Latest Developments in Energy Storage

Energy storage

   A recent article on Harvard Business Review, suggested that in order to increase our productivity we should shift our focus from managing our time to managing our energy, emphasizing the importance of conserving energy for when you most need it.

  Although we have gotten better and better over the years at coming up with more efficient ways to produce energy, we haven’t gotten any better at storing that energy. Yes we might have more efficient engines, solar panels and wind turbines, but during peak hours most of the energy is wasted due to a lack of efficient energy storage solutions.

  The same is true on a personal level, we have access to power bars, energy drinks, coffee at every corner and more sugar than our bodies can handle, but all this easily available energy has hindered our bodies abilities to recover the energy it stores as fat. In this post I will not go into details about how to recover energy from your body by burning fat (there are other people better qualified to give you advice on that) Instead I will present the basics of electrical, mechanical and thermal energy storage and the most revolutionary devices available on the market today.

  Energy can be stored in many forms: thermal energy, compressed air, using a flywheel, in pumped hydro-power plants, in solid batteries or in flow batteries. In this article I will go into details about the pro’s and con’s of each option. And if you stay with me until the end of the article you will discover also the latest technological developments in energy storage solutions, including some surprising tech like liquid metal batteries or batteries made from food waste.

Continue reading “Latest Developments in Energy Storage”

GreenUp – Climate change stops with you!

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Picture © Liz Orfao / Attribution-ShareAlike / 2007-01-07 05:40:23

Since more than 90% of new year resolutions are forgotten by 15th of January we decided to announce our own agenda for 2015 after this date.

Last year was the hottest year on record so the main goal for this year is to take massive action in preventing 2015 from being even worse. If you want to find out more about global warming you can check out the article ‘Global warning!

You are probably wondering how do we plan to do that?

Focusing like always on this site on what can we improve in our life and our home that can impact climate in a positive way. And this year the main problems we want to address are reducing carbon emissions by using energy more efficiently and increasing carbon storage with the help of easy to grow plants.

As this is a super important task we need all the help we can get. So if you are a green enthusiast, you are full of energy and ideas and you can spare half an hour of your time that can be dedicated to saving our planet write us your ideas at reconstructromania@gmail.com and join us on the journey of improving the world starting with ourselves and our home. All ideas are welcomed so be confident and send us an email.

For the GreenUp part of the project we will focus on creating step by step easy to follow brochures, focusing on 2 main directions:

-GreenUp your Apartment:

*Green walls

*Growing food indoor

*Sustainable and automated irrigation

*Regrow plants from food waste.

-GreenUp your House and Garden:

*Plant a small forest anywhere

*Maximize your space and food production

*Sustainable irrigation

*Green roofs

If you have any information about these topics or any other ideas join our project by contacting reconstructromania@gmail.com . As we would like to get to know you better please send us also a few lines about your passions and what drives you to improve.

At the end of the article you will find some links for inspiration.

Have a green year.

F.M.B.

http://www.diyncrafts.com/5350/home/40-genius-space-savvy-small-garden-ideas-solution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_wall

https://reconstructromania.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/the-green-roof/

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/happier-houseplants-how-to-keep-indoor-plants-healthy-apartment-therapys-home-remedies-217100

 

How To Heat Your Home Without Breaking The Bank

In the last article we covered some fun and easy ways to reduce energy bills in the summer and in this post we will look at the opposite side of the coin: where we lose money on heating and what cheap sustainable solution we could use instead to lower our energy bills?

It all starts with a simple question> where do we lose most of the heat?

1. Insulation:
This is a subject on which many of you already know allot. It is something that we also covered in a previous article so if you want to find out more about why polystyrene, although cheap and very popular is not necessarily the best option for insulating your walls, click here.
An easy way to check where you lose most of the heat is by taking a thermal picture of your home.
Energy-Loss3

2. Radiator loses:
If you have good insulated walls and good windows but are still not satisfied with the way your radiators are performing you might wish to apply the following improvements:
A. mounting a radiator shelf: will push the hot air flow towards the room rather than letting it rise up to the ceiling.
B. placing a radiator reflector panel from aluminium foil or similar will have a similar effect and it is especially useful in old houses and apartments.
C. releasing the pressure from your radiators if you feel the radiator cold at the top can drastically improve it’s efficiency. If you do not have a pressure valve on your radiator now it is the time to get it.
D. removing any obstacles that are in front of your radiator will also insure you get most of the heat into the room. Curtains and drapes are good for insulation, especially when you have old windows as long as the curtain is not covering the radiator. You will have more heat from the radiator by keeping the curtains above it’s shelf instead of blocking the air flow and loosing money on heating.

