The Expedition Solar Charger: Portable Solar Power for Gadgets in Tough Situations

I don’t know if I’m just catching things at exactly the right minute as I flip through the channels at night, but I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of references to survivalists on TV. Their causes are all different, ranging among horrific possibilities like Take Two of the New Madrid Earthquake, impending fallout from the much-anticipated 2012 Presidential election, and just Armageddon in general. Guns, preserved food, medical supplies… all good things to have when you head for the hills, but let’s not forget our gadgets, folks. Maybe you can ditch the cell phone and the GPS, but I think I’d like to have an MP3 player along to boost my spirits with a few tunes. Personally, I’d have a portable solar charger hidden among my personal effects, because what are you going to do if you need to plug in but can’t?

Okay, okay, so maybe my imagination is running away with me and the survival what-ifs, but the bottom line is, whether you’re living off the grid, camping, or are just experiencing a brief but annoying power outage in the heart of civilization, sometimes it’s nice to have some backup to keep those mobile electronics going. And on the bright side, barring a massive asteroid collision or catastrophic volcano eruption that would put so much dust/ash into Earth’s atmosphere that all light would be blotted out, we’ll always have the Sun. But I digress.

All this to say that I’ve found an extremely new portable solar charger that’s small enough to slip into your pocket, but is made to stand up to whatever tough environments and situations you and your small electronics may find yourselves in. Meet the Expedition™ Solar Charger.

With a folding design that helps protect the solar cells when not in use, and a rubberized outer shell that makes the possibility of accidental drops, scrapes and bumps a lot less scary, the Expedition is meant for the rough and tumble lifestyle of the great outdoors. One feature that I really like is the built-in 60 lumen LED, which will light a 30 x 30 foot area for up to 8 hours on a single charge. Not to mention that it comes with five interchangeable connectors and an adapter cable, so in many cases, you can plug in your devices without their original chargers. In addition to absorbing power from sunlight, the Expedition can also gather energy from indoor light, or even be plugged into a computer via USB for an ultra-quick charge.

So whether you’re living off the land or in a high-rise, give solar power a try… after all, these days it never hurts to have a little backup.

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Car and Boat Multi-Device Solar Charger: On-the-Go Power Anywhere There’s Sun

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Gadgets 

It turns out that GPSs aren’t the only handy gadgets to have suctioned onto your interior windshield these days. I just met the newest addition to our solar power family of products, and I have to say, I’m quite pleased to make its acquaintance. Meet the Car and Boat Multi-Device Solar Charger.

Figures I’d like the Car and Boat Solar Charger – after all, our company is based in South Florida, a region that is widely acknowledged to be the Land of, well… cars and boats (flashy ones). And lots of sun. So it’s the perfect fit! But global coordinates aside, this mobile sidekick will work great anywhere that there’s a steady source of daylight.

As I mentioned before, this extremely novel and useful charger suctions onto your windshield, which puts it in perpetual sunbathing mode. That means it’s continuously charging, so you have the power to recharge cell phones, GPS units, mobile video games and more, anytime, anywhere. This may be the greatest thing to happen to road trips since Red Bull.

The Car and Boat Solar Charger comes with a retractable adapter cable and 4 interchangeable connectors (micro USB, mini USB, Nintendo™ 3DS and Sony PSP®), so that you can directly connect the charger to almost any mobile gadget. Other features include a red LED charging indicator, so you know when it’s charging, and a flashing blue LED, which does nothing more than mimic the look of a car alarm light so that you’re vehicle’s a little safer when you’re not around to watch it (love that!).

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Solar Laptop Charger: Portable Power Lets You Run Off the Sun

Just as the soon-to-be-winter clouds and overall December blahs have sent me into a pasty-faced state of Vitamin D withdrawal, an ironic ray of sunshine has emerged on the solar power front. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have some fun playing with an ever-improving succession of solar chargers for small gadgets like cell phones and MP3 players, as well as moderate-to-large portable solar power systems to fuel tech and small appliances during camping trips and power outages. It’s always interesting to see the improvements that are made with every new model, but there’s always been something missing: an in-between solar gadget charger that isn’t overkill for the little stuff, but is still big and strong enough to power something the size of, say, a laptop.

I love it when people read my mind and invent something I was wishing for. Meet the Solar Laptop Charger by Digital Ozone™, a still-conveniently-small solar charger (only 5.5 by 1.2 by 7 inches) that converts the Sun’s energy into enough electricity to fully charge a laptop battery or up to 12 smaller devices, like mobile phones.

