on energy costs. They cost about two cents per hour to run and can make some really fantastic slow-cooked meals.
  4. If you prefer to grill or smoke your meals, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tend to have the best deals on these cooking instruments. Check out stores like Home Depot to find these deals.
  5. This time of year is the best time to replace the tires on your car, as long as you get standard tires. Winter tires will be getting to their highest prices.
  6. If you travel for the holidays, it is generally best to book your flights early. If plans got switched around last minute, be sure to check out discount sites like Travelocity, Kayak, Orbitz, and Expedia. You can still find some decent deals, especially if you combine services like cars, hotels, and flights. Also, it is generally cheaper to come back on Sunday morning rather than Saturday or Sunday evening.
  7. When having guests over for a feast, turn your thermostat down just before they arrive. The warmth from cooking and all the guests will keep the rooms insulated and warm.
  8. Be sure to check the per ounce cost of food and drinks. Often times, it is a lot cheaper to buy a two or three liter bottle of soda than it is to get cans. Sometimes larger servings for other dishes like cranberry sauce or stuffing will have a cheaper per ounce price. To find the per ounce price, simply divide the total cost of the product by the number of ounces the product weighs.
  9. Before you do your food shopping, make a list and check it twice. Having an organized list means less hassle when purchasing your foods. Having the list made beforehand will also allow you to keep an eye out for coupons and other deals.
  10. If you plan to have turkey for Christmas as well as Thanksgiving, buy them both around Thanksgiving and freeze one. Turkeys are cheaper at that time of year than they are later on.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Taking the Competition Solar

Solar HomeEvery year, the United States Department of Energy hosts the Solar Decathlon, where teams of students from universities all over the world compete to build a functioning solar powered home in an effort to raise awareness of sustainable living. The competition involves 10 contests over two years. In the end, these homes get disassembled with some of them being sold to cover the cost of building them or help fund the next competition. Most of these houses, however, are used by research teams of the house’s respective university to educate the general population about sustainable living. These homes will go on living long after the competition ends.

Norwich University

The students at Norwich University in Vermont wanted to construct a solar home that would be affordable and dependable, especially so it could hold its own in the cold New England winters. Inspired by Charles and Ray Earnes, two American designers, they wanted to build “the best, for the most, for the least.” Their ingenuity really shone through with their T-90 house. Now that the competition is over, their house will travel to Springfield, Ohio, where it will be featured in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Experiential Design Lab. There, it will be used for research and development, as well as demonstrations for promoting sustainable living and clean energy technology. In addition, the Norwich students are working with home builders in Vermont to produce local versions of the home commercially.

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri S&T is a veteran of the Solar Decathlon, competing five times in the event. Over the years, they have applied their experience in past competitions to every competition thereafter. The team of students designed the Chameleon Home Automation System in the 2009 Solar Decathlon and have improved it to serve in their 2013 entry: The Chameleon House. The students aimed to make the home something they themselves would want to live in, and now that the competition has ended, future students will. The Chameleon House will be added to Missouri S&T’s Solar Village, where houses from previous competitions serve as student homes and research centers. The Solar Village is also open for the public to tour, whether they be the general populace, children, investors, or home builders.

Vienna University of Technology

The students of Vienna University in Austria targeted Austria’s tourism in building their competition home. Austria is a major vacation destination due to its very serene landscape of mountains and lakes. This makes tourism a vital aspect of Austria’s economy, so the students decided to make their home a vacation chalet. Titled LISI (Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation), this home away from home is constructed using high quality wood, which is coveted in Austria’s vacation homes. They also implement large glass windows, allowing the resident to enjoy the great outdoors right from their couch. Since the competition ended, Team Austria has been invited to showcase their home at Austria’s largest model home exhibition.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Electric Blankets: Keeping Warm, Keeping Safe

Electric BlanketsAs the colder months start settling in, we may often find ourselves looking forward to snuggling up in a warm bed. Many of us will crawl into a seemingly ice cold bed that will warm up while we stay bundled up in it. But those of us with electric blankets can simply preheat our beds like an oven and crawl in for immediate toastiness. There are more than 25 million bed warmers in use in the United States, and with good reason. In particularly cold climates, they can be invaluable, but they also feature some bonus benefits.