3. Inefficient old heating systems:
This is probably the most expensive and hardest part of the heating system to improve without professional help.
But hard does not mean impossible and if you do not have the money right now to buy an energy efficient system like geothermal or solar there are many people out there that offer guides on how to built alternative and sustainable heaters with recycled or cheap materials.
A. Solar air heaters: great for reducing the use of your traditional heating system during the sunny days.

There are different types of solar air heaters but the basic principal behind them is that you have a frame covered with a transparent material (glass or polycarbonate) in which you have a dark heat absorbing material. The transparent cover allows the sun to enter the sealed frame and keeps the heat absorbed by the dark foil inside the panel.

solar heater

For maximum output place the panel facing South and away of shadow from nearby obstacles.
You can find a link bellow that shows how this system works and many more videos are available in the descriptions at the end of the article.

B. Using recycled waste as fuel for an existing furnace. Most of this solutions are not made by professionals, some might work better then others and all of them require allot of caution when testing an operating. If you do test these ideas make it in a controlled environment which is fire proved and always be careful when playing with fire.

– one idea is to use recycled paper as fuel for your timber furnace. The tools you would need to transform paper into logs are 2 buckets: one with holes and a normal bucket same size or bigger then the first one, a drilling machine some water and whatever paper you have around the house that you normally just trow away. The video bellow explains very well the process.

– another option could be to use burned oil to fire your furnace. This will not only save you money but will also help the environment as Oil is one of the biggest pollutants we constantly trow away in the water system.
Converting an existing system into one that uses burned oil can be difficult so a professional help might be needed. Bellow you can find an example of a home built furnace that runs on used oil. There are also companies that build new furnaces designed to run on used oil, so if you eat allot of french fries (not recommended as it is not so good for your abs), if you run a garage or if you have a fast food business you might wish to look further into this option and instead of polluting the waters recover the waste and lose less money on heating.

C. Free Gas. For people that are close to the black sea the invention of John Kanssas could be the answer. He is using a radio frequencies generator to release oxygen and hydrogen from salt water to create an incredibly intense flame. However this system still uses more energy to burn salt than it produces, so for now it’s just a nice idea, but not very efficient.

Although these systems might not give you total independence they can prevent you loosing money while providing a warmer environment in your home.

If you found this article useful share the love and leave your comments bellow.

F.M.B.
reconstructromania@gmail.com




How To Cool Your Home Without Breaking The Bank

The house has been in the center of our lives since the dawn of civilization. It has also become in the last years a center for most of our expenses, from taxes to electricity and from water to heating.

In the US a typical household pays around 1400 $ a year for electricity while a family in Germany would pay around 1200 Euros per year. This does not include the cost for heating and cooling which can add to the final bill around 40%. Off course each individual case may vary but for the purpose of this example we will consider an average yearly expenses for energy for a house in the US of 2000 $, 1700 Euros for Germany and in Romania we could assume that the average yearly expenses for energy are around 800 Euros.

From this amount we waste around 25% of the energy per year, that translates in energy bills to about 500 $ in the US, 425 Euros in Germany or 200 Euros in Romania.

Considering that private houses are responsible for between 26% to 40% of the total Energy consumption, depending on the country,  we reach the conclusion that we are wasting between 6.5% and 10% of the total Energy produced. That in the US translates, in an optimistic scenario, to around 278 billion kWh, enough energy to power more than 2.5 million household in the US per year. At an average price of 12 Cents per kWh that is more than 33 billion $ wasted every year. And the situation is similar in Europe, for example in Romania we are wasting an estimated 4.2 billion kWh per year. At an average price of 9 cents per kWh this means more than 380 million Euros losses every year. We could build 100 km of highways with this money, a couple of world class stadiums or buy 20 F-16 Fighting Falcon.  And in addition to the billions we are wasting every year we are also having a huge impact on the environment by releasing, just for the energy that we do not use, more than 191 million metric tons of CO2.

This figures are based on average energy consumption data from the past available online. For details please check resources.

So where is this huge waste coming from and what can we do about it?

Well to answer this we should first have a look at the graph bellow to see what are the main consumers of energy in a typical household

Picture1

 

As we can see the main energy consumption is related to heating and cooling with more than 50% of total consumption if we consider also water heating and electronics with more than 35% in total energy consumption.

That is why in the future posts we will focus on providing  low-budget and eco-friendly solutions for improving heating, cooling and electrical systems. These suggestions will reduce significantly not only the waste but also the total consumption so that you can use the 500 $ that you save each year to take a vacation, buy a new smart phone or whatever else your heart desires.

