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The go-to blog to save energy, save money, help the earth.

Month: August 2015

Sharp Electronics Announces DC-Powered Home appliances

Sharp Electronics knows a thing or two about DC, and we’re not talking about comics! When you look at a battery, it has a positive and negative current that helps power to flow. This is called direct current (DC), which is produced by batteries, fuel cells and solar cells. When power comes from a power plant, it is called alternating current (AC). Power used through a wall socket, in the United States, is 120-volt, 60-cycle AC power. Many power companies use alternating current because a transformer can easily change the voltage of power–thereby, saving money. On the other hand, a DC system has many advantages over AC since the absence of reactive power translates into higher capacity utilization of power generators. This is probably just one of many reasons Sharp is introducing a DC-powered air conditioner this year. As one of the world’s top consumer electronics companies in the world, Sharp announced that their air conditioner will be the first offering in Sharp’s new “DC Appliance” series.

Sharp DC Air conditioner

How it started

In 2011, Sharp announced that it was developing DC home appliances. Why? For starters, DC-powered electronics can be powered directly by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels/modules–without needing routing or an inverter. This would be a boon for customers who want to save on energy costs, while utilizing a more environmentally-friendly alternative. In addition, not having to use an inverter means that conversion losses, of up to 10 percent, can be eliminated. Furthermore, air conditioners are known to require a lot of energy–cutting energy costs by 10 percent can make a significant difference.

Benefits of DC

Since electric power distribution is almost all alternating current, it may take some time for mass household conversions. Yet, in a DC system, there isn’t any susceptance (the ease with which AC passes through two conducting plates that hold energy in the form of an electrostatic field) along lines–this means that the effects of charging current and over voltages is removed. As a result, lines receive higher transfer capacity. In fact, Thomas Edison’s first commercial electrical power transmission used direct current.

How it works

A prototype of Sharp’s air-conditioning system was displayed at PVJapan. The outdoor unit was supplied with DC electricity through a rechargeable battery configured outside the house. The compressor is driven by a DC brushless motor. If you were to do this with a conventional air conditioner, you would need to convert DC100V output to AC100V power. Sharp’s DC Air Conditioner, reduces power loss inflicted by DC-AC conversion through effectively increasing a DC100V output from the rechargeable battery to DC200V.

Moreover, Sharp’s Cloud Rechargeable Battery allows solar electricity to be efficiently consumed within the home. Surplus electricity is then sold, and the battery is charged in a manner that focuses on cost savings. The battery is also discharged during hours of low solar power generation, such as in the mornings and evenings. Plus, you save on the cost of using and installing a solar panel inverter.

If vehicles can run on a DC system, why can’t air conditioners? It will be intriguing to see how Sharp’s new DC line is received. Either way, the cost and energy savings can’t be beat.

How the Epson EcoTank Supertank Printer Can Help Save the Planet

Despite our best efforts, there isn’t any question that we live in a wasteful society. We have a tendency to buy things and eventually throw them away. Thankfully, we are becoming more accustomed to the concept of recycling for a wide variety of products. One way to significantly reduce our carbon footprint is through making a global effort to decrease ink cartridge trash. Millions of ink cartridges end up in landfills, and it takes 3,000 tons of plastic several hundred years to degenerate. Well, enter the Epson EcoTank Supertank Printer line. Under its new EcoTank brand, Epson has unveiled five all-in-one color printers with the remarkable feature of large ink reservoirs. They are called “Supertank” because they come loaded with enough ink to last up to two years worth of prints without having to replace the cartridges.

Detoxify the environment

When ink cartridges get sent to landfills, they don’t just sit there–they actually interact with the environment. To illustrate, wildlife can mistake plastics for food. In addition, plastic can destroy their natural habitats. Water can also get contaminated from the ink, and it can poison the soil–thereby destroying the ecosystem for generations. For the earth to survive, this trajectory needs to stop. That is why the Epson EcoTank Supertank line offers a breath of fresh air. Only a small percentage of ink cartridges are recycled. Imagine not having to replace a cartridge for two years.

Epson EcoTank

Enjoy cost savings

Around 90 percent of the pages printed in the United States are printed in black-and-white. Part of the reason is the cost of color cartridges. With the EcoTank Supertank line, you can use your cartridges for 24 months. After that, replacement ink only costs  $12.99 per bottle, or $52 per set of bottles. Moreover, a standard home printer would need around 20 sets of cartridges to print the same number of pages you could print with the EcoTank printer.

Barbara Richards, senior consultant of InfoTrends said “Epson’s EcoTank launch represents a sea change in today’s printer market. Establishing a new printer category – Supertank – Epson is positioning itself for significant market expansion. The appeal of low-cost, hassle-free color printing in business and in the home has potential to capture a significant share of the market.” Plus, the five models were made for every situation, from the home to a small-to-medium business.

Use the latest in printing technology

The Epson EcoTank line comes in five models. Click on any of the models to learn more about the power consumption and to purchase:

Pricing ranges from around $379 MSRP to about $1,199 MSRP. All of the models offer a two-year limited warranty, with registration, and have built-in wireless so that you can conveniently print from your tablet or smartphone. The Expression ET-2500 EcoTank All-in-One lets you print up to 4,000 black and 6,500 color pages, with a 100-sheet paper capacity.

On the other hand, the WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank lets you print up to up to 20,000 black and 20,000 color pages, with a 580-sheet capacity. As you can see, there is a model for everyone that maximizes printing and ink cartridge efficiency.

Not having to continuously buy new cartridges means there is one less cartridge headed for a landfill. By using a printer with technology to help better protect the environment, we all win.

Is Wireless Charging Here to Stay?

