Live! from CEA’s Greener Gadgets in NYC

The Greener Gadgets Conference opens today in NYC at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center.  The conference will tackle all of the issues surrounding energy efficiency and sustainable design, from innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will also highlight ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

With panel discussions, networking and a design competition, the 2010 conference should be something to look forward to!

Green Life Smart Life founder Kim Lancaster will be speaking the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel with panelists like Sarah Krasley from Autodesk and moderator Sarah Rich from Dwell Magazine.  The panel description reads: Greening your life is an everyday process, starting with the place you begin every day. From building to remodeling, home automation to energy management, green living begins at home. Listen to experts discuss sustainable design strategies for urban and rural locations, creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

I will be attending the event as both a blogger and moral support provider for Kim and hope to live blog and add updates & pictures throughout the show (especially during her panel at 10:40 am ET).

Check my Twitter feed for more up to the minute coverage as well: @ashleydano

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Green Life Smart Life Founder On Panel At Greener Gadgets Conference

Kimberly Lancaster, Founder of the Green Life Smart Life (GLSL) project, will be a speaker at this year’s Greener Gadget’s Conference on Feb. 25th in New York City.  Speaking on the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel, she and four other industry experts will discuss sustainable design strategies and tips for creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

The GLSL project was designed to demonstrate the implementation of green building techniques and smart home technologies to achieve LEED® for Homes certification. Not only did the project achieve LEED® for Homes certification, but was rated by the US Green Building Council as Gold certified. The Narragansett, RI 4529 sq/ft home scored 92.5 out of 136 points and is the first LEED-H Gold home in RI and only the second completed LEED-H project in the entire state.

“Every day we make choices about what we are going to reuse, recharge and recycle in our home. By being aware of the impact of the choices you make, whether it is the amount of energy a device consumes or where it ends up at end of life, we can all minimize our environmental footprint,” stated Lancaster.

Lancaster is also the founder of Caster Communications, a full service public relations firm specializing in consumer electronics, clean technology and sustainable design. Caster Communications was the development and marketing team for the Green Life Smart Life project.

The Greener Gadgets Conference, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will cover issues on energy efficiency and sustainable design, along with innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will emphasize ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

Smart Grid tops the CEA’s 2010 trends list

Annually the Consumer Electronics Association makes a list of the top technology trends to watch. The list, which has proven both accurate and insightful in year’s past, aims to guide CE manufacturers and the electronic system contractors that install their products, towards education, interest and overall awareness of technologies that may be impacting their business in the coming year.  

Not surprisingly, the Smart Grid topped the CEA’s list which also included  the evolution of content, growing the connected home ecosystem, the future of TV, and connected cars.

Though the rest of the list was interesting enough, but it was the Smart Grid data that interested me the most. The CEA research finds that 70 percent of Americans are concerned about the cost of their monthly electricity bill, which is predicted to rise with growing demand.

The report states that “demand for electricity is projected to increase nearly 26 percent from 2007 to 2030, or by an average of one percent per year,” and a need for energy efficiency will rise dramatically. “A growing population and rising disposable incomes increase demand for products, services and floor space – all of which increase electricity consumption.”

The most interesting part of the Smart Grid is not necessarily the Grid itself but the enabling technologies that will lead adoption by making the Smart Grid smarter, more efficient and  more accessible.

Smart grid technologies to watch are:

  • Energy monitors that show usage information from a home-based device or web application
  • Technology that allows consumers to set their thermostats, automate home lighting and even select what type of power they wish to purchase (i.e., solar, wind, etc.) and pay accordingly
  • Grid-tied appliances that can be run according to variable, time-of-day pricing
  • Chargers that recharge phones, digital cameras and MP3 players during non-peak times
  • Battery-like devices that store larger amounts of electricity for later household use
  • Smart-charging plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles 

The CEA’s report also highlights several green innovations, including:

  • Buckywires used for photovoltaic systems
  • Geobacter microbe that consumes oil-based pollutants and can produce electricity
  • Printable batteries
  • Organic Free Radical Battery Power
  • Self-Charging cell phones
  • Kinetic phones – power through shaking
  • Photosynthesis as a power source
  • Slider notebook
  • Solar-powered laptop

The report also recognizes that consumer awareness is a key to smart grid acceptance which means CE manufacturers and integrators need to make educating their customers a top priority in 2010.