In regards to heating and cooling insulation plays a vital role and for more details about it you can check these advises from an earlier post.

But this changes are usually expensive and hard to make especially if you are living in a rented apartment. And since the summer is coming and this relates to an increase in energy consumption for cooling, we will start with some easy to implement changes that can decrease temperatures in your home with up to 6 degrees without using air conditioning.

1. Use window blinds during the day

Blocking the sun at it’s peak can reduce temperatures in the room with up to 3 degrees Celsius. If you have no money to buy them or you want to give your room a personal touch you can simply make them from scratch. And if you get creative you might even turn them into a piece of art that not only helps the environment and saves you money but also makes you happy. You can find an example on how to create a roman shade here and for design inspiration you can click here.

2. Mount a ceiling fan or buy a desk fan

This can also reduce the temperature with up to 3 degrees and is relatively cheap. You can check out how to built a small portable fan here or you could buy one already made.

3. Change your daily habits and your rooms position depending on the season

This works best for people that spend allot of time during the day at home. For instance you might want to have your office facing South in the winter so you get as much heat and light ass possible from the sun but you might want to do the opposite in summer to avoid overheating.

The advantages of these options are that they reduce temperature and energy consumption, they can be fun to build and you can also take them with you when you move so they can be implemented regardless if you are renting or owning a home. Individual impact in energy savings can vary allot depending on the building  so it’s always good if you can monitor the progress in order to determine which of this tips are the best for your home. Please keep in mind that for special solutions it is always recommended to consult with a professional.

You can also check out allot of cool resources and ideas in the descriptions bellow. We will also share new tips about home improvement in the future so follow the blog, like us on Facebook, join us on Linkedin and keep saving money.

I am sure that there are many other tips on how we can reduce our energy waste and I would really appreciate if you would share your experiences and ideas in the comments bellow. Together we can make our home and our wallet smile again.

Until next time live green!

F.M.B

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Resources:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Create-Your-Own-Top-Down-Blinds/

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/refs.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States

http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energia_electric%C4%83_%C3%AEn_Rom%C3%A2nia

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.PROD.KH

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/electricity-production-kwh-wb-data.html

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/each-year-75000-homes-waste-as-much-energy-as-contained-in-entire-bp-gulf-spill.html

http://homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/community

US Wastes 61–86% Of Its Energy

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090305091603AA3CBnG

http://www.mnn.com/money/personal-finance/blogs/americans-spend-2k-on-home-energy-costs-annually#

https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_ecofys_saving_energy_june2012.pdf

http://www.wikihow.com/

http://casasolara.blogspot.de/2011/03/povestea-mea.html

http://www.termo.utcluj.ro/regenerabile/1_2.pdf

http://remodece.isr.uc.pt/downloads/brochures/Brochure_RO.pdf

http://reconstructromania.ro/category/home/

 

 

 

 

A new way of building: 3D printing

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It is the start of a new year and hopefully it will be the one that will bring a revolution in the way we build houses.

For ages the house or shelter has been at the heart of human life, being one of the most basic needs we have, together with food and love. But still right now in our country and many other places around the world there are many people that leave in slumps which are the breeding ground for disease, violence, and poverty.

But thank to some inspiring people solution are being found to provide amazing houses that are affordable for everyone..

1. 3D Printer
At The University of Southern California, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has built a 3D printer that can build a house in 24 hours. It does this with a nozzle that spreads out concrete replicating a home based on a computer pattern.
This is an astonishing discovery. Not only it will make the construction industry cheaper, but it will also make it more transparent and more flexible, removing the limits of traditional box shape houses.The machine can be used also to incorporate plumbing, electricity, hitting and reinforcements into the walls of the building, and because it allows complex shapes to be built we can use geometry to further reduce the quantity of materials required while increasing the overall strength of the structure. And above all this, it is fully automatic so no qualified personnel is required to use it.

http://www.contourcrafting.org/

http://econ.st/1mRPuYi

2. Open source house
Another great approach to affordable houses is developed by architect Alastair Parvin from www.wikihouse.cc .This is basically an opened source construction set, where you can find printable patterns for building houses out of plywood. By using large scale cutters and computer design this houses can be constructed by almost everyone with very little cost.

3. Paper houses
Shigeru Ban is maybe one of the pioneers of easy to built structures out of cheap material. He is focusing on building shelters from paper especially for emergency situations. His designs and techniques of building are surprising and inspiring and could be a great solution also for areas in our country deeply affected by floods.

