Glacial Energy Blog

Teaching Children About Electricity

boy with light bulb above his headElectricity is a major part of all of our lives. From turning on the lights at night to playing video games, electricity is a part of almost everything we do. As such, it is also important to learn all we can about electricity and how it helps appliances function. Teaching children about electricity may seem like a daunting task, but by speaking on their level, you can provide them with a significant head start to understanding electricity, its uses, and its dangers.

The first and most important part to teach about electricity, especially with children, is its potential dangers. Small children are extremely vulnerable to an unexpected electrical shock, and it can have disastrous effects on them. Emphasize the dangers of inserting anything into an electrical socket, downed power lines, and lightning storms. Make sure this is instilled in the child’s mind so they can appreciate the need for putting safety first.

Next, use analogies that will help the children grasp concepts. Make them fun for the child. When explaining about how electrical circuits work, liken it to a train on an oval track. If the track is broken and does not complete the oval, the train cannot complete its circuit. Follow this up with the importance of having a circuit. Simply touching one end of a battery to a light bulb will not turn it on. Instead, both ends of battery need to be in contact with the bulb for a current to flow.

Engage the child further by using games to explain the mechanics of electricity and circuits. Several websites offer free flash based games that teach everything from circuits to insulators. These games can help keep the child’s interest through bright colors and playful sounds, all while they learn the basics of electricity.

By focusing on the basics first, like safety and circuits, you will build a good foundation for the child to learn more complex concepts including switches, diodes, motors, and resistors. Progress step-by-step at the child’s own pace to ensure they fully understand each concept.

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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.

Look for These Energy Efficient Features When Buying a Home

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseIf you’re in the market to purchase a new home, you may very well be considering all that goes along with that including the condition of the house, the location, and the energy efficiency of the house. An energy efficient home will help save you money on your monthly energy bills and provide a more comfortable living space. And an Energy Star rated home is at least 15% more energy efficient than one built according to the 2004 International Residential Code.

There are several factors that cumulatively make your potential home energy efficient. They include insulation, windows, ductwork, HVACs and lighting.

  • Insulation – Properly installed insulation is important to maintain a comfortable temperature and energy efficient house. Even small gaps between a door and its frame can cost you big in energy consumption. Attic spaces are a major culprit for insulation issues, too. Ensuring they are well insulated will help keep your home feeling comfortable.
  • Windows – Energy efficient windows are constructed with two panes of glass with a gas filling between the panes, insulated edges, high quality frames, and infrared and ultraviolet reflective coatings to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. The reflective coatings keep solar heat gain to a minimum during the summer and also prevent fading to your furniture and carpet colors.
  • Ductwork and Construction – By purchasing a home with well-sealed ductwork, you will ensure that your home’s HVAC systems will operate with maximum efficiency. Tightly packed construction leaving very few gaps between walls and insulation will also maximize energy efficiency. Sealing any cracks that form will also keep your energy consumption under control.
  • HVAC Systems – By using Energy Star rated Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems, you will save more money and electricity than by using non-certified HVACs. They also tend to run quieter and require less maintenance than standard models.
  • Lighting and Appliances – Homes with LED lighting rather than incandescent lighting will save a bundle in electricity costs. Energy Star certified appliances including refrigerators, dish washers, and washing machines will also aid in reducing your energy consumption.

By contacting an independent home energy rater, you can determine how energy efficient your potential home is. Since you’ll likely want to live in your new home for quite some time, use this information to help you decide on this major investment.

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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.

LED Bulbs are Energy Efficient, but are they Cost Efficient?

LED energy safing bulb. Isolated objectLED bulbs are many times more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. A 12 watt LED bulb can output as much light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb. But for all their energy saving abilities, are they really worth the investment? Would it actually be cheaper to use an incandescent bulb and replace it every time it burns out rather than spend a great deal more on a single LED bulb?

It’s no surprise that for such an energy efficient technology, costs are premium. The average price for a single 60-watt equivalent LED bulb is around $40. Some bulbs are cheaper, some much more expensive. A box of 4 60 watt bulbs from a major retailer costs about $10; about $2.50 per bulb. The 60 watt equivalent bulb is said to last 25 times longer than the incandescent version, meaning you would spend more than $60 in incandescent bulbs over the same lifespan. But, that is just the cost of the bulbs themselves. You also have to figure in the savings of electricity.

Let’s assume you have a fixed rate of $0.10 per kilowatt hour (kWh) from your retail energy provider. Over the course of 25,000 hours, a 60 watt bulb will consume 1500 kWh of electricity. A 12 watt bulb will consume 300 kWh of electricity over the same lifespan. That comes out to a savings of 1200 kWh, or $120 in energy costs for those 25,000 hours. Assuming an average of 1000 hours per incandescent bulb, you will spend about $52.50 on bulbs and $150 on energy consumption. Totaling this all up, it certainly seems more beneficial to spend $70 over 25,000 hours on a single LED bulb than spending $202.50 over the same time with incandescent.

