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

Pixels Versus Paper

An old friend back at the Forest Society brought an interesting subject to my attention last week…he asked if I’d seen any research lately on which is greener – eBooks or printed books…or as he called it the carbon footprints of paper versus pixels. The majority of the info that he’d found actually came from the paper industry…so as you can imagine of course they claim their research shows that paper has a smaller carbon footprint than pixels—this prompted me to go online and do a little digging just to see what those whom are interested in the subject have to say.

In literature put out by International Paper titled Are Pixles Greener than Paper? they state Electric Data Centers (EDC) that power internet servers use 1.5% (enough to power 5.72 million homes) of the total energy purchased in the United States while the pulp and paper industry uses .7% (enough to power 2.76 million homes). They also say that the paper and pulp industry is one of the largest consumers of low-carbon and renewable energy with sixty percent of their energy coming from carbon-neutral sources, while the electronics industry purchases more than ninety percent of its energy off the grid and from fossil fueled sources. The consumption rate of data centers doubled in the U.S. from 2000 to 2006 and it is estimated that it will double again by 2011.

I took this report with a grain of salt since it was published by an international paper manufacturer, but they do bring up some good points when it comes to statistics on paper recycling versus electronics recycling…how many of you have wrapped something naughty up and stuck it in the trash because it’s just easier than taking said item to your local transfer station or waiting for the hazardous waste recycling days that seem to only come around once a year and of course the weekend that you are out of town—D’oh!

We all know paper is biodegradable, recyclable and reusable…but did you know that an estimated sixty percent of paper is recycled while only eighteen percent of electronics are e-cycled…with 1.84 million tons of electronic wast shipped to landfills in 2006 alone…I didn’t…YIKES!

On the other hand, according to Kris Kiler, the Founder and President of TypeLabs another way of looking at things from an eBook versus paper point of view is that 37 million pieces of paper thrown away each year do not get recycled, many retailers will even rip the cover off paperbacks to obtain credit for not selling the book—the rest goes in the garbage. There is also the gasoline used to get to the bookstore, for each gallon of fuel we use, we create 22 pounds of greenhouse gases and that doesn’t include modes of transportation that get the printed book to the retail outlet…

eBooks do need energy in order for you to read them, and yes there is an environmental impact of creating the device, driving to the store to pick it up—but you can use it over and over…the reuse of the device will most likely consume minimal energy when compared to the production and purchase of the paper book—and if you are able to purchase green energy from your local utility, you aren’t using an extreme amount of fossil fueled power to begin with. Those that are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the library (like me) have a lesser impact by borrowing books—but I’m sure my fellow bookworms like myself also own plenty of traditional dead tree books. The concept of Eco-Libraries is neat, but I’m not sure if I would really be jazzed about living in a world without the smell of old books…

So which do you prefer…pixels or paper…??

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Reducing and Centralizing Wiring for a LEED Home

When Kimberly and Joe Hageman approached me to work on their Green Life Smart Life project, they told me their goal was to show how green lifestyles and digital lifestyles could happily coexist. Immediately, my mind focused on lighting control and HVAC control, which together account for around 90 percent of the energy consumption in an average home.

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Traditionally, custom integrators have focused on the ease-of-use and convenience that lighting and HVAC control systems can provide. My thoughts turned to shifting the focus of these subsystems towards enabling energy-efficient operation of lights and climate control.

Kim and Joe agreed, but they wanted to go further: They wanted a green infrastructure, too.

Now here was something I’d never encountered. But it made me realize for the first time that installing a system in a green home isn’t started by making “green” product choices. It starts with the home systems’ design. It requires careful planning and coordination with the homeowner, the architect, the interior designer, and the other trades before a single wire is run.

With full knowledge that a possibly arduous path lay before us, the Hagemans and I set out to devise a green wiring solution.

These were new criteria that I hadn’t worked with before. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the custom business, it’s that you need to be versatile, able to make changes on the fly and, most importantly, be willing to accommodate each project and its unique requirements. This was just another in a long line of curveballs I’d encountered throughout my career, and it’s always rewarding to put the barrel on the ball.

We examined our traditional solution approach, and determined the environmental impacts. This was a highly useful exercise in and of itself, because going forward now I’ll know what impact my most commonly used products and materials would have in a green installation.

We investigated “green” cabling, which uses halogen-free plastic jackets that are still not terribly earth-friendly, but a bit less hostile to the earth all the same. Turns out, the Europeans like it, but you can’t get it in America. Believe me, we looked, and no warehouse we could find carries it.

So our attention turned to another requirement: using as little cable as possible. That meant both fewer cables and the shortest possible runs.