It’s not bad looking, either. A stainless steel housing has a multicrystalline silicon panel on one side (with which to soak up and convert the Sun’s rays into electricity), and a cool little LCD indicator on the other, which tells you at a glance how much power it has left (I really like that feature – no nasty surprises). Another plus is switchable power output settings, so that you can customize the amount of power that’s doled out, preventing your electronics from being over- or underwhelmed with electrical flow.

And talk about the accessories! The Solar Laptop Charger includes 12 popular cell phone and laptop connectors, so that you can plug in almost any device without a hassle. Since there’s always a chance that you could be short on sunlight or time, there’s also an included AC-DC adapter that lets you plug into faster, more conventional power sources (like wall outlets) whenever the situation calls for it.

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LED Light Bulbs: They’re Not Just for Christmas Anymore

November 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Lighting 

The past few evenings, as I’ve been out running errands after dark, I’ve been taking in the ever-increasing number of holiday light displays, and realizing how many people have ditched regular incandescent-bulb Christmas lights in favor of LEDs. When you think about it, aside from things like mini flashlights and those stick-on puck lights for closets and cabinets, Christmas lights have probably been the most significant class of LED technology to sweep through our energy-efficient culture. As a matter of fact, with many manufacturers retiring from the incandescent Christmas light biz in order to embrace holiday LEDs, it’s getting tough to find anything else on the market, at least where exterior decorating is concerned.

But as it turns out, LEDs are no longer relegated to the specialty realm. Most of us have gotten accustomed to CFLs (or compact fluorescent lamps) being the dominant force in the energy-efficient lightbulb world, but move over, fluorescents: the Infinity™ Ultra LED lightbulb has come to town.

Ultra LED bulbs by Infinity LED™ are shaped like traditional incandescent bulbs, but instead of housing a light-producing filament, they glow by way of 88 tiny, evenly-distributed LEDs. Just screw them into any lamp base or light fixture, and you’ll get light output that’s equivalent to a 60-watt bulb.

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m telling you about a bulb that looks and performs like the same old kind you have at home, just take a look at the stats. LEDs have a lifespan of up to 35,000 hours (if you do the math, that’s just shy of 4 years), and they consume up to 93% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs! Is it me, or did your eyebrows just raise in interest? I know that mine did.

Because different people like different types of light, these LED bulbs come in two temperatures (which are essentially light tones) to fit your taste. There’s Cool White, which is very bright and good for environments in which you want to stay awake and alert (think offices and other work areas), and Warm White (my personal favorite), which is perfect for home use, in living rooms, bedrooms, and other spaces where warm glows and coziness should rule.

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Timex 7 Day Electronic Timer: Save Energy Costs and Make Your House Look Lived-In When You’re Away

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation 

I’ve always liked the idea of timers because they can be set to switch things on or off when I might not remember, or even be around, to take care of things myself. But ever since the first time I saw Home Alone (21 years ago!!!), I haven’t been a huge believer in the Timer’s ability to keep away robbers and other bad people when one is out of town. Remember that scene where Harry and Marv (the “Wet Bandits”) sit in their decoy plumbing van in the McAllisters’ neighborhood, running down a list of known-to-be-vacationing people whose homes they’d cased? They knew (down to the minute) when each house would burst from complete darkness into blazing light, as if there were people in every single room, all throwing light switches at the exact same second.

Now, you and I know that coincidences like that just don’t happen. Harry and Marv knew it too, and they were a couple of pretty dim bulbs, if you know what I mean (and yes, I do realize that they were in fact actors pretending to be moronic bad guys). I’m just saying… there’s nothing natural about an entire house being illuminated in a single split second, and if that was obvious enough to write into a major motion picture for children back in 1990, why on Earth, in 2011, would people still be using such an easy-to-see-through “fake out” to protect their homes?

On that count, I don’t know, but on the other hand, I do know that I just met a new timer that’s helping to change my tune about timers as theft deterrents. The Timex® 7 Day Progammable Electronic Timer may be small enough to plug into a wall outlet, but it can really multitask.

In addition to the convenience and energy-saving factors that all timers share, the Timex 7 Day Programmable Timer also has the ability to pull off up to 140 programmed switching actions per week, and even features (get ready for it) a random function that mixes up the times that it switches lights, TVs and other appliances on and off, so that from outside your home it looks like business as usual inside – even if you’re nowhere near the premises.

I also really like the super compact design – at 2¾ x 2¾ x 1½ inches, it takes up hardly any room, and has its LCD display and programming buttons right on top for easy access. You can even slip a few backup batteries into it for extra protection in the event that your power goes out (the backup power won’t provide energy to devices, but will prevent you from losing your saved timer settings). I guess the best things really do come in small packages.