Richard Zimmerer of the Electric Blanket Institute compiled a list of facts and statistics regarding all things electric blankets. He also explains that current generation blankets do not get as hot as their predecessors, which are the culprits for many house fires. “. . . since the late 1980s, electric bedding was designed to be used all night long at a low wattage,” Zimmerer says. This low wattage use would keep the user warm all night long, while expending less energy than running the heat for the same amount of time. The lower wattage also greatly lowers the risk of fire. Current generation blankets have evolved with the times, allowing each side of the bed to set their own preferred temperature, styles have been updated, and the fabrics are more comfortable.

In addition to the money saving aspect, heated blankets are lighter than comforters and heavy, thick blankets, making them more comfortable. The level of warmth can also be directly adjusted. No more piles of blankets on the floor! They also provide relief for many aches and pains, including muscle problems, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. According to Zimmerer’s site, electric blankets also help alleviate allergies and sinus problems.

It is important to choose an electric blanket that suits your needs. An over-sized blanket that drapes over the bed will be a waste of electricity. Control systems for these blankets also vary. They can be anything from an analog dial, to a digital readout. People with poor eyesight need large displayed numbers to ensure they set the proper temperature. Those with dexterity issues may require an easy to turn knob or a light touch keypad to operate the controls. Diabetic people are discouraged from using them as they tend to lose feeling in their legs, which could result in burns. Young children should not use them either, to prevent burns.

Above all, use caution when using an electric blanket or other heating device. Pay attention to the level of heat they are emitting and adjust them to provide enough warmth to be comfortable, but not so much so as to pose a fire or burn hazard.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Renewable Energy and Energy Storage

Solar Panel with BatteryRenewable energy is shaping the future of how we live our lives daily. Whether it is wind, solar, bio, or water powered, all that energy needs to be stored until its use is required. Several companies are developing high performance batteries to store this energy, but the batteries are currently too costly for mainstream use. There are other lower performance batteries that cost a little more than half that of the high performance batteries, and it is suggested that the prices all around will continue to drop dramatically in the coming years.

Microgrids

In early August 2013, the Renewable Energy Symposium in San Diego hosted several speakers who want nothing more than to expand the influence of renewable energy and the technologies that support it. Christopher Kuhl of ZBB Energy Corp. suggested that microgrids will really drive the energy storage aspect of the renewable energy industry. Microgrids function in exactly the same way that the normal electricity grid does, but it reduces the size of individual grids. In turn, this prevents rolling blackouts that affect widespread areas. He mentions that it took a disaster like the category 5 Hurricane Sandy for people to see the benefit of using microgrids. Instead of having to restore power all over an entire region, the microgrids may only affect a few towns. This would require less effort to get the system restarted as well. These grids can also strongly benefit from energy storage, because the massive batteries would only need to provide power to a smaller section of the state, rather than over a huge area.

Reducing the Cost

Ionex Advanced Energy Storage Systems is working to reduce the weighty cost of these batteries by developing a silicon and graphene anode battery. They are looking to market these batteries at $350 per kilowatt hour (kWh), below even the $400/kWh low performance batteries available today. They also hope to bring that price down to $150/kWh over the next 18 months, further increasing the marketability of the batteries.

Cutting Peak Usage

Vice president at Urban Electric Power in New York, Valerio De Angelis mentioned at the symposium that by integrating batteries developed by his company and cutting peak energy usage for major urban centers, these batteries can pay for themselves within just a few years. Using his own building as an example, he found that cutting 15 minutes off the peak usage time of his 1 megawatt powered building would cover the cost of a battery system in three years. The company has also developed a Zinc-Manganese Dioxide (Zn-MnO2) for industrial use. The battery is available for $70/kWh, “. . . cheaper than you can buy a car battery,” he stated.

Operating Systems

A major sticking point to the integration of energy storage systems is their requirement for a powerful operating system to run them. Greensmith Energy Management Systems has sold over 20 of these operating systems since 2011, helping manage grids from a small 50 kW to multiple MW. These systems can begin predicting the most efficient flow of energy on their own after about three months of operation. They have been implemented in microgrids for campuses and large buildings, as well as for islands. The operating system allows the batteries to maximize efficiency by compensating for discrepancies, like the intermittent production of solar energy. It also helps manage different battery types like power or energy batteries. Power batteries discharge quickly, sending all their available energy into the grid as quickly as possible for numerous end points. Energy batteries discharge over hours to manage loads more effectively on smaller scales.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Gadgets To Monitor Your Electricity Usage

AmmeterHow many appliances are running in your house right now? Remember that just because a device is “off”, it does not necessarily mean it isn’t drawing on electricity. Televisions, DVD players, refrigerators, microwaves, computers, cell phone chargers, etc. are all constantly drawing power when they are plugged in. This could be leading to unnecessarily high energy bills. Fortunately, there are several ways to determine what appliances are sucking the most energy out of your outlets, and subsequently the most money out of your wallet.