There isn’t any question that wireless charging will soon become the new standard for charging electric devices. Most people can relate to that sinking feeling of a dying cell phone and missing the power cable. This is what makes wireless charging so disruptive–you get the convenience of consumer electronics without cords.

In addition, wireless charging means that managing devices can be easier and less wasteful. Furthermore, wireless power may make gadgets and even electric cars more durable, while possibly eliminating the need for batteries. According to IHS research, consumer awareness of wireless charging doubled to 76 percent in 2015—this is from a 36 percent consumer awareness in 2014. Pike Research anticipates that wireless power products will triple to a $15 billion market by 2020. Here, we take a look at the future of wireless power and conductive charging.

What is conductive charging anyway?

Conductive charging requires a physical connection between the charging station and the electric device needing the charge. Specific attachments are then designed to fit perfectly with the receiving device. A conductive charging base also has the ability to tell when a device has been placed on top of it. To illustrate, electric cars of the future may only need to drive atop a conductive charging mat to power the car for its next bout on the road–there isn’t a need to even step out of the car.Tesla snake charger

Tesla snake charger

As electric cars become more innovative, you can expect innovations in charging technology. In fact, Tesla has recently showcased their creepy, yet convenient, robot-snake charger. What makes it even more exciting is the robot-snake can find your car’s charging port and plug itself in. Once the robot finds the car’s charge port, it turns it green to indicate it’s working. This also means an eliminated risk of electrocution.

Tesla’s CEO and co-founder Elon Musk said that last year the company was working on a charger that looks like a “solid metal snake.” Musk also added that the snake-charger would work on all existing Tesla cars. Right now, they have the prototype ready. Although, the company said last Thursday that the market version may still end up looking a bit less scary.

Wireless charging and the future

Since Tesla’s snake-charger has already made its debut, many other manufacturers are racing to get their conductive charging systems out into the forefront. Many technology providers believe that wireless charging systems, for the electric vehicle market, will be available to consumers by 2017. As a result, The Society of Automotive Engineers plans to have its J-2954 standards finalized by 2017–with recommendations released by late 2016. These are all positive signs for the conductive charging industry as a whole.

Kevin Mak, Senior Analyst in the Automotive Electronics Service (AES) at Strategy Analytics said “While the selling point for wireless charging systems is undoubtedly beneficial to the promotion of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, they will firstly be offered as costly optional purchase limited to mainly luxury auto brands, when they launch in 2017. Other challenges include the speed of finalizing standards, since it is critical for wireless charging systems to be interoperable, in instances where the consumer buys a different brand of electric vehicle or when charging on public infrastructures.” Why carry a heavy battery around or a tangled power cable when you can use a conductive charging mat?

Although there are still some cost and standardization hurdles for conductive charging bases, the future looks bright with enduring mass appeal.

What devices would you like to charge wirelessly?

Formula E: the future of NASCAR racing?

Recently, Formula 1 cars underwent a major change by dropping their V8 engines for turbocharged V6 engines. The reason is the trend towards more fuel efficiency, but what’s now starting to take shape is Formula E racing–as in electric. The hope is that Formula E technology will trickle down to future electric vehicles in the same way F1 technology trickles down to conventional cars. Some say Formula E is the future of racing. Well, the Formula E Championship held its inaugural season last year at Battersea Park in London. Here we explain Formula E and what the future holds for the world of motor racing.

Explaining Formula E

The series was created to help give electric vehicles a much cooler image. It’s supported by Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire who also runs F1. All of the Formula E race cars use all-electric powertrains. For the inaugural season, there were 10 teams–each with two drivers. They also operate as an ‘open championship,’ which lets car manufacturers showcase their innovations in electrical energy. Currently, all of the teams operate the same Spark-Renault SRT_01E race car–which, is a 1,957-pound vehicle that produces up to 270 horsepower. In fact, the car can rev up to 60 m.p.h. in under 3 seconds. Although the battery pack does weigh 800 pounds. The batteries also run the same lithium-ion technology as other high-end electric vehicles. Since the cars are limited to about 25 minutes of racing time, each team operates two cars and the drivers change out the vehicles mid-race.

Formula E racing

Will Formula E really make a difference?

Experienced Formula 1 driver, Pedro de la Rosa made his Formula E debut in July. He told Motorsport.com: “It is incredible really what Alejandro [Agag] and his team have achieved this season, their first season. The need to have a championship like this is obvious because it is all about the future. Racing needs to be a lot wider than just F1. It is very, very interesting.”

Yet, it isn’t just the drivers and racing enthusiasts that are giving this a second look–Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the team owners. Furthermore, racing technology has helped lead vehicle innovation. NASCAR helped to changed the shape of American cars, while F1 pioneered advanced hybrid systems. Formula E racers are on the front lines of this technology, because they have to manage both drive settings and gearing. Contemporary electric vehicles lack gearboxes even though gearing helps get more power out of a motor. As Formula E gains traction in the racing world, this will give more manufacturers the motivation to improve the energy density of the batteries.

Where Formula E gets it right

In addition to the potential for improving electric vehicle technology, Formula E’s governing body, the FIA, is actually making the right decisions. While they also oversee F1, Formula E has gone relatively drama-free. It’s less expensive for teams to enter, and the tracks on the streets of London or Moscow are quite memorable. Not to mention, some Formula E races are even free. The result is many countries are now clamoring to host races. Even Richard Branson told reporters that he believes Formula E will surpass Formula 1 in four years.

Electric vehicle sales are increasing, while Formula E has many powerful and influential supporters determined to make it a success. As there are still many technical questions to answer, Formula E may just be the perfect venue to do so.

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