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GreenSurge Smart Surge Protector: Looking Out for the Environment… and Your Wallet

While I really enjoy trimming down my electric bill and having at least some piece of mind that my TV, computer and other gadgets aren’t going to get fried during some freak power surge, truth be told, I don’t have the spare time (or inclination) to go beyond a certain point in accomplishing either one of those things.

Are the printer and DVD player still continuing to draw power even when I’m asleep at night? They most certainly are, but you won’t find me unplugging anything that’s not being actively used before I shuffle off to bed. And likewise, I don’t ever want to see any of my precious electronics fried to a crisp during a thunder storm, but I’m not about to personally unplug each and every one at the first sign of a rain cloud.

Call me lazy, but I’d rather leave those jobs up to a very smart, green-minded and protective surge protector like the GreenSurge™ from 360 Electrical®. Designed to deliver the usual overvoltage protection while also going to bat for your budget, the GreenSurge features a unique combination of outlets that work together to intuitively cut power to devices that aren’t in use, which can save you some big money over time.

Here’s how it works: the GreenSurge Smart Surge Protector is made up of Master, Power Save, and Always-On outlets. You’d plug a main device, like a computer or TV, into the Master Outlet. The Power Save outlets would then be used to power peripherals (or secondary devices attached to the main device) like DVD/Bluray players, gaming systems, printers and scanners. Always-On outlets are for other non-peripheral devices that are always in use and need constant power flow.

As long as the main device (the one using the Master outlet) is on and running, the peripherals have all the power they need. But when the master device is turned off, that shutdown is detected by the GreenSurge, which then cuts power to the now-unused peripherals that are plugged into the Power Save outlets, preventing them from silently drawing (and wasting) power as they sit there doing nothing. As a result, you save energy and money without having to do a thing. If you ask me, that’s just smart… almost as smart as this surge suppressor.

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Belkin Conserve Socket – Safety, Energy Conservation and Money Savings, All in One Little Outlet

May 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Gadgets 

belkin-conserve-socketIt’s always totally killed me that charging cell phones or digital cameras too well can actually cause their batteries to bite the dust faster. Hmmmm, let me get this straight: I regularly plug in my gadget of choice to make sure it maintains a good charge, but if I’m not standing by to unplug the charger as soon as the battery is full, things will actually start to deteriorate? Nice.

As far as I’m concerned, someone should address that little detail before they bother cranking out iPhone™ 17, or the next most amazing thing to hit the tablet market. We need to prioritize here, people – please, please come out with immortal batteries first! I’m probably just dreaming here, but in the meantime, until we see the day when batteries are no longer burnt out on the very thing that keeps them powered, there’s the Belkin Conserve Socket™.

Designed to work much like a smart power strip, the Conserve Socket™ cuts power to devices when they’re no longer in use, or have had their fill of electricity. The only difference is that instead of being a bulky, full-sized power strip, the Conserve Socket™ has only one outlet, and plugs right into a wall receptacle, just like a nightlight. And whereas smart UPSs detect the on/off status of “master” devices to gauge when to automatically shut off peripherals, the Conserve Socket is equipped with a timer, via which you can tell it to call it a day after 30 minutes, 3 hours, or 6 hours.

If this sounds like somewhat of a downgrade in technology, it’s actually not. Let’s say that you need to plug in a cell phone charger. In most cases, a smart power strip wouldn’t cut power to it, because it’s not a peripheral attached to a master device. It’s just plugged in, period. It’s the main event itself, so to speak, so turning it on or off requires your own decisive action (ie, plugging in or unplugging). “Turning off” would involve you physically disconnecting the charger in order to cut power flow to it, but the Conserve Socket’s timer lets you stop the electrical flow to the charger (and its corresponding gadget battery) without actual physical removal. As soon as that timer goes off, “ping” – no more power (okay, it doesn’t make that noise, but you know what I mean).

The Conserve Socket™ is not only perfect for avoiding overcharged batteries, but is also a great way to make sure that hot devices and appliances (like irons, curling irons, and coffee makers) aren’t left sitting in “cook” mode for too long – no one likes a fire. It helps you conserve energy, save money, and stay safe – not a bad deal for around $13.

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Geist Variable Speed Fan Controller: “Steps on the Gas” or “Hits the Brakes” as Enclosure Cooling Needs Fluctuate

geist-variable-speed-fan-controllerFrom the green perspective on data center cooling, keeping rack fans running full tilt all the times is the equivalent of revving your engine nonstop while sitting through a red light, or keeping an oven preheated 24/7 so that it’s ready to go if and when you feel like baking something. In other words, it’s needless, wastes crazy amounts of energy, and causes unnecessary wear and tear on the components left running (i.e. the fans).