4. Self healing asphalt
And to close with an optimistic view of a future where pot holes will be a thing of the past I would like to share some thoughts about self healing asphalt developed by Erik Schlangen. The name speaks for itself and the discovery it’s amazing because with only a minor increase in initial building cost you can substantially increase the service life of the road. The system uses in its mixture metal fibers which when heated “heal” the cracks in the road.

For more info and videos regarding this topics check the links at the bottom of the page.

The future looks bright let’s all help turn this vision into reality.

The choice is always yours.

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Parking like a SuperHero

Finding a good parking place and wining the Lottery have, in most cities around Europe, the same probability. And when you do find one there is a high chance that this happens:

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or this….

Image

 

So what can we do to prevent this problems?

One option, very popular especially in N-W Europe could be to use a bike for short distances and public transport for long distances. I support this idea, however it presents some challenges especially without proper infrastructure.

Another option could be to share a car with friends to reduce the number of cars on the road. Off course if you have a family of 4 and you have to drive your kids to school this is maybe not the best option.

Fortunately if none of the options above works for you, there is another solution, inspired most likely by superhero movies like Batman or Ironman.

Image

 

The system is based on hydraulic pistons that lower or raise the platform and can accommodate most types of cars available on the market including large SUV’s.

This will keep your car safe, have minimum impact on landscape, provide more space for the second Porsche and make you look like a superhero.

So even if you want to start using a bike or continue using a car there is always a solution.

The choice is always yours.

Best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Pictures from:

www.automotto.com

www.hotnews.ro

www.realitatea.net

 

Top Pro’s and Con’s of Modular Houses

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picture from www.archinspire.org/

  Modular houses are buildings that consist of multiple sections called modules. The modules can be 6 dimension boxes or wall panels constructed in advance at a remote facility, usually in standard sections that can be easily transported and assembled.

What are the advantages of a modular house?

  • Speed of construction, a modular home can be completed on site, depending on size and complexity, in 10 up to 20 days.
  • High quality. Because the modules are constructed in a controlled environment the common faults that appear on site due to poor execution are avoided.
  • Environmentally friendly due to low waste and optimum use of resources. The factory process consumes less materials and, due to controlled procurement produces less waste than a traditional construction site.
  • Provide a healthier living environment. Because modular houses are built in a controlled environment,  the risk of mold, mildew, rust, and sun damage that can often lead to human respiratory problems, is eliminated.
  • Flexibility is another great feature of modular houses. They can be extended or relocated with ease. When a modular house is relocated the amount of energy used is approximately 3% of the energy that is required to manufacture a new equivalent modular building.

Although the list of advantages is long there are also some disadvantages.

  • Constructed area. Because of transport restrictions the size of the modules can be small affecting the overall size of the rooms.
  • Aesthetics: prefabricated identical units may be viewed as less aesthetically pleasing and less desirable, but now most of the factories that produce modular homes have also design departments that use computer aided design (CAD) programs to draw plans to your specifications or to modify one of their standard plans so almost any home can be made as a modular one.

Modular homes are eco-friendly, fast to build and very flexible. They have to follow the same laws and requirements as normal constructions and have the same taxes and insurance costs as a normal house.

The modular house might be cheaper and faster to built but the value of the property is at the same level as the one of a normal house so if you want to move soon in a new house it might take less to construct a prefabricated building then searching true the real estate pages for a good offer.

Your comments are always welcomed.

Best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

The Green Roof

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What is a green roof ?

It consists of a lot of things but, to make it easy and explain it in very few words, it’s a roof covered with vegetation, made of 7 layers: waterproofing membrane, root barrier, protection fabric, drainage, filter layer, growing media and vegetation.

Why should you have one?

Simply because it will make you happier
How will it do that?

For start green is the most relaxing color for your eyes so whenever you get home from your 9 to 5 job you will have something relaxing to look at and you will feel more positive about going into your 5 to 9 job.

Also a green roof filters pollutants and carbon dioxide so you will not only have a good mood but you will also have more energy for your 5 to 9 job.

It creates also a natural habitat for wildlife so you will have more friends that are willing to listen to you without saying a word. Also in urban areas it creates a gathering place perfect for socializing with your neighbors.

The green roof can also save you trips to the supermarket if you chose to grow food on it. You will get joy from seeing the plants grow and you will also be sure that you are eating bio-food.

When you get inside your home, the benefits of having a green roof become even more obvious.

Because the soil blocks low frequencies sounds and the plants block higher frequencies it will act like a sound barrier for the building making you feel safer.

The green roof will also act as insulation making you feel warmer and also saving you money.

What is the downside to all of this?

The only downside of a green roof is the initial cost of the building structure which will be a little bit higher than a normal one. But a part of that investment will be recovered true the savings from your energy bill.

