December 13, 2011

Energy Efficient TV with 0 Watt Standby Mode

Toshiba Corp is reportedly releasing a 32 inch (visual size) LCD TV model "Regza 32BE3" equipped with its so-called "Eco Chip." The Eco Chip consumption current is said to be as low as about 95μA. This chip is used to detect ON signals from the remote control after the TV is turned off. It cuts off the AC power entirely through a relay as if you an unplugged TV. As the result, the power consumption in standby mode is 0 watt. The relay and the sensor that receive signals from the remote are powered by a large storage capacitor. Unfortunately, the report does not state the size of this capacitor and what happens when you leave the TV off for a long time. I guess either the chip needs to turn on the relay and re-activate standby bias supply before the cap is discharged too low, or you would need to turn on the TV by hand if the cap is discharged. Also they did not state power consumtpion or internal power supply efficiency in active mode (I wonder if they use bridgeless PFC front end?) In any case, such a "zero power standby" circuit is cute, but it is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Obviously, you need to charge the storage cap during on-mode of the TV set. Whatever energy you save in 0W standby mode you need to spend to put this energy into this cap.

September 2, 2011

More Troubles with Energy Efficient Bulbs

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission just announced a voluntary recall of LED night lights imported from China by Corvest Acquisition Inc. It was reported these LED lights can overheat, smolder, and melt which may cause burns to consumers. The affected part has model number SBD01 stamped on the back of the plastic base.

August 26, 2011

Portable Generator: How to Use it Safely

If you just bought a portable generator set (genset) in wake of approaching Irene hurricane, and don't have time to read the entire manual, here are some crucial things you need to know. This quick safety checklist can save your life and lives of everyone in your home.

  • Portable generators produce carbon monoxide (CO). CO can kill in minutes. More than three hundreds people died in US during power outages from generator related CO poisonings. Therefore a portable generator can be run only outdoor with exhaust away from your home. EPA recommends to locate gensets at least 10 feet from the home You should also allow at least 2 feet of clearance on all sides of generator for adequate ventilation.

  • Most commercial portables are not weather proof. They pose the risk of electrocution and shock when used during a rain. Therefore, cover your genset in advance since Irene hurricane will be accompanied with heavy rain. It is not recommended to run a genset during a rain. If you are absolutely positively need to use a portable generator during a rain, build an open canopy-like structure. Don’t’ touch a genset with wet hands.

  • A portable generator should not be connected directly into your house wiring without a special two-pole changeover switch or an interlock, since otherwise you will be feeding electricity back into the utility lines. This would present a hazard for linemen and your neighbors. Portables are intended to be connected to your appliances primarily via separate cords. If you did not get a chance to install a transfer switch, prepare heave duty outdoor-rated cords with sufficient length. These cords should be long enough to reach your appliances through the windows or open doors.
For general operation theory, selection information and my picks, see this guide to portable generator.
This post is not a professional or a legal advice- I assume no liability of any kind for the accuracy of the above information.

August 1, 2011

New Auto Gas Mileage Standards

President Obama recently unveiled a plan to sharply increase auto fuel economy. The proposal would require the companies to reach average fuel efficiency across their U.S. fleets of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The good news this would lower US oil use by 2.2 million barrels a day over the next 15 years, and accordingly cut the amount of money flowing to OPEC. It would also cut more than 6 billion tons of carbon emissions during this period of time. The bad news is according to The Center for Automotive Research, this requirement cost about $6,700 extra per car. It is also absolutely obvious that in order to achieve such fuel efficiency, the automakers would have to make the cars much lighter. Lighter cars of course are less safe. In a head-on collision, a lighter car will always have larger change in velocity due to Conservation of Momentum law (see Hyperphysics Concepts). So, no matter what anyone tells you, new fuel economy standards will hurt vehicles safety simply due to the laws of physics, even though the new cars may meet National standards for car crash safety. The trick is, during the compliance tests the car is being crashed against a still wall. Properly designed lightweight cars can perfectly pass these tests and claim five-star safety rating. However, they will have an obvious disadvantage in real conditions if collided with heavier cars. If more fuel-efficient cars offer us, the consumers, a true advantage, why mandate it? Should not their production and sales be driven by the market forces?