The first way to find out how much energy is being sucked up is available to anyone with access to the circuit breakers and kilowatt meter. First, check the meter to see what the rate of consumption is. Find out how many watts are consumed over 15 seconds and multiply that by 4 to figure out the watts per minute. Next, you can shut off the circuit to a particular room and repeat the check on the meter to find out how much a room is consuming. Alternatively, you can unplug high drain items like entire entertainment centers (often connected via multi-port power strips), refrigerators, or air conditioners. When you check the meter again, you should notice a change in the rate at which electricity is consumed. This can help narrow down what devices or rooms are using the most energy.

Alternatively, investing in an ammeter will allow you to pinpoint energy culprits without all the constant back and forth of checking your energy meter. An ammeter plug connects to the wires in your home to determine exactly how much electricity is coursing through them. There are several variations of the ammeter, but the Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor is probably one of the handiest. Simply plug the monitor into an outlet and plug another device into the monitor. The digital readout will tell you the consumption in kilowatt hours (kWh) for the device, even if the device is off. By measuring each device, you can see exactly which ones are stealing all your energy.

Another method to help monitor your electricity needs is to install a home energy monitor. The TED 5000 and Powerhouse Dynamics eMonitor connect to the main lines coming into your house, as well as up to 24 individual circuits. They both integrate with computer software, giving you a detailed look at the energy consumption over nearly any period of time. These programs can be used to set a plan to reduce energy consumption, thus saving yourself money.

One of the simplest ways to cut back on your electricity usage, especially for powered down devices that still consume energy, is to connect them to a power strip with a manual on/off switch. By flipping this switch to “off,” you are completely cutting off the supply of electricity to the devices plugged into the strip. This stops them from drawing any electricity at all.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Cold Fusion: The Next Fuel Source?

Nuclear fusionNuclear technology has come a long way since it was heavily developed in the 1940s and 1950s. Instead of being used for war and destruction, nuclear power plants have been producing large quantities of relatively clean energy, powering our homes and businesses. These power plants operate on the process known as nuclear fission. Nuclear fission occurs by an atom colliding with other atoms, causing them to break apart and start a chain reaction. This process produces a lot of energy, but nuclear fusion would produce more, and it would be even cleaner. Nuclear fusion involves two or more atoms fusing together. However, until recently, fusion was only possible inside of a star (the sun operates on fusing hydrogen atoms together to make helium) or in science fiction.

Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi have written a report on the possibility of cold fusion. A cold fusion device was constructed and tested and was found to be 10 times more powerful than gasoline. This has been independently verified by other scientists analyzing the device. Nuclear fusion has been a target goal of energy entrepreneurs for decades, and for the past two years, Rossi has been claiming that he finally cracked the secret.

The device, called the Energy Catalyzer (or E-Cat), is a sealed steel cylinder that glows white-hot when powered. The scientists analyzing the E-Cat felt certain that the device is genuine and agreed to publish the research paper written by Rossi. According to Rossi, the device operates by fusing hydrogen to nickel, which turns it into copper. This process releases a tremendous amount of heat – tests on the reactor showed temperatures of over 1578° F (859° C). All this heat can be turned into electricity and the hydrogen-nickel fusion creates no radioactive byproducts, unlike fission. The hydrogen and helium fuel source is also much cheaper and cleaner than oil, and the fusion process is quite safe, which could ultimately lead to fusion powered vehicles, buildings, or even cities.

All of these findings are under the assumption that the E-Cat is a genuine fusion device. Rossi is incredibly secretive about his project, but claims to have overcome the barrier of fusion power: reducing the energy needed to produce the energy gained. So long as the device is on the level, this is a major step toward near unlimited, cheap, effective power. The device is under peer review now and if it passes, the world of energy production could change forever.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Low Carbon Electricity

Power Generation MethodsClimate change has been a hot button issue for a number of years now. The primary reason behind climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, which the world was responsible for 50 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2010. Electricity generation consisted of a little less than a quarter of all emissions at 13 Gt. That includes generating electricity from every fuel source available, from wind and solar to coal and oil. The total amount of electricity generated all over the world for that year is 21,400 terawatt hours (TWh). So, what if we generated all the electricity from a single power source? What would the emissions be then?

To generate 21,400 TWh of electricity using a single power source varies quite wildly between some sources. Using purely coal, emissions would be 21 Gt and oil would be 18 Gt. Considering our current amalgamation of fuels, we seem to be doing alright in light of that. Now, natural gas would be 10 Gt if used purely for electricity generation. That’s lower than our current rate, so should we make a big switch over to that? Not necessarily. Natural gas, while cleaner than coal and oil, is still a non-renewable fuel that pollutes quite a bit. If we’re going to go with a non-renewable energy source, nuclear would be the cleanest of them all. Totaling a mere 0.4 Gt, nuclear is the cleanest non-renewable energy source we have available.

But what about renewable energy? Renewable energies start out much lower than most of the non-renewables in terms of emissions. Geothermal and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) top the list at 1 Gt of emissions. That’s certainly much more manageable than most non-renewable sources. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is next at 0.5 Gt of emissions. Biopower ties with nuclear at 0.4 Gt. Wind power would come in at a small 0.3 Gt, oceanic power (wave or current powered) a mere 0.2 Gt, and last (and actually least) is hydropower at 0.1 Gt.

All of the above numbers revolve strictly around electricity generation. Unfortunately, that is not the only source of emissions. As stated before, the total emissions for the world is 50 Gt, and that includes emissions from industrial sectors, transportation, deforestation, and others. To keep the planet in a stable climate, we need to cut that 50 gigatons down to 20 gigatons by the year 2050, and cut it further to near zero gigatons by the year 2100. Switching to a primarily low-carbon technology from the high-carbon oil, natural gas, and coal, we could stem the tide of drastic climate change.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Recycle Your Old Gadgets

Old cellular devicesWhen you replace your cell phone, mouse, laptop, monitor, or any other gadget, do you tend to pack it away in a box of dead electronics, cables, and plugs? You could actually be stowing away unknown cash. Several companies and even major retailers like Best Buy and Apple will buy back old technology and reimburse you with a gift card, newer versions of your tech, or other forms of credit. Statistically, the average mobile user has at least two outdated and unused cell phones. Through these numerous recycling programs, those old phones could mean some quick cash.

Apple’s recycling program lets you trade in your old iPhone, iPad, or Mac and they can apply its reuse value to a gift card you can use for a future Apple Store purchase. You can also trade in an old iPod and get 10% off a newer iPod. Best Buy’s program will take just about anything from old cables to televisions. There are some restrictions by state, so check yours before attempting to return your gadgets. Motorola will take almost any mobile phone and will generally refurbish them and send them to developing countries.

In addition to major retailers, there are several non-profit organizations that will take your old gadgets and refurbish them or recycle them for other purposes. Call2Recycle takes old cell phones and rechargeable batteries and recycles them, keeping them out of landfills. As of this writing, over 5.3 million batteries have been turned into the program. Cell Phones for Soldiers recycles old phones by sending them along with airtime cards to soldiers overseas, allowing them to contact their loved ones stateside.

Finally, you can use the popular virtual marketplace Amazon to trade in many items, electronic and otherwise, to get yourself an Amazon gift card, good for anything in their vast marketplace. Get rid of your old, unused gadgets and get some quick cash to upgrade to newer electronics or other things you may need for your home.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Ten Life Hacks to Make Your Life Easier

Life HacksThere are a lot of little hidden “secrets” to life that make things a little easier for us. We’ll give you our top 10 picks for simple life hacks to make every day a little less stressful.

  1. Paper cuts can be healed instantly by rubbing a little bit of chapstick over them.
  2. Going exactly the speed limit on a road with a lot of traffic lights will yield more green lights, typically.
  3. If a media disc is skipping, you can rub a banana over the burned side to fill in the scratches and repair it. Just remember to wipe the disc off with a microfiber cloth afterward.
  4. Have a fridge full of various ingredients, but don’t know what to make with them? List all the ingredients on www.supercook.com to find a recipe with them.
  5. If you buy something on Amazon and the price drops within 30 days, you can email them and they will refund the difference.
  6. Hot date and a wrinkled shirt? Toss it in the dryer with a few ice cubes for 5 minutes to smooth it out.
  7. If you like the outdoors and get a lot of mosquito bites, press a hot spoon to the bite to stop the itching.
  8. If you’re a student and are studying for a test, chew a particular flavor gum while studying and chew the same flavor during a test. This will help your mind recollect the information better.
  9. Rub a walnut on wooden furniture to remove dings and scratches.
  10. Use toothpaste and a sponge to clear up hazy headlights on your car.

About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

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