Unexpected Benefits of Energy Efficiency

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At Tinker, we’re constantly reminding everyone of the major benefits of energy efficiency. Most know it cuts costs and helps our environment. But there are some benefits that go relatively unnoticed. In fact, many of these perks are often felt to be more valuable than dollar savings.

Conveniency

Installing LED lights offers more than just the convenience of saving money. Even when used for eight hours per day, LED lights last upwards of 10 years. If you’re talking about a business, this means that the lights might actually outlive your time in that particular building. The only maintenance you’re guaranteed to have is a little dusting here and there.

Boost Sales

It’s true – lighting changes can effect product sales. Hiring a lighting designer is a great way to make sure you can use the most energy efficient bulbs as well as make your products look their best. Retailers constantly play around with LED lighting to explore unlimited possibilities to showcase their items.

Increase People Efficiency

The right lighting can boost productivity in people. If you have bad lighting in your office, you’re probably feeling more tired or unmotivated than if you had the right type of light. Lighting can greatly improve the overall work environment in both looks and capacity.

These changes are all important considerations when deciding to be more energy efficient. While cutting costs is an excellent goal, thinking outside the box and looking at the larger picture will only open the door to greater benefits. Energy efficiency improves the lives of everyone, from the individual to the earth as a whole. So if you’re still on the fence, consider these things before deciding not to make the change.

Let There Be Water

 

karen rossCalifornia Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross

California is now is in 4th year of drought. When you look deeper into where the water resources are allocated, the southern part of California uses two-thirds of the water. It’s used for cities for even more so, for agriculture producing $54 billion in agricultural products. California Secretary of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross appeared recently on a podcast, Let There Be Water to shed some light on the subject.

What that means is that almost 80% of the water used in California is being used to grow ‘what we eat.’

California Secretary of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross recently said in the podcast, Let There Be Water, “farmers grow food for people. The ultimate user of all of that water is the person who eats the food grown by the farmer. We are all in this together.”

Her deepest concerns is for the generations, not get born. Due to the drought and water restrictions, farmers have had to pump deep into aquifers and unfortunately, this isn’t a long term solution, as the aquifers can’t maintain the status quo for very long.

It’s just not a sustainable solution. “If we don’t do something today,” Ross says, “every year we continue to pump so much, we are putting ourselves into an ever greater deficit [of groundwater], and that isn’t a wise thing to do for the generations that will follow us.”

This leaves Ross and other state officials in a tough bind. There is the decision regarding the preservation of the delta smelt, an endangered species which keeps large amounts of river water off limits to farmers, the aquifers not being a sustainable solution, and the decision to keep California agriculture, the only solution is change, by way of new, updated technology. This would mean drip irrigation allowing for more use of treated wastewater. But is it too little, too late?

To hear Karen Ross’ opinion on this subject, click here.

 

Wind & California’s Drought

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California’s drought is still going strong, but new research suggests that not just evaporated moisture and human activity are the causes. Another culprit, says the University of Texas at Austin, is wind. This takes some by surprise, but their research leads to plausible results.

They found that evaporation of the Pacific Ocean was indeed a source of the state’s drought, but that the amount of water evaporating doesn’t have much effect on the amount of rainfall. Researchers discovered that the evaporation rates generally don’t change much from year to year, so the amount of rain wouldn’t either. So if the water evaporation hasn’t decreased any rain, what has?

High-Pressure System

Researchers state that the current high-pressure system California is experiencing is changing atmospheric circulation. In other words, storms are being forced north rather than dumping rain down on California. It’s known that California generally has this type of high-pressure system during the summer, but it normally goes away during winter. This one, however, has decided it wants to stay in place for the long-term.

Jiangfeng Wei, lead author and research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, states that this type of steady system is likely the effect of global warming. He states that this long-term high-pressure system is a rare event but is likely increasing with the climate change. However, Richard Seager, lead author of the NOAA study and professor with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, states that while this drought is extreme, it’s not uncommon for California when you look at the state’s climate history. “In fact, multiyear droughts appear regularly in the state’s climate record, and it’s a safe bet that a similar event will happen again,” Seager told USA Today in 2014.

So while the new research advises that wind blowing storms north is the primary cause of California’s drought, others disagree. Yes, the wind is blowing the rain away, but the climate change is prolonging the high-pressure system that is moving that wind north.

Conclusion

Either way, the recent findings will help scientists further understand how the water cycle plays a vital role in extreme weather events like California’s drought. Hopefully this will aid in drought prediction and even prevention, something the state could really use right now. Either way, we hope that California finds relief some way or another. The ill-effects of the drought are being felt everywhere without ease, so we’re certainly hoping for a brighter, wetter future.

Microsoft’s Edge is Most Energy Efficient Brower

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Microsoft is many things, but one attribute people often miss is that they’re energy efficient. It might sound odd, but it’s true. Microsoft prides itself and searching for their software to run more efficiently, both for a positive user experience and for the environmental benefits that come from it. As stated on their website, Microsoft believes that technology empowers people and organizations to achieve a more sustainable planet. It’s a statement we appreciate, and you should too.