Still not convinced?

Try to think at all the money we spend every day on things that bring us only temporary joy, like the latest gadget or the latest designer dress. How long does the happiness of owning that item lasts ? In the best case until the new model comes along. I am not saying that those things can’t bring you joy but please remember that you can also spend money on something that not only makes you and the people in your area happier every day but also makes the world a greener place.

The choice is always yours.

With best regards,
F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Insulation

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  Proper insulation plays a very important role in energy-saving and CO2 emissions especially when we see winters getting colder every year.  A well-insulated home is also easier to sell because lower utility costs are an attractive selling point for buyers.
   More air pockets between the outside and inside of your home translates into less money loss on heating and warmer homes . That is why materials that trap allot of air inside them like polystyrene or wool are good insulators.  Against radiant heat loss, mostlly responsible for heat losses true windows and walls, an efficient barrier is aluminium foil which reflects most of the heat back into the room.
   Where does the heat go? 35% is lost true walls, 25% through windows, 25% through the roof and 15% through the floor.
   Windows
   Eco-windows improve the environment through energy efficiency. Double or triple glazing windows and doors provide an outstanding barrier against heat and noise loss. Eco-windows and doors use natural paint and therefore don’t consume additional harmful materials or generate associated waste.
     Adding another layer of air between the room and the window is always a good idea if you want to improve there efficiency during the winter. Bellow you can find two easy to follow examples on how to upgrade your windows with easy to find materials.


   Roof  
   For the roof one of the best insulation is mineral wool. Because it’s composed of many fibers this is not only a good thermal insulation but is also a very good barrier against noise. Also an anti-water foil and an aluminium foil are a good addition to any roof insulation.
  A green roof can also provide a very good insulation, additional to food and a posh gathering place inside a crowded city, and it is highly recommended for flat roofs.
   Floor
    Proper floor insulation is equally important.  Rolls of insulation are an easy method to install insulation in floors. The rolls are made of fiberglass, mineral wool and natural fibers and are designed to fit the standard spacing between studs and joists. This method is suitable for do-it-yourself projects.
    Another way is to use reflective systems made of aluminum foils with such materials as plastic film, cardboard or polyethylene bubbles as backing. Reflective systems are well-suited for floors because they are designed to reduce downward heat loss. Reflective systems are easy to install.
   Walls
    From the traditional materials, used for wall’s insulation, mineral wool, in my opinion, is better than polystyrene because in addition to thermal insulation it’s also a barrier for noise. Polystyrene which is the most popular wall insulation in Romania unfortunately losses up to 70 % of its insulation properties when its wet.
    A few eco-friendly insulation materials for walls are:
    1. Straws and clay (cheap, highly efficient and 100% recyclable)
    2. Cellulose made from recycled paper (very good insulation because of it’s fiber structure and high resistance to humidity)
    3. Sheep wool specially modified to be fireproof. ( wool was approved in UE as a building material in 2003). Shredded clothes can have a similar effect as wool for insulating your home.
    4. Reflective systems made of aluminum foils also improve the efficiency of an insulation system by reducing the radiant heat loss.
   A lot of people have been disappointed after insulating their building, having thought their house would suddenly become warmer, which it won’t. Basically, what insulation does is impede temperature change. So just bear in mind, insulating the building will help your house stay warm, but it won’t warm it.
   Which insulation fits best to your house ? Your ideas and comments are always welcomed.
With best regards,
F.M.B.
reconstructromania@gmail.com

The basics of a green building

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A green building is constructed using eco-friendly processes and is resource-efficient throughout it’s life cycle.

The main objectives of a green building are:

-reducing pollution

-efficiently usage of energy and water

-recycling

In Romania the interest for energy efficient buildings is increasing do to higher cost for gas,electricity and water.

The Romanian government supports individuals that want to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings with “Casa Verde” program.

The maximum grants paid by these program are:

-6.000 RON (approx. 1.200 EUR) for solar panels.

-8.000 RON (approx. 1800 EUR) for heat pumps.

-6.000 RON (approx. 1200 EUR) for thermal power plant that use pellets, wood chips, and all kinds of bio-mass.

Also Romania in accordance with European Union laws has committed true the “Energy strategy 2007-2020” to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption to 35% in 2015 and  38% in 2020.

In order to achieve this goals Romania adopted the green certificate support scheme presented in Law nr. 220/2008 modified by Law 139/2010 and approved by the European Commission.

The future looks green in Romania and hopefully buildings will be to.

Any questions or ideas related to this topic are welcomed.

Best regards,

F.M.B.