Another thing I don’t get. Or at least don’t like.
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:08 am

Some websites now, and for a while now, automatically load more content as you scroll down the page. Take this NBC News article for example. I’m not sure that they’ve thought this all the way through.

This feature, if you wish you call it that, seems intended to keep readers immersed in content and thus locked in to the website. Despite feeling a bit manipulated, I don’t entirely object. I would rather they do this than the opposite whereby you have to click a million links to see all of something so that the website can increase their “clicks.”

No, the problem with these pages that have no end is that the designer, nonetheless, has installed a footer with what should be some other useful thing. Some other useful thing like maybe the “Contact Us” link. Someone like me might like to tell a website operator that their website sucks, but the site sucks so much I can’t even offer feedback. And I can only assume then that it must be a truly dumb — or perhaps cruel, designer who would do such a thing.


More on Energy Vampires
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:06 am

After looking over my last post about energy vampires and especially how people always seem to talk about cell phone chargers when they are just about the last thing to worry about, I took a look at the standby power website by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. There they barely give cell phone chargers a mention in the text, but based on their images, even they are not immune from overhyping the “threat” from cell phone chargers.

Here’s some of their advice:

Unplug products that are rarely used. The best example is the television and VCR in the second guest room.

Sounds reasonable. Here’s some more:

Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. The most likely targets are computer clusters (PC, display, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.), video clusters (TV, DVD player, powered speakers, game consoles, etc.), audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.). Be sure to keep the set-top box and modem on a separate circuit to avoid loss of connection.

Notice they said “computer clusters”, “video clusters”, and “audio clusters” and nothing about cell phones or cell phone chargers.

Then possibly even better advice, emphasis mine:

Limited research suggests that an informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 30%. Frankly, there are more productive ways to save energy with an investment of an hour but if high standby energy use stands between you and the goal of a zero energy home, then it’s an hour well spent.

And lest you think I’m copying and pasting a bit too selectively, here’s a broader example:

How can I reduce standby power use in my home?

It’s not easy, but here are some suggestions:

  • If you aren’t frequently using a device, unplug it. (This works fine for the 6th TV in the guest bedroom or the VCR.) Warning, don’t frequently unplug and plug in appliances because you could get electrocuted from frayed wires and plugs.
  • Use a switchable power strip for clusters of computer or video products. That way you can switch everything to zero with one action.
  • When shopping, search for low standby products. (Asking a salesperson will probably be a waste of time.) ENERGY STAR products have lower standby.
  • Buy a low-cost watt-meter, measure the devices in your home and take targeted action. You will certainly be surprised at what you discover and this exercise might even pay back the cost of the meter in savings. A list of watt-meters is here.

Limited research suggests that an informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 30%. Frankly, there are more productive ways to save energy with an investment of an hour but if high standby energy use stands between you and the goal of a zero energy home, then it’s an hour well spent.

But as I said at the beginning, despite all their words making sense, they screwed up the images.
standby power
For one, they manage to show a car stero, which obviously you wouldn’t have sitting around your house sucking power. But then they have to include the cell phone charger instead of something that sucks way more power like a computer.


Forget it with the cell phone chargers
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 10:14 am

On the occasion when I hear people talk about “vampire” electronics, I inevitably hear people talk about cell phone chargers, and how they’re sucking power even when the phone is not attached. Better unplug them and save power!

I knew this was overblown, but it really shouldn’t even be mentioned. Check out this table:

energy vampire comparison

Cell phone chargers are such a small deal in relation to other electronics that the continued mention of them takes away from the bigger issue. They are two orders of magnitude less of a problem than a host of other “vampire electronics.” Or, in non-engineer speak, they are basically a rounding error in your energy use, and maybe even less. If you’re taking the time to unplug your cell phone charger every day to save a quarter every year, then you’re basically just a big old idiot. And shame on people, even actual utilities (such as where I found this table) who continue to mention this unused-charger BS.


And I Learned Something
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 9:28 pm

While trying to figure out why my recently purchased CFLs are failing with exceptional speed, I learned that I must be way behind the curve.
Efficient Lighting Lessons From This Old House TV – Your Fixtures May be Shortening the Life of Your CFL

By now, most of us know these bulbs will burn out quickly if they’re turned on and off too frequently or placed in enclosed fixtures that don’t let heat dissipate. But the same thing can happen if the bulb is installed upside down, with the ballast above the bulb. One theory is that excess heat from the bulb rises, potentially damaging the ballast components. “That’s why many recessed CFL ceiling fixtures are designed with the bulbs oriented horizontally, not vertically,” says Bergman, referring to U-shaped CFLs with prongs instead of screw-in bases.

I had no idea about this. I thought CFLs, aside from not being dimmable, could be used like regular incandescent bulbs. As best I can tell, I can use standard CFLs in only 5 of the 36 bulb sockets in my house, and those 5 don’t even get used very much. Blerg.


Sounds for electric cars
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 7:23 am

AFter work yesterday, on the walk to my car, I swear I heard a car that sounded like the flying cars from the Jetsons. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if they used that sound to make electric cars more audible? Apparently I’m not alone. Crunchgear has a youtube clip with 10 sounds options. Some of them are pretty good. I thought ‘Caddyshack’ was a pretty good option, but the Jetsons wins in a landslide.

Caution: NSFWish


Mileage Testing
Filed under: General — nobrainer @ 12:58 am

About 18 months ago, I reached my main conclusion from my test of acetone:

The most important thing that can be taken from this is how hard it is to accurately measure the change caused by a variation of just one of the many factors that affect fuel mileage. There are just too many uncontrollable factors involved in road-testing to be definitive.

I went into that test with “my own fairly good understanding of my highway mileage,” which means I didn’t have any actual data. The test started with 2, ~90 mile stretches which were intended to establish a baseline. Now that I’ve collected my actual mileage data for over a year, I can better demonstrate just how hard it is to draw correct conclusions from road-testing, especially when just regular driving is involved because of the high levels of natural variability. It will also demonstrate just how easy it can be to get false positives from acetone. Furthermore, it will emphasize the need for laboratory testing, or, short of that, a very controlled road-testing program.

Let’s take a look at my actual data.

There is a lot of variability there. That variability raises an important question. If I were to use this data as a baseline for future comparisons, just what is the baseline? The best answer would probably be the average.

“The average” isn’t as simple as it might seem. Some people would want to average all the values in the chart, but that is mistaken. Each data point is itself an average (miles traveled divided by gallons of gasoline consumed), and it is nothing but bad math to try to draw a conclusion from an average of averages. To calculate the real average mileage, I have to divide the total miles driven by the total gallons consumed. That average is 22.1 MPG.

Just before I analyzed this data, I was asked what kind of mileage I had been getting. My best guess was 24 MPG. I had been recording my mileage regularly, and I was off by almost 2 MPG, about 9% too high. Unless there is considerable data used to establish a baseline, then the baseline it at best highly suspect.

We can learn another lesson from this data. The plot contains 53 data points. As will frequently happen with averages, about half the data points are above average. In this case, 28 points are above average. This is very important. If someone has taken the time to really establish a proper baseline, there’s about a 50% chance, based on nothing but pure randomness, that their next tank will be above average. So if you were to put something in your tank in hopes of improving your fuel mileage, as long as that something isn’t specifically detrimental, there’s a pretty good chance that it will appear to cause increased mileage.

Also, 26 points are higher than the point before them. Similar to the point made in the above paragraph, if you happen to use a single tank as a baseline, you’ve got a 50% chance of increasing your mileage on the next tank regardless of what additives you put in the tank.

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