“Fewer cables”, of course, runs counter to the time-honored custom integration strategy of installing more wire than is necessary in order to ostensibly future-proof a system (and to cover your bases in case an unexpected change in the installation arises after the cabling has already been installed). I was lucky in this instance; unlike many clients, Kim and Joe, not only no strangers to tech but also passionate about it, knew pretty well before construction started what they wanted in each room and location. We just ran whatever the expected hardware in each location would require, and nothing more.

Centralized wire runs

Centralized wire runs

We also had another trick up our sleeve: conduit. We ran Carlon® Resi-Gard® to our critical locations and just enough cable through the conduit as we thought we needed. And if we needed to run more cable later, we wouldn’t need to tear open the walls. We could just snake it through the conduit. Essentially, the conduit makes the system inherently future-proof and cuts down on unnecessary use of cable. Additionally, you’re not going to be in a position where you need to cut into drywall later to add wiring. An empty (or semi-empty) pipe is as good as it gets.

Which brings me to my next point about green wiring (and, in fact, any wiring job): Establish your cabling pathways as far ahead of actual construction as you can. In a green home, chances are your client will be thinking about these things further out, since every amount and type of material used in the home can positively or negatively impact its LEED® for Homes (or competitive equivalent) rating. The other tradespeople will appreciate it as well, and you can build more solid relationships and channels of communication with them.

This was especially key in the Green Life Smart Life house in terms of assuring the shortest possible cable runs. Because we were involved so early in the process, we got preferential treatment for locating the head-end of the system. After evaluating the placement of the entertainment systems, we figured out a spot in the basement that would be the shortest distance from all points. As a result, our racks are located directly below the main entertainment area, which is directly below the master bedroom and adjacent to the main utility room where all of the electrical boxes and lighting control system would be housed. Everything shares a common wall.

Usually, we’re the last ones in, we run our cables after all the other trades’ wiring, venting and pipes are installed, and we have to take what we can get in terms of placing our gear. In this case, however: paradise. Because we are professionals and try to be as courteous to the other trades as possible, we made sure our impact was manageable for the other trades.

Another happy circumstance from both a green and an interior design perspective is that we don’t have any local entertainment equipment aside from displays. We centralized content and control in our head-end equipment room. This cuts down on the cabling required and eliminates excess heat generated from typical AV equipment into a finished room (which has dual benefits since we are directing the heat into the generally cool, unfinished utility space and the living spaces do not have to compensate with cooling for the equipment heat).

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

I was intrigued to find that the most significant impact we were able to make on this project in its course toward a more sustainable guide, was in the planning.  I was truly amazed that when we tallied the completed wire runs, and compared it to both similarly sized homes and similarly sized projects with home control and entertainment systems, we reduced the amount of wire installed on the project by 52%. By thinking about how we could take the most conservative approach, the application of a well thought plan was the most powerful thing we could do.  I was inspired to learn more about the principles of “green” design.  The project itself exposed me to the application process for LEED® accreditation, and through it, the instrumentation and measurement of the gains realized by good design.  Myself, I’ve taken an interest in the process, and l am beginning to appreciate the value that could be held as a building and energy analyst. 

My involvement in the Green Life Smart Life project was a terrific experience because it allowed me to reexamine the way in which we make decisions and re-value the criteria on which our projects and process are based. It’s certainly affected our typical project. Going forward, what I learned on this project will inform all of my future installations—and not just the green ones. This was a highly rewarding exercise and I’m happy to share what I learned with the custom integration community. Our last step, we are going to submit this plan for a LEED-H Innovation and Design point. This has no precedent so it has to be evaluated, but we will let you know the findings.

By Jeff Mitchell, Robert Saglio Audio Video and Lead Integrator for Green Life Smart Life. Jeff is a CEDIA certified installer and a member of the CEA TechHome. He has been with Robert Saglio AV for more than ten years.  Follow Jeff on Twitter : @audiojeff

 

Selecting the best appliances for energy and water savings

Our appliances were delivered and as much care went into their selection as every other product in our Narragansett LEED house. In addition to considerations for style and performance, all of our appliances (with the exception of our stove because stoves are not rated) are top performing ENERGY STAR appliances.

As available appliances for the project will bear the ENERGY STAR label and assist us in maintaining the highest level of energy efficiency throughout the home. Additionally, the new Whirlpool Duet washer, which uses 74 percent less water and 80 percent less energy than traditional top load washers manufactured before 2004 and you can watch how it works in this video, will aid the project in its LEED-H for Gold certification quest by providing a point in the Innovation & Design category. And yes, we did pick the cranberry.

Our selections include:

Whirlpool Brand Resource Saver Dishwasher – Features the eco-friendly Resource Saver wash system and CEE Tier II recognition from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency ratings. We chose to have the custom cabinet panel installed to match.