It is important to keep in mind that while LED bulbs will save you money over time, that time can be several years in length; up to 20 or more years, in fact. LEDs definitely have a high price point, but it is very likely that in the coming years, LEDs will be manufactured en masse to provide a variety of lighting solutions for a much lower cost.

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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.

Is Your Attic Properly Insulated?

Insulating atticDoes it seem like your home doesn’t stay as warm or as cool as you feel it should be? During the winter, on a particularly cool evening, leave a thermometer in the attic for a few hours. When you collect it, compare the temperature to the outside temperature and the inside temperature of your home. If the attic’s temperature is 10°F greater than that outside, or is closer to your home’s temperature than the outside temp, your attic may not be properly insulated.

What can be done to properly insulate the attic? When installing insulation, don’t let it block airflow to the vents. If your roof is slanted enough to access the eaves, installing a slanted-board baffle at each joist end to keep the insulation clear of the vents. Patching holes from nails or screws, and filling in the gaps for pipes will also help greatly. Recessed lighting fixtures can cause an issue for insulation. They require at least a three inch gap between the fixture and insulation to prevent a fire. Installing flush-mounted lighting is a good way around this issue. Your attic hatch shouldn’t go ignored, either. That door or cover needs to be insulated as well, being that it is the largest portal to your attic.

Avoid over-insulating your attic as well. For every dollar you save in annual energy costs for the first four to six inches of insulation, you will only save another ten cents for the second four to six inch layer. When packing insulation into tight spaces, press lightly on the material to pack it. If the space between joists is too narrow for a blanket of insulation, cut the blanket to the exact size needed, rather than stuffing it in. If the material is compressed too much, it isn’t as effective at insulating.

If you hear animals scurrying about in your attic or walls, evict those critters and assess your insulation. They may have carved out a sizeable chunk to make their home. These openings in the insulation can cause large amounts of heat loss, so get them patched as soon as possible. Another home invader that is detrimental to insulation is water. Water that seeps into your attic can soak the insulation, making it completely useless. Not to mention the growth of mold and mildew and water damage can be hazardous and costly.

When installing insulation, be cautious and don’t over exert yourself. Working in an attic can be very hot and uncomfortable. It is best to work on cool, cloudy days or at night, if possible. Be sure to protect your eyes and lungs from the irritants in insulation, and wear gloves while handling the material. Take breaks as often as needed and take a hot shower with a cold rinse after you are finished. This will help remove any fibers from your pores and skin.

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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.

How a Hotel Can Become Eco-Friendly

Hotel entranceIf you’re looking to go on vacation and want to make sure your temporary home is environmentally friendly, try Green Hotels. The Green Hotels Association has been listing hotels that are dedicated to providing guests with a comfortable stay and caring for their employees since 1993. These hotels implement energy management systems, fluorescent and LED lighting, and motion sensor light switches, as well as a myriad of other devices to help maximize energy efficiency.

One California general manager of a hotel received an award by saving two million gallons of water usage in a single year by firing a chef who ran the water in four or five sinks at a time every day. These hotel managers are dedicated to their green image and purpose. They install numerous water-saving systems including low-flow shower heads and toilets, 1.6 gallons per minute dishwashing valves, waterless urinals, and toilet tank fill diverters.

These hotels also take recycling and waste management very seriously. Some employ recycling programs, hiring staff members to sort through the waste bags and remove recyclable materials. A hotel in New Orleans began saving $1000 per month by removing hotel property from the waste bins. Another hotel in Chicago would save $3000 to $10,000 every month for the same reason. The Chicago hotel also reduced their waste by 80% by implementing this recycling program.

But, enough about the hotel management; hotels are really about the travelers who visit them. Green hotels do not use harmful chemicals in anything, keeping everything as natural as possible. This in turn leads to a happier, healthier staff serving happier and healthier patrons. Green Hotels provides a comprehensive 159 page guideline to any hotel that joins their ranks in order to ensure the hotels become as environmentally friendly as possible. Guidelines can be as small as sheet changing cards that encourage guests to use their bed linens more than once during their stay, to installing newer, more efficient HVAC systems.

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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.

Battle of the Bulbs

BulbsEver since February 2007, incandescent bulbs have been the target of legislation to phase them out of use by 2014. The reason for this phase out is simple: incandescent bulbs are severely inefficient. So that begs the question: What bulbs should we switch to? There are two possible answers to that question. And in this blog, we will compare the two options, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), to the age-old standard incandescent bulb.