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | Twitter

CEA submits Suggestions And Expresses Concerns On Proposed Changes To ENERGY STAR Program

On Jan. 19, CEA submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy regarding the agencies’ recent memorandum of understanding and Enhanced Program Plan for ENERGY STAR products. Both documents propose significant administrative and program changes to ENERGY STAR. CEA’s comments focused on the following concerns and issues: the proposed requirement for product testing by accredited labs; the imposition of a top-tier “Super Star” program; the proposal for overall limits on energy use; the agencies’ responsiveness to stakeholder comments; the use of advocates as consultants; product testing and product returns; and the use of industry test procedures.

According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. DOE, the following program changes have been suggested:

ENERGY STAR Products Program

Program design: The ENERGY STAR products program will be enhanced in the following ways:

  1. Specifications will be set so that the ENERGY STAR logo is applied consistently with established program principles and with approximately only the top quartile of products eligible.
  2. Product coverage will be expanded to include new consumer products with high energy saving potential.
  3. Verification of compliance with program requirements will be increased and efforts will be enhanced to identify and address product performance issues.
  4. An ENERGY Super Star program will be nested within the ENERGY STAR program to enable consumers to identify the top performing products.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Management. The EPA will manage the ENERGY STAR products program and the new Super Star program, in consultation with DOE.
  • Testing for Program Purposes. EPA will maintain product testing results data with support from DOE as agreed to by the Agencies. DOE will lead the development of product testing procedures and metrics with EPA assisting where necessary.

National Building Rating Program

Program design: The National Building Rating program will be enhanced in the following ways:

  1. A comprehensive whole building scale-based rating tool will be developed and promoted that reflects both the physical characteristics of a building (asset rating) and a way to compare the actual energy use of existing buildings with similar buildings.
  2. A labeling scheme will be developed to easily convey the energy use information from the whole building scale-based rating tool.
  3. The whole building scale-based rating tool will take account of the inherent building envelope, major energy-using equipment and appliances, and past performance based on utility bills.
  4. The whole building scale-based rating tool will be updated periodically to reflect improvements in building technology and analytical tools, and to enhance usability.
  5. The eligibility of buildings for the ENERGY STAR logo as applied to buildings will be based on the rating systems of the National Building Rating Program.
  6. The criteria for the ENERGY STAR logo will be updated periodically to reflect improvements in building energy efficiency, diagnostic capability, and market appetite for energy efficiency, and will be based on established program principles for the ENERGY STAR brand.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Management. DOE will manage the National Building Rating program including the development of the whole building scale-based rating tool and associated labeling scheme, in consultation with EPA. EPA will continue its efforts to encourage key stakeholders to build new buildings to ENERGY STAR levels and improve existing buildings.
  • Testing for Program Purposes. DOE will maintain building performance data with support from EPA as agreed to by the Agencies. EPA will support various aspects of the program and assist DOE with input to help inform development of the framework, tools, and updates of the rating schemes
  • Specification Levels. The performance levels for the ENERGY STAR when applied to buildings will be set by EPA, with technical input provided by DOE and the National Building Rating Tool, consistent with established principles for the program.

Overall program coordination

  • DOE and EPA will periodically evaluate and as appropriate modify their program efforts to ensure that the ENERGY STAR and National Building Rating programs are mutually reinforcing and coordinated.

To view the entire Memorandum of Understanding on Improving the Energy Efficiency of Products and Buildings, click here.

Green Building Perspectives: Consumer Electronics Association

PrintFor this week’s Green Building Perspectives, we spoke with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $173 billion U.S. consumer technology industry through legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA represents more than 2,200 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels. The CEA TechHome division will be launching their new TechHome Rating System, which is being created to provide a model and associated rating program that will allow builders, integrators and consumers to demonstrate what technology products can be installed in a home. With a focus on energy management, whole-home connectivity and entertainment, the Green Life Smart Life project will be the first case study of the program.

 1. What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project? What interested CEA in the GLSL project?
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is excited to support the Green Life Smart Life program as platinum sponsor to highlight how installed home technologies and consumer electronics can help homeowners become more environmentally sustainable. CEA is committed to increasing awareness of environmentally-friendly products and programs within the consumer electronics industry, as well as working with lawmakers and government officials to develop public policy solutions that protect innovation and consumer choice while promoting energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. The GLSL project gives CEA a great platform to show that you can live a high-tech and energy efficient lifestyle without having to sacrifice any of the design and entertainment features of a high-tech home.