Whirlpool Brand Duet Dryer–Uses up to 40% less energy with Eco Normal cycle when paired with a Duet washer.  A more precise set of heat and moisture detection sensors allows clothes to dry more efficiently. The Quick Refresh steam cycle tumbles 2 to 5 items, helping break down odors and relax wrinkles. Combined with the Duet washer, it is the brands most efficient laundry pair to date, providing $837 in energy and water savings over the first five years of use. Though dryer’s do not yet earn ENERGY STAR ratings, this dryer is top energy saver and when managed on the Control4 appliance module will only be allowed to run during non peak pricing hours to manage our cost per kwh budget.

KitchenAid Architect Series II Double Drawer Dishwasher – This ENERGY STAR dishwasher is able to wash 2 different loads independently or simultaneously and features 5 cycles for flexible washing options. We installed it right across from our kitchen wine bar which will be great when entertaining and keeping the glasses plentiful.

KitchenAid Architect Series II Refrigerator – The 48” main refrigerator provides the elegant aesthetics and functionality that my gourmet cook’s kitchen deserves.  This ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator will be monitored on the Control4 appliance module for real time monitoring of energy consumption and load shedding from 1 – 4 AM daily for a projected annual energy savings of 12 percent of running costs. A second ENERGY STAR labeled Whirlpool French Door refrigerator, located in the home’s pantry, will also be monitored on the Control4 system.

As I watch our appliances get installed and I think about the months of planning and meetings we had, the product reviews I read, the color swatches I compared and the immense time I spent designing the kitchen and laundry room, I cannot tell you how muchI look froward to doing a load of wash adn running the dishwasher. Seriously.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter : newscaster

Tips to Avoid CE Greenwashing

CE Pro magazine, a publication specializing in (you guessed it) consumer electronics and the custom installation professionals that sell, install and service them, recently published the “7 Deadly Sins of Greenwashing”. As “green” has become THE buzz word in recent years, more and more companies are (knowingly or innocently) participating in greenwashing practices: “making false of dubious claims about whether a product of service is green, or how green it is.”

CE journalism vet Steve Castle provides some great “Don’t!” tips for companies looking to manufacture or tout their environmentally-friendly (or not) products and services.

  • Hidden trade-offs: Don’t focus on one thing, like energy efficiency, and disregard another, like a product’s toxicity.
    Every little bit helps, but to claim true “green”, we are talking more than just the color!
  • No proof: You should have a third-party review of your claims.
    You’ve watched Law & Order, right? No proof = no case.
  • False claims: Don’t lie.
    Remember, everything we (should) know, we learned in kindergarten.
  • Vagueness: Don’t stretch the truth with claims like “all natural” that includes naturally occurring mercury, for example.
    PR professionals, take heed. Oh wait, that’s us! Note taken.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Don’t say, “Sure it’s toxic, but it’s also energy efficient!”
    HA! Yes, that is a joke and dangerous for company.
  • Irrelevance: Don’t take something good, like LED lighting, and make its ecological virtues irrelevant by overusing.
  • Label Worship: Anschel cites the NAHB’s “Green Approved” product label as one that is available to many products and does not indicate a green certification.
    There are a number of resources and certification programs… The bottom line is be smart and stay true to the underlying goal – to create products and services that are more environmentally friendly to protect the Earth’s resources and natural state.

Great tips to follow to ensure you and your company are not inappropriately capitalizing on this tempting trend. The penance for these sins could be severe.

Posted by: Katie | follow @katieshort on Twitter

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

Radio Shack Earns New Sales With Green Trade-in Program

This article comes from the HomeTheaterReview.com site. The publication has brought much attention attention to avid technology fans about ways to go green.

If you thought sex sells then wait until you see how green sells. Radio Shack is the latest player in the consumer electronics space to cash in on the opportunity to open a sales dialog with consumers by suggesting that they trade in their “old technology” for newer, more trick and more energy efficient AV, consumer electronic and mobile electronics.

The program works one of two ways…

Online:
Online you can search for the stated value of the gear you have. Radio Shack will get you a pre-paid shipping label at no cost to the consumer so you can send it back to the company in and they will a) recycle your old AV stuff in exchange for a gift card that will be mailed to you.

In-store:
You can bring your AV gear into one of the thousands of Radio Shack retail locations nationwide and their sales staff will ascertain the value of your AV goodies (I recommend bringing in a Mark Levinson amp or a pair of Wilson WATT Puppies just to see what they will offer you). They will give you their quote and you can spend the gift card right in the store.

Green is a powerful motivator in an economy which is hard to get people off butts and into spending mode. If $50 here or $100 there inspires people to start spending with the upside being corrosive and no-so-eco-friendly AV gear gets recycled – then there seems to be little to no down side to this innovative and creative program. By the way, I was kidding about trading in the Wilson WATT Puppies at Radio Shack. You might want to hang on to those versus a pair of Optimus Speakers.