Most recently, Microsoft did testing on their new Internet browser, Edge. Microsoft tested Edge’s energy efficiency against that of Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. The study produced some interesting results.  All of the browsers were tested using Windows 10 software on a Surface Book. The top two contenders were Opera and Edge. With battery-saving power features, Opera held up for nearly 6 hours and 18 minutes. However, Edge surpassed this reaching 7 hours and 22 minutes. The Surface Book using Edge lasted 3 hours longer than Chrome, giving it a 70% increase in battery life.

The results of this study are certainly worth noting, as energy efficiency is an important part of technology in all forms. Microsoft advised it is currently working toward a new updates to increase their energy efficiency in all of their products. They expect power-saving features to be added to the new Windows 10 Anniversary update. These include minimizing the impact of background activity and peripheral content such as advertisements. While these implementations may seem small, they can make a big difference when it comes to total energy efficiency.

Overall, running Edge gives Windows 10 users an estimated 36-53% of battery life when compared to other Internet browsers. Fortunately, this has given reason for competitors to value energy efficiency more than they used to. Last year, Google had promised many improvements to make Chrome use less power and memory. With Microsoft’s Windows updates due this summer, we’ll see how much better the results are once they are applied in the real world and not in a single test.

 

“Godzilla Drought” Brings Trouble to California

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With El Niño over and little rain to show for it, California is struggling with its drought. The “Godzilla drought,” as a NASA climatologist has dubbed it, has little desire to lessen. La Niña is expected to surface, but we can’t be sure that she’ll come as there are little signs she’s ready to arrive. During La Niña, the Southwest tends to be drier and cooler than normal and this can be bad news for the already drought-stricken land. La Niña is essentially the opposite of El Niño. El Niño is the warming of water in the Pacific Ocean, leading to the storms we expected to see. La Niña is know for its dry climate; something Californians aren’t hoping to see more of.

While abnormal dryness is affecting over half of the West even up into Washington and Oregon, California in particular has reached its fifth year in drought. Almost the entire state is experiencing some sort of drought. Even without La Niña, California should be preparing for more difficult times ahead. Many were hopeful for a strong El Niño, but even the best case scenario would likely not been enough.

El Niño was actually quite strong, lasting over 15 months, but the results were not as expected. In fact, if it left anything, it was questions about why Southern California saw seemingly zero effects of the storm. Experts believe that the warmer-than-normal pool of water (essentially what El Niño is) was 1,000 miles farther west than it was the last time we were hit with major storms (the 1997-1998 El Niño).

The drought became severe and expensive long ago, and while residents are doing a great job at water conservation and efficiency, things are still looking dim. Not only is agriculture seeing major revenue loss, there are residents without running water and wildfires starting to worsen as summer sets in. So far, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection states that twice as many fires have burned this year when compared to the first six months of 2015.

Whether El Niño was mild or not (it wasn’t – the massive flooding in Texas is a result) isn’t the major concern for scientists and residents alike. Now, we’re looking at how much longer this drought is going to last, how much worse it’s going to get and what exactly we need to do about it. Fortunately, it appears that residents are willing to take whatever efforts are needed in order to conserve water. For now, though, it seems like we’re going to be doing a lot of watching, waiting and adapting.

Energy Efficiency Tips for First-Time Homeowners

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Few things are more exciting than buying your own home for the very first time. With some much to get in order and so many thoughts to gather, energy efficiency probably isn’t the first concern in your mind. We can certainly argue that it should be, but that’s neither here nor there. For now, we’re here to help you work on making your new home as energy efficient as possible.

  • First, you’ll want to make a checklist of energy efficiency problems that need to be addressed in your new home. An energy technician will go through some tests and inspections to look for any inefficiencies and find major energy drains. Depending on what your energy technician finds will determine your next moves.
  • Most first-time homeowners find themselves sealing leaks. Add insulation to your attic, install weatherstripping to windows and doors, and inspect your basement and crawlspace for holes. It’s thought that up to 20% of the air that moves through home duct systems is lost due to leaks and cracks. Fixing these small problems can lead to big savings down the road.
  • If your new home doesn’t already have them, it’s worth looking into installing new energy efficient heating and cooling systems. Over half of the average household’s utility bills is spent in this area alone, so upgrading them could bring significant savings for you and the planet.
  • Your water heater should be down to 120ºF, as it already eats nearly a quarter of your home’s energy costs. Using low-flow shower heads can also increase your water heater’s efficiency by lessening its overall workload.
  • Replace any incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs. CFL bulbs, or compact fluorescent lightbulbs, can use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer. Changing these over will bring major improvements to your long-term comfort and finances.
  • Check for home energy credits. First time buyers receive a lot of benefits, and you may qualify for various credits depending on your home’s energy efficiency features.

If you’re reading this, you’ve either purchased or are thinking of purchasing your own home for the first time. It’s an incredible change to your life, and making sure that you do everything you can to help yourself out in regard to both cost and comfort is important. Energy efficiency may not seem special, but it’s critical to making the best out of your new home.