May 11, 2011

Energy Savings Bulbs Fire Hazard

I wrote previously about potential mercury poisoning and UV radiation hazards related compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Now it appears they may also present a fire hazard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission just announced a voluntary recall of some energy-saving light bulbs made by Telstar Products (d/b/a Sprint International Inc) due to fire hazard. The affected bulbs are rated between 18 and 40 watt and are sold in discount stores under the brand names Telstar and Electra. Remember, unlike incandescent bulbs, a CFL is not just a filament. It contains a small PCB with electronic circuit that converts 115VAC 60 Hz input voltage into high frequency AC that drives the lamp. And any electronic circuit, especially the one that contains high voltage transistors and electrolytic capacitors, may be a potential fire hazard. This is another reason to stock up old incandescent bulbs that may not be available in US beginning 2012.

April 14, 2011

Recall of Sanus Surge Protectors Due to Shock Hazard

Milestone AV Technologies LLC voluntary recalled all low-profile power conditioners (surge protectors) Sanus Elements model ELM205, which used to be sold by home theater dealers. It was reported that improper grounding of the case and inadequate insulation poses an electrical shock hazard to consumers. More info is available from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

January 29, 2011

EPA To Spend $1.2M for "Environmental Justice"

EPA just announced it seeks applicants for $1.2 Million in so-called Environmental Justice Grants. EPA website says that "Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process." Hmm. Don't we have democracy and equality? Is anyone in US deprived from the rights to take part in "decision-making process"?
EPA also states "Environmental contamination can lead to costly health risks and can discourage investments and development in low-income, minority, and indigenous communities disproportionately impacted by pollution". From what I read about it, previous studies by Centers for Disease Control shows no evidence that racial minorities experience higher exposure to environmental chemicals than whites on a national scale (see for example ). As for low-income communities, it was suggested that poor neighborhoods often grew up around existing refineries and chemical plants because the land was cheap. Similarly, new facilities could be built near poor neighborhoods because land there is cheaper. How would these EPA grants change the law of supply and demand in real estate? Of course, 1.2M is a drop in the bucket relative to billions of taxpayers dollars spent by our government. But, there is no doubt, the government has many more spending programs like that.

January 6, 2011

CFL Bulbs: Potential Mercury Danger

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that they “improved” its guidance on how to clean up a broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Included with the guidance is a new consumer brochure with CFL recycling and cleanup tips. Why is it you may ask, EPA pays attention on broken bulbs? They don’t tell you how to clean up a broken laptop or an ipod, do they? Well, as most of us know, CFLs contain mercury sealed within the glass tubing, an average of 5 milligrams. When a fluorescent lamp breaks, mercury vapor is released, which may pose health risks. EU’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks asserted that when you are exposed to a broken bulb, there is a danger that “long-term toxicological limit values may be exceeded up to 6,000 times”. All this raises a number of questions:
· Why is it instead of just banning CFLs, EPA explicitly encourages Americans to use them?
· How come we don’t read on the CFL label something like this: “This product contains substances known to the state of California as causing kidney and brain damage”?
· Is not ROHS directive bans products containing lead and mercury in amounts exceeding 0.1 % in homogeneous materials? After all, in electronic equipment these elements present health threat only if you have a habit of chewing printed circuit boards, but releasing mercury vapor in CFL by accidentally (or intentionally) breaking may be a real threat.

A simple answer is: a CFL is more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, and therefore it must be a politically correct health hazard. Probably for the same reason RoHS Directive conveniently exempts CFL from their requirements and allows up to 5 mg of mercury per lamp. And to add insult to the injury, the US government is phasing in between 2012 and 2014 new efficiency standards for lighting, which would preclude sale of most traditional incandescent bulbs (see Energy Independence And Security Act Of 2007 ). So, soon, we may not have a choice. European Union and Australia have already started to phase incandescents out in 2009. I guess, I am going to stock up on incandescents until we’ll be able to buy screw-in LED lamps at a reasonable cost. Of course, their "reasonable cost" will still be 10-20 times more than that of today's regular bulbs. Indeed, aside from high-intensity LEDs, they will have to include a small power circuit with power factor correction (PFC), but… we should not worry about it—the government knows what’s better for us.