Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Paradox of Value

In my second piece about Sustainability and Economics for iPinion, I take up the popular economic puzzle of the Paradox of Value.  Simply Stated: why are necessary things like water given such low market value when apparently useless things like diamonds command such high prices?

Find out why and what implications this has for the sustainability movement here: The Paradox of Value
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Column for iPinion

Since iPinion has upgraded to the new ".us" domain and significantly improved its functionality, I no long feel the need to repost my column at this here blog.  Instead, I will be making short "update" blog posts designed to point you to the latest columns as they run on the other site.  Like this one!

My latest contribution to the iPinion syndicate is the featured piece this week!  Economics and Sustainability, this will be the first is a series of discussions about the colorful relationship between these two complex concepts.  In this first installment I attempt to explore how traditional economic models deal with systems that may be unsustainable (spoiler: not well).
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

GreenSwitch: The Vampire Power Slayer

Standby IndicatorImage via Wikipedia
Whether you call it vampire electronics, phantom loads, or standby power, appliances which draw power when they are "off" can account for a significant chunk of your home energy bill.  GreenSwitch LLC, a California based company that operates nationally and internationally,  provides a service that can help you dramatically reduce your vampire power use at home, at work, or in any building with significant standby power loads.

Essentially, GreenSwitch is a home automation product, which allows the home owner to control what appliances are getting power and when.  GreenSwitch differs greatly from other home automation systems in its extreme simplicity, however.  Instead of a complicated remote control or internet based control interface, there is a single physical switch that you flip when leaving the house or going to bed that cuts power to all vampire electronics.

The switch uses a wifi signal to control specialized outlets in your house, cutting power to anything plugged in at that point.  You can get a remote control as well as the master switch for more precise control, if you are a tech geek like me, but even the most devout Luddite will be comfortable with the master switch option.

Another difference with GreenSwitch is that their product looks very similar to conventional wall fixtures.  The unflattering design and bulk of some other systems will likely turn away the consumer with an eye for design, but GreenSwitch is very low profile and blends right in with the old fashioned wall outlets.  In fact it is designed to fit into the existing outlet boxes already installed in your wall.

The specialized outlets and switch have a tiny, minuscule standby power draw, which is an order of magnitude smaller than most TVs, Computers, DVD players, VCRs, etc.  When you have several of these appliances plugged into the same outlet, the energy savings really pile up fast.  This means, however, that not every outlet in your house should be replaced, just those with a heavy standby power load.

One customer who installed GreenSwitch and got a hot tub in the same month said their energy bill went down significantly afterward.  Considering the huge energy load that a hot tubs heating element can generate, that is quite an endorsement for the GreenSwitch system.

But GreenSwitch is not just for the home.  It is also an ideal solution for small businesses with high power bills.  Most business energy solutions are for large scale operations, but businesses in mid sized offices are frequently playing very close to the margins financially, and saving up to 30% on your energy bills can have a huge impact on positive cash flow.  Particularly in offices with scores of computers and printers, vampire power can be a huge drain.

Basic packages start at $415 for home kits, which includes a simple thermostat control as well.  That may seem like a pretty steep buy in, but with energy savings from 20-35% (by their reporting), installing GreenSwitch could pay for itself in a matter of months (depending greatly on where you live).

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