That’s not to say that cooling isn’t one of the most important elements of a well-run server room. Rack fans are, in many cases, a must, and they need to be left on to adequately circulate air and keep things comfortable for temp-sensitive computer equipment. The point is that they don’t have to be run at high speed all the time to do their job. It’s actually possible to keep a server enclosure at an optimal temperature with fans running at lower speeds and using less energy. Considering the stat I recently read that said cooling costs alone can swallow up to 40% of a data center’s energy budget, why wouldn’t you want to make some smart pare-downs wherever possible? Your data center will be that much greener for the energy savings, and the lower electricity bills won’t hurt your budget either.

So, how do you accomplish these energy-conserving fan speed adjustments? It’s easier than you might think. Geist’s Variable Speed Fan Controller mounts right into a server enclosure, and based on temperature parameters that you set, adjusts fan speed as needed when temp readings fluctuate. If things are warm but not too stuffy, fans will be run at a gentler speed, saving you unnecessary wear and tear on your ventilation fans, as well as pointless overspending on energy. But when that equipment kicks into high gear and starts cranking out the BTUs, the fan controller senses the rise in temperature, and makes the fans work harder. Exactly what you need, when you need it.

The Geist Variable Speed Fan Controller also has a web interface, and can be set to warn you via e-mail, SNMP traps or XML when temperature conditions get out of control and warrant your personal attention. You can also adjust fan speeds remotely by way of the web interface, so it’s a perfect option for business owners or data center managers who need peace of mind even when they’re on the go.

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Robertshaw Programmable Thermostats: Don’t Let Utility Bills Soar Just Because the Temperature Drops

September 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation 

robertshaw-9700i-thermostatIn honor of the fact that Autumn, my very favorite season, is just one day away, today we’re going to talk programmable thermostats, which are about to come very much in handy as temperatures soon begin to drop. Sure, we’re in that perfect place where it’s a little too cool for AC yet way too warm to turn on the heat, and you probably want to just sit back and enjoy this brief lull in utility abuse. But don’t let next month’s lower electric bill fool you into a false sense of security: colder times are ahead. Before you get too caught up in caramel apples, jack-o-lanterns and diving into piles of leaves, it’s time to get down to business.

Fall is the perfect time to evaluate the energy efficiency of your home, by checking the seals around doors and windows, switching over to insulating thermal window treatments, and maybe even installing a programmable thermostat. If you didn’t move into a newer house that was already equipped with one, a digital thermostat like Robertshaw‘s Invensys 9700i might seem like an unnecessary investment – after all, what’s wrong with turning a dial? But in reality, it’s a little too easy to turn that dial and crank the heat higher than it needs to be. With cranked heat comes cranked utility bills, and often, wasted energy. You shouldn’t be paying for what you don’t really need.

Living greener at home (and saving money) has a lot to do with making slight adjustments to your heating and cooling habits, and those adjustments are made far easier with programmable thermostats, which let you limit and maintain holding temperatures, instead of constantly fiddling with them. And one really cool thing about the Robertshaw 9700i Thermostat is that you can actually program you heating (or cooling) 7 days out, according to what your schedule is like, and when you’ll be home. That means that you can set it to let the temp drop right after you normally leave for work, and bring it back up to a more comfortable place just before you’re due to arrive home. It’s kind of like having a digital, money-saving butler – except it doesn’t get a salary.

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Lutron Maestro Wireless Lamp Dimmer

lutron-maestro-wireless-lamp-dimmerOver the past year or so, I’ve become a huge fan of Lutron® – they got me at first glance with their gorgeous, high-style colors and finishes, and then really secured my admiration as I got to play around with samples of the dimmers and switches, and learn what an insane amount of energy they can actually save.

Up to now, my experience with dimmers, Lutron® and otherwise, has been that they’re either on the high-end side (the ones that are hardwired in place of light switches, and can be programmed or wirelessly controlled), or tend to be less expensive (but novel and useful), like the type you attach to a table lamp or strand of Christmas lights, and operate manually. Both classes of dimmer are great in their own right, but they’re miles apart from one another in performance and function. Leave it to Lutron to take the proverbial lime and coconut, mix them up, and create a hybrid technology (a dimmer coctail, if you will) that combines the best features of wireless, programmable dimming with the simplicity of lamp control.

The call it the Maestro® Wireless Lamp Dimmer (what else?). You just plug any lamp into it at the outlet level, and then dim (or brighten) away via the rocker switch. You can happily go on using it this way more or less forever, but if you want to get really fancy, you can wirelessly network it with new or existing Lