Category Archives: Mechanical Systems

Wash water + a simple valve = happy plants

From on Monday, June 8, 2009:

Susan Carpenter breaks California state plumbing code three times a week. Her accomplice is her washing machine. Rinse water from washing machines usually goes into the sewer — so what if you could recycle it? That’s what Carpenter does, using it to water plants at her Southern California home.

“The washing machine is filling up with water, and it is going through its normal process of washing clothes,” she says. “And after about eight minutes, you’ll start to hear it spin and we will run outside and see it squirting through the tubes.”

The “it” is gray water, which looks like its name — a bit gray, a bit cloudy. After all, it’s the wastewater from bathtubs, sinks and washers.

The gray water lapping up Carpenter’s dirty clothes will soon be lapped up by her passion fruit trees — and no, the fruit won’t taste like Tide. She uses a special type of detergent that doesn’t contain salt or boron, compounds which dehydrate plants.

Click here to read (or listen to) the whole story.

Alaska Wind Offers Residential Power Opportunities

BY Adam Wasch, Energy Outreach Consultant for CCHRC and UAF CES
Energy Focus: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner April 29th, 2009, Section A3

Alaska’s energy resources amount to more than the oil and gas that have so much transformed the state during the past 40 years. One largely untapped resource is wind power. Large-scale operations, such as a growing wind farm in Kotzebue and plans for a 1.5 megawatt wind farm on Fire Island near Anchorage underscore the potential of wind energy in Alaska. But what about residential wind power? Continue reading

Residential Geothermal Power Reality, Not Science Fiction

BY Adam Wasch, Energy Outreach Consultant for CCHRC and UAF CES
Energy Focus: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner April 23rd, 2009, Section A3

“Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius?”

These lines are from the campy adventure novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne. Science is cool, but science fiction is cooler. Writers apprehend the future in their fantasies, often articulating what scientists later invent. Though writing in the 19th Century, Verne appears to have anticipated modern-day air conditioning, submarines, and television. Continue reading

Efficient Boilers Offer Savings, Many Choices

BY Adam Wasch, Energy Outreach Consultant for CCHRC and UAF CES
Energy Focus: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner April 16th, 2009, Section A3

Boilers today offer a wide range of customized options to maximize efficiency. If your boiler has an old pilot light that stays lit all the time, you’re probably a good candidate for a replacement boiler or, at least, a retrofit. Alaska’s many heating days justify paying for the most efficient system possible upfront, since the extra money you spend for efficiency gains will be paid back several times during the system’s operating lifetime. Continue reading

Wind turbines – coming to a home near you

From the New York Times on Saturday, February 14, 2009:

Wind turbines typically spin from tall towers on hills and plains. But in these green times, some companies hope smaller turbines will soon rise above a more domestic spot: homes and garages.

An Energy Ball turbine.  Adam Bird for The New York Times

The rooftop turbines send the electricity they generate straight on to the home’s circuit box. Then owners in a suitably wind-swept location can watch the needle on their electricity meter turn backward instead of forward, reducing their utility bills while using a renewable resource.

Click here to read the whole article.

Modular housing — still going green

From the New York Times on Wednesday, February 11, 2009:

The modular housing industry likes to say that it has always had a few characteristics that today might be considered eco-friendly — from reduced waste to a smaller construction footprint.

“In a modular plant, recycling is huge,” says Chad Harvey, the deputy director of the Modular Building Systems Association. “Everything is used and reused.”

But it’s only recently — and increasingly amid the flagging housing market — that manufacturers of factory-built homes have realized that concepts like efficiency and sustainability can make for good business strategy.

High-end modular housing companies like Michelle Kaufmann Designs and LivingHomes — both based in California — are taking the green concept to new levels, catering to the luxury market with amenities like built-in rainwater harvesting, grey water reuse, tankless water heaters and bamboo flooring.

Click here to read the whole article.

Wind and solar manufacturers feeling the economic pinch

From the New York Times on Tuesday, February 3, 2009:

Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Towers for wind turbines on the ground at the DMI Industries plant in West Fargo, N.D. Falling sales and tight credit have forced the company to lay off nearly 20 percent of its employees.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

Click here to read the whole article.

Economic downturn changes the American "house of the future"

From, posted on January 6, 2009 and retrieved on Friday, January 30, 2009:

2009 IBS House of the Future

2009 IBS House of the Future

When the homebuilding industry descends on Las Vegas on Jan. 20 for its annual trade show, a highlight as always will be a project called the New American Home. This model house—a new one gets built each year—serves as a showcase for the industry’s latest technology and trends. The massive four-bedroom, five-bath structure popping up in suburban Las Vegas this year may seem a little out of touch with the times as the nation suffers through the worst housing slump in decades. But out in the real world, architects and builders are busy trying to figure out how to put some of the same design features into new homes. Such trends are worth noting: Having amenities that appeal to buyers a decade or more after your house is built will help it hold its value. We list below some of the most important new design features you’ll see in homes.

Click here to read the article.

University of Alaska Fairbanks to build energy research building

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Wednesday, January 28, 2009:

Education leaders look to be sharpening their focus on energy research, a move spearheaded by tentative plans to build a 31,000-square-foot building dedicated to energy research — everything from wind and hydrogen to coal — at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The plan is on the fast-track. If it happens, it would meet a demand for more space for energy research and testing — a need previously limited in discussion to the context of a separate project, a proposed expansion of the university’s growing engineering programs.

University leaders are talking of building the $30 million center, which would house the 1-year-old Alaska Center for Energy and Power, during the next two summers.

Click here to read the whole article.

Click here for a link to the Alaska Center for Energy and Power website.

State of Alaska energy plan not popular with some lawmakers

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Wednesday, January 28, 2009:

A document submitted as a state energy plan falls short of its mark, while renewable energy projects submitted for funding might go too far, legislators said.

Members of the House Energy Committee, including Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, were critical of the Alaska Energy Authority’s state energy plan as director Steve Haagenson detailed the more than 240-page volume during a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham and committee co-chairman, said calling the report an energy plan was something of a misnomer. Instead, the report seemed a “first step” toward a state energy plan, he said.

Click here to read the whole article.