The Green Life Smart Life demonstrates not only to consumers, but Electronic Systems Contractors (ESC), builders and architects how installed home technologies can help minimize a home’s environmental impact through smart home design that incorporates technology. Through CEA’s involvement with GLSL, we hope to spur the building community into thinking about how they can incorporate consumer electronics into their projects to help homeowners become better environmental stewards. 

The Green Life Smart is one of the first homes in the country to use CEA’s TechHome Rating System (THRS), a nationally-recognized build-to specification for residential technology infrastructure. THRS removes the complexity of adding home technology by explaining at a glance the level of structured wiring that is present or needed within a home. In addition to providing the infrastructure needed for entertainment features like Multi-Room Audio, THRS can enhance a home’s green lifestyle by providing for the infrastructure needed for energy monitoring, energy management and home control systems. 

2. Where does your company/organization see green building going in the next 5 years?  
As green building grows, so will the number of technology offerings included in those projects. CEA has several member companies that are on the forefront of energy efficient and energy management technology.  Consumers are looking to make informed decision about their home energy consumption. Home automation systems that help manage and control energy consumption will give them those resources. It is not just homeowners looking to make more informed decisions. Utility companies are building Smart Grids to have a better handle on how energy is being distributed and used. By using these grids to show peak load times and reducing demand through time of day pricing, utilities companies will give homeowners even more tools to better understand their energy consumption. The Obama administration’s commitment to building Smart Grids will only help build consumer’s understanding of installed home technology that tracks a home’s energy use. ESC will need to take a leading role in educating consumers about the options available to them and can be instrumental in incorporating those options into homes.

3. Do you think green practices/manufacturing will ever dominate the CE industry?
Yes. The environment is increasingly taken into account as CE companies make materials and components, design, manufacture and distribute produces, and sell them in retail stores and online. CE companies are changing their design process to create products that need less packaging, contain fewer harmful chemicals and allow for reusability and recycling. CEA recently examined the environmental data from the largest CE companies and found that most were looking for ways to reduce waste, conserve resources and shrink product size (CEA’s Environmental Sustainability and Innovation in the Consumer Electronics Industry, October 2008).

Highlights of the study include:      

  • Decreased electricity use: Among companies that reported reduced electricity consumption, electricity usage declined by as much as 25 percent during the past three to four years. 
  • Relative greenhouse gas reduction: Among the major CE companies that reported greenhouse gas emissions from 2004-2007, seven of the 10 have achieved a reduction per one million dollars revenue.
  • Strong recycling commitment Among 64 electronics companies surveyed, more than two-thirds — 69 percent — report that they are actively recycling electronic products and components, and 38 percent report reuse of the electronics products they make or use. Together, these actions have helped to recycle nearly 800,000 tons of electronic waste.
  • Improved energy efficiency: Continuous improvement across the industry in nearly every product. The widespread shift from CRT to LCD monitors that occurred earlier this decade reduced average energy use per monitor by about 30 percent.

 4. What do you think custom CE installers need to do or prepare to do to take full advantage of the green movement?
Join CEA! Becoming an active participant in CEA helps custom installers stay up-to-date on key industry trends and gives them a variety of opportunities to hear from other ESCs and manufactures about what is happening in the market place. Belonging to a trade association like CEA supplies you the relevant tools needed to help you succeed in the custom integration channel.  

 If you’re looking for a way to become more involved within CEA while learning more about how you can incorporate sustainability practices into you business, consider joining the new CEA-CEDIA Green Certification Work Group. CEA and CEDIA have joined forces to compile a reference guide of green certifications relevant to the custom installation industry. This new CEA-CEDIA work group is looking for custom installers to share their knowledge. Get more information or participate on this work group!

Electronics retailers need green to get back in black

We’ve all been hearing that green can and should be the economic engine that gets America working again. The Consumer Electronics Association is advising struggling consumer electronics retailers (Remember Circuit City? Tweeter? CompUSA? All recently disappeared from the retail landscape) that they should focus like never before on green products and messaging in order to survive and thrive in the rebuilding economy.

