Welcome back to the Direct Energy Buzz! We’ve revamped things around here a bit to include news about what’s happening at Direct Energy and in the larger energy community. And since January 2014 started off with lots of buzz (some of it at around 60 herz) about new developments in home technology, let’s begin with something that has been over a century in the making.
RIP Incandescent Light Bulbs
As of January 1, the old reliable incandescent light bulb can no longer be manufactured or imported into the US! (Weird flashback to the Volstead Act?) Those old common-sized incandescent bulbs are now illegal under a measure signed in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush. While this sounds drastic, these old bulbs are being replaced by more efficient (and longer lasting) CFLs and LED bulbs, along with halogen incandescent bulbs that are 28% more efficient and produce brighter light (more lumens) for fewer watts of electricity.
Buzzing Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show
Some of the coolest innovations come in the smallest packages – think of the revolution caused by the transistor. This year, it’s an award-winning little square piece of electro-active polymer film about 200 microns thick made by Novasentis. Technically, it’s an “Electro-mechanical Polymer Actuator” called a “Clic”. Clics can used as a sensor that detects touch, pressure, and sound in particular spots. It can also be used in physical interfaces where the user can detect vibrations, pressure, and sound with their fingertips. Novasentis has produced the ultra-thin Awake keyboard using its Clic accuators. Image courtesy of Novasentis.
Insulating and air-sealing your home just got easier and cheaper. Flir System’s new Flir 1 Personal Thermal Imaging device connects to your iPhone5 or 5s and detects heat (or heat loss) in buildings and heat signatures from live humans, animals, and environmental sources up to 100 feet away. Has your kitty run out into the cold, dark scary night? Find it with the Flir 1! Image courtesy of Flir.
Want to know more about the air quality your home or office? What about the amount of mold or ambient light or best temperature setting? CubeSensors monitor air, light-quality, noise, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity —all the things that factor into how healthy your environment is. Why? Because if you feel better, you’re more productive.
For a while, it’s seemed like there’s been an app for everything except for major appliances. Behold! Haier has become the first appliance company accepted into Apple’s MFi licensing program. Its Tianzun air conditioning unit has become the first appliance accepted into the program. While the Tianzun is a standalone unit for the Chinese market, this development signals that more iOS appliances could be on the way.
For those of you who think web-controlled gizmos are just a crock, then you’re in luck. Belkin has introduced a Crock-Pot brand Smart slow cooker that can be controlled using its new WeMo system. OK, I laughed myself silly when I first heard about it but after a little thought, it makes great sense. In the morning, you can load it with your ingredients before you head off to work. Around noon you can use your iPhone to turn it on and later turn down the heat. When you get home, dinner is ready! Belkin plans to release it this spring for $99. Image courtesy of Belkin
Organic Mega-flow Battery May Smooth Wind Power Output
Wind turbines have trouble putting out power that remains at a steady level because the wind varies its speed. Also, what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow? One solution for this has been to use batteries that store wind-produced power for use on the grid later. These are huge flow-battery systems, and because many of them rely on metals they are expensive. Now, a team of Harvard scientists may have developed a battery technology that uses the same molecule system that stores energy in plants and animals. Called quinone molecules, that plan is to flow solutions of quinone molecules through the electro-chemical converter to discharge the electricity. The molecule the Harvard group has found to be most productive is almost identical to one found in rhubarb.
Be on the lookout for more energy news from Direct Energy next month, as we have several new and exciting products being developed!