For starters, in a best case scenario, 60 watt incandescent bulbs will last about 1200 hours. A 13-15 watt CFL lasts about 8000 hours and a 6-8 watt LED can last up to 50,000 hours. All of these bulbs put out about 800 lumens of light. Assuming there are 30 of each bulb in any given house, your annual consumption would be 3285 kWh/year for incandescent, 767 kWh/year for CFLs, and 329kWh/year for LEDs. At an average price of $0.10/kWh, the LEDs would save you about $300/year in energy costs.

The equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for thirty bulbs is 4500 lbs/yr, 1051 lbs/yr, and 451 lbs/yr for incandescent, CFL, and LED respectively. Besides resulting in the fewest SO2 emissions, LED bulbs contain no mercury and are RoHS compliant, unlike CFLs. Incandescent bulbs do not contain mercury, but they are still not RoHS compliant.

LEDs have no sensitivity to overly low or high temperatures or humidity, unlike their other counterparts, can be flicked on and off repeatedly (for example, in holiday lights or repeated use in a closet) without really having an effect on their lifespan, and they are very durable.  Both LEDs and incandescent bulbs can turn on instantly, but CFLs generally have to warm up some before coming to full brightness. Incandescent bulbs emit 85 BTUs of heat per hour, CFLs emit 30 BTUs/hr, and LEDs emit 3.4 BTUs/hr. Incandescent bulbs have been described by architect Michael Klement as being “heaters with light as a byproduct.” This comes from the fact that 90% of the energy used in an incandescent bulb is radiated as heat.

As you can see, LEDs are highly effective light sources, and with improving technology, they are able to replicate many different color temperatures to suit your visual preferences. The only sticking point for LEDs may be their initial high cost – about $40 for a 60 watt equivalent bulb. This high cost, however, will go a long way in saving you even more money as time goes 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.

An Innovation in Energy Storage

Power linesWhen we think of energy storage, most people will think of batteries. Batteries store electricity and release it as necessary for a variety of devices, from cars to phones. But batteries aren’t the only method of storing energy. A reservoir located behind the Lewiston power plant at Niagara Falls stores 1900 acres worth of water to be released during daytime hours to spin turbines and generate electricity. Elevated trains release energy as they descend. These are overlooked methods of storing energy.

Startup electricity innovator Greensmith has looked at the need for energy storage and devised a new way to look at the problem: instead of changing the hardware to match the demand, create software to optimize the hardware. Greensmith CEO John Jung has voiced the desire of energy storage as “how [it] delivers value to the grid.” He determined that storage needs to be integrated with the wholesale power grid and cost structure. By optimizing storage using software to deploy assets where they are needed, Greensmith can essentially redistribute electricity to areas where it is most valuable.

Greensmith has pushed this concept into service with 14 customers, eight of which are electric utility companies. Some of those eight companies are already moving to full scale deployment of interconnected batteries. This unique storage solution has helped stabilize grid integration for California’s growing solar production and has allowed integration of a solar array and electric vehicle recharging station in Honolulu, HI. Further integration of these “interconnected and orchestrated fleet of communicating batteries” can help maintain a stable integration of renewable sources of energy into the overall power grid, thereby expanding the use of electricity reliant services, like the vehicle recharging stations.

The Greensmith technology functions on three levels: a programmable CPU, a rich analytic layer, and centralized fleet control management. The CPU directs the batteries on how and when to distribute their stored electricity and can be adapted as markets and demands change by utilizing software updates through cloud data storage. The analytic layer monitors each battery and delegates tasks based on the battery’s individual performance levels, storage ability, and safety. The fleet control management addresses the needs of a changing power grid. It handles the variables that arise and works to overcome them.

All of this software is designed to be upgraded in the event new hardware technologies arise, such as new batteries or inverters. In a world where technology changes constantly and new methods are devised every day, it’s important to be able to adapt to any situation, and Greensmith feels they are on the right track.

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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.

The Benefits Going Organic

Healthy Organic Vegetables. Bio FoodToday’s fruits and vegetables are often genetically altered. Think about seedless watermelons or even an ear of corn. Watermelons need seeds to become a plant to produce another melon to spread seeds. Seedless watermelons are genetically altered so they only end up producing very few, underdeveloped seeds. When the Pilgrims landed in the New World, corn did not look the way it does today. It was multicolored and did not have perfectly aligned rows of kernels. These genetically altered foods are not as beneficial to our bodies as growing organic foods.

What does it mean to be organic? Growing organic foods means not using chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides. Organic foods have higher levels of polyphenols, antioxidants that make fruits and vegetables healthy for us. The levels are typically 5% to 15% higher than those commercially produced. The levels have actually been recorded as high as 30% and even 100% greater than commercially grown foods.

Being that organic growing doesn’t implement pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, one might wonder how they will protect their plants. Organic plants rely less on external protection and fortify themselves with their own natural defenses against pests. These natural defenses also help maintain a longer shelf life by staving off the growth of molds. Fertilizers can help increase the amount of plants grown, but they also reduce amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Organic foods contain a high diversity of beneficial microbes in them. Commercial foods lack this. What this translates to is that when a pathogen for food poisoning pops up, it’s more likely to take root in the commercial foods because there is nothing to reduce the pathogen’s influence. The pathogen can still latch onto organic foods, but may not be as strong.

Pesticide use has been shown to contribute to developmental disorders and lower IQ scores. Children are especially at risk due to their small size and developing immune systems. It is important if you are pregnant to take extra care to avoid foods linked with pesticides, and continue to use organic foods through the first couple years of life.

When it comes to organic versus commercially produced fruits and vegetables, organic foods have higher levels of antioxidants and beneficial microbes. While healthy adults don’t have a high risk of developing problems by eating non-organic foods, switching to organic foods can still help improve your quality of 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.

Water Energy Innovations

waste water plantCalifornia is facing a situation where up to 12,000 megawatts of electricity generation facilities will be retired or repurposed. However, the state’s water and wastewater facilities will be able to increase reliability while decreasing the need for centralized power plants and electricity demand. How can they do all this? Water Energy Innovations, Inc. has released a report addressing the use of natural gas for generating electricity.

The electrical capacity that California is looking at losing – about 12,000 megawatts – which is equal to nearly 20% of the state’s historical peak electric demand. To further complicate things, this is happening when the state’s grid operator has noticed there is an immediate need for “flexible power.”  A flexible power facility is one that can power up quickly and increase or decrease the out-flow of hundreds of megawatts at a time, often over just a few minutes. These flexible power facilities are required to integrate the steadily growing number of solar and wind resources that are expected to come online by the year 2020. Because of this, California needs to expand its electrical capacity, but if the state can reduce its need for electricity, it won’t need to expand quite so much.

Water and wastewater facilities demand several thousand megawatts of energy in the summer months to pump water. These months also see the peak demand for water and electricity. However, by converting over to natural gas to provide electricity to these facilities, the state will reduce the need for new power plants and high voltage transmission lines. Natural gas facilities are also much less expensive to install and are better suited to the task of generating varying rates of electricity required by the water sector. Using natural gas will promote fuel diversity, which will help balance the energy supply and price risks, increase operational flexibility and reliable delivery of water supplies.  This will also reduce the high cost and environmental impact of large power plants.

California’s water sector already contributes significantly to electrical reliability by utilizing renewable energy and being more energy efficient. Some facilities already use natural gas when energy demands are high, but expanding the use of natural gas will further reduce the need for inefficient power plants and greenhouse gases.

Photo:  A waste water plant

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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.

Preventing Static Electricity Shocks

 happy girl static electricityZAP! “Ouch!”

We often experience static shocks throughout our lives. They happen when we open a door, brush a metal cabinet, or grab a wire. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable and other times it can hurt. Is there any way to avoid them?

First, it’s important to understand what causes the static shocks. All materials have an electrical charge in them. These materials also like to maintain a balance between negative charges (electrons) and positive charges (protons). If one material with a higher level of protons or electrons touches a different material, they will each try to even out their electrical charges by transferring protons and electrons through an electric current. The resulting jolt of electricity is a static shock. Some materials can easily disperse static electricity that builds up, and in these cases, you likely wouldn’t feel the discharge. But other materials, metals in particular, can’t dissipate the electricity too quickly, and thusly will build up an electrostatic charge. Touching these results in the familiar pop sound we hear and jolt we feel.

Static discharges typically range around 5000 volts. Some severe cases have been recorded at more than 15,000V. Most people don’t feel the discharge if it is less than 4000V. Fortunately, static shocks don’t really pose any health threats. They are primarily just an annoyance. However, if you are near flammable gases or liquids, an electrostatic discharge can actually spark a fire. This is why gas stations recommend turning off your cell phone when pumping gas and discharging yourself before operating the pump.

How can you prevent these annoying little shocks? In your home, running a humidifier can reduce the shocks. If you don’t have a humidifier, leave an uncovered, wide dish of water nearby. This will evaporate and increase the moisture content of the air. Static builds up more easily in cool, dry areas, particularly in centrally heated environments. You can also try using an anti-static bracelet. These bracelets operate on the principle of passive corona ionization. As the bracelet nears a conductive material, it discharges ions between you and a conductive material gently, preventing a concentrated discharge of electricity.

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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.

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