That’s easier said than done, of course, but articles in the electronics retail trades like this one definitely help further the conversation. Some interesting points in this article:

  • The vast majority of consumers have no concept of a connection between green and electronics (and when you think about it, on the surface, why should they? They appear to be mutually exclusive concepts.). Consumer awareness of green computers is 17 percent, and consumer awareness of green televisions is 15 percent. When people think of green, they think largely of household products and food, says the article.
  • It’s clear that not many, if any, CE manufacturers are ready to go totally green, but what everyone needs to understand is that it’s called “going green” for a reason: It’s a process that will take place over time. That’s reflected in what the article says the majority of consumers would currently “demand” from green electronics products: recyclable packaging, recyclable product, energy efficient product, packaging made with recycled materials and biodegradable packaging. This isn’t radical stuff, by any means. If you’re a manufacturer who isn’t doing most or all of these things, you should be doing so already, or at the very least investigating it. And if you’re a retailer selling products with these attributes, you should be crowing about it.
  • The article says that a slight majority of consumers would pay a slight premium for green-friendly electronics.

Electronics have a tough hurdle to overcome in the green arena, since they consume energy in order to operate. But they’re making strides. It’s time for your friendly neighborhood dealers to understand how and what those strides are, and communicate them to you effectively so you can make educated decisions about the electronics you buy, and how to use them in the most energy efficient and enviromentally responsible ways possible. It’s the kind of “value-added” service brick-and-mortar retailers should be providing in order to justify their continued existence in a world where you can buy almost any electronics product online.

Posted by Joe Paone

Green Technology at CES 2009

Well, CES 2009 has come and gone. This was my 10th CES and Kim’s 14th. Wow – that’s a lot of neon to take in in one lifetime.

This year’s CES was a little different, and not just because the economy kept attendance down; this year’s show floor featured a “Greener Gadgets” Tech Zone. In this space were companies from all over exhibiting gadgets and gizmo’s that save kilowatts. I was impressed that the CEA took the initiative to create this space (pretty prime floor space too, right next to LG) but I wish more companies would have exhibited. I forgot to get an exact count, but there were probably only 24 small 10 x 10 booths filled with mostly gadgets that either help power off other gadgets, or small solar panels that helped power PDAs, cell phones, iPods, etc. Where were the bigger companies with their green initiatives and products? Why didn’t they have a presence in this “Green Zone” instead of burying their green wares in their ginormous booths? I certainly don’t blame the CEA as I have no doubt they would have accomodated as many “green” companies as possible. The CEA has an entire green initiative that you can read more about here.

I didn’t walk away fully disappointed, though, as I was able to find very innovative, and brilliantly simple devices for saving kilowatts. My favorites come from TrickleStar

and are part of their TrickleSaver Solutions line of products. First up is the PC TrickleSaver. This small, power supply-sized gadget plugs in between your existing power strip and your computer peripherals. See, many of us have printers, scanners, computer speakers, etc., hooked up to our PCs that are powered on at all times – either that or they are in standby mode. The problem with standby mode is even if the peripheral device appears turned off it’s still sucking juice out of the wall. According to TrickleStar it is estimated that around the world standby power accounts for 12% of residential electricity consumption. In the US alone it is estimated that standby power costs consumers more than $3 billion a year!

TrickleSaver

The TrickleSaver works on a simple master/slave principle by connecting to your PC via a USB cable and using current sensing technology, sensing when your PC is on or off and turns on or off your peripherals accordingly. It doesn’t list on the website whether or not it will turn off your peripherals when the PC goes into sleep mode, but I would assume that’s the point of the USB connection. They have another similar device called the Universal TrickleSaver with no USB connection and works on simple current sensing technology.

The other gadget I really liked was their Desktop Switch. This little button connects via USB in-line between the TrickleSaver and your PC and can automatically shut off all of your peripherals even when the computer is still on. To me this is a must have accessory to the TrickleSaver. I don’t personally like turning off my PC all the time due to long boot up times and the fact that I use it as a shared device on my network for files, pictures, etc. With the Desktop Switch I can choose to turn on my printer and other devices only when I need them. Such simple brilliance.

Perhaps the best thing about the TrickleStar products is the cost. I got quoted a price of $25 for the TrickleSaver. No cost on the Desktop Switch, but I would venture to guess it will be around $15. The even greater thing about this simple device is that you can use it in conjunction with your current power strip. Say you’ve already invested in a nice power strip or UPS with battery back up, surge protection, etc., – you can still use it in conjunction with the TrickleSaver and take advantage of the second “R” (Re-use).

It’s products like the TrickleSaver that are going to get people to adopt sustainable practices in their everyday lives. Make it affordable and idiot proof and people will adopt it. Just think how much electricity in this country would be saved if a product like the TrickleSaver was bundled with each new PC purchase.

Posted by Joe. Follow me on Twitter.