Category Archives: Sustainable Energy

Building Up the Rechargeable Battery Supply

It’s getting to be that time for us. Time to buy more rechargeable batteries to work with the toys the kids got for Christmas.

At least those I really like. Some I’m honestly just as glad to only occasionally have batteries in.

The EyeClops BioniCam my kids got is a good example of a toy I like. It’s nice for the kids to get a good, close look at things. I won’t say I’m ecstatic about the plastic, but it’s a great learning tool.

Probably the most frustrating thing about that one is it’s need for 5 batteries. An odd number just doesn’t work well in most chargers; they prefer even numbers for AA batteries.

On the plus side, my daughter is so sweet about that toy. She says she wants to help us earn more money by selling the magnified pictures she takes.

We have a charging system, so all we lack is enough batteries to keep the appropriate toys running. I’ll be checking and to see where I want to get the batteries this time around.

After baby comes.

The challenge is keeping track of which toys have rechargeable batteries in them, especially during cleanouts. No point in giving away rechargeables. They cost extra and who knows if the toy’s new owner would have a charger or bother with it?

We like being gradual about this. One thing we know we don’t want is an excessive supply of rechargeables. What would be the point?

So far I haven’t seen any standouts in terms of performance. I know some are supposed to hold charges better than others, but it’s hard to tell with the way kids use toys; that is, like crazy for a week or two, then leave it alone for weeks, then go crazy again.

Charged Up and Ready for Christmas?

Christmas is coming all too soon, and with it often comes a ton of new toys and gadgets. It’s probably time to start thinking about your battery situation.

I find that even with kids I don’t go through too many batteries. I have this little habit of not letting them know about all of a toy’s capabilities if it doesn’t really need the batteries in order to be enjoyed. There are a number of toys like this in my experience, and I much prefer the noises that come from the kids using their imaginations.

But there are plenty of things that do need batteries, and I think now is a very good time to look at getting a good rechargeable battery set. This way you can be ready in time for Christmas.

You can get rechargeable batteries locally, although sometimes it can be hard to find a good selection. There are also sites such as Responsible Energy Corporation which have a large selection. They even have solar powered chargers.

Of course, batteries should be properly disposed of in any case. This isn’t always easy, even in states where you are not supposed to throw them in the trash. Call 2 Recycle has resources to help you find out how to dispose of rechargeable batteries correctly.

There’s no easy way to drop the use of batteries completely for most people. There are just too many little uses for them. But if you can start your switch over to rechargeable batteries now you can greatly reduce the impact of the batteries you do use.

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WalMart CFLs

I read over on TreeHugger that WalMart is going to start selling their own brand of CFLs. From the reactions I’m seeing there, people aren’t so sure that this is good news.

I can’t say I blame people for worrying. I’m not much of a WalMart fan myself.

I’ve had pretty good luck getting what I consider to be highly affordable CFL. SDG&E, the power company in my area, often has discounted bulbs in area stores. I saw packs of 4 selling for $1/pack one time. Most times they’re between $2-3 for packs of 3 or 4. After the SDG&E discount, that is. They’re still much pricier around here without that.

If WalMart is going to make such a big deal about selling them, I’d love to see them do what IKEA does, and recycle them too. It’s such a wonderful thing they could do for customers, and it really helps to complete the advantages of CFLs.

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How Many Solar Panels to Power the U.S.?

I found this post on Green Wombat very interesting. Apparently there’s a new type of solar thermal plants that could supply all of the United States’ power needs by covering just 92 by 92 mile square. They work by heating tubes of liquid, and the steam powers turbines.

It’s not a simple solution. That’s a huge area, and the plan would also involve going from AC to DC power.

Of course, this is merely a thought experiment right now. No word as to whether or not it will really happen. But Ausra, the company working on this, expects to have solar storage technology available in 18 months. So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I don’t know that a centralized solution really will be the best option.

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Focusing on Power Consumption

There’s a great article in The New York Times on energy consumption and how to decrease yours. I don’t know how easy the article will be to acces, since after a day or two they generally require sign in, but it’s an interesting read.

The author bought a Kill A Watt to measure the power consumed by various electronics when they were not in use. These included his computer, TiVo, cable box and DVD player.

The experiment made him realize just how much energy he was wasting in his home. He’s not alone:

Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says.

This is something I’ve been trying to convince my husband of for a while. I may even decide to pick him up a Kill A Watt at some point if it will help to make my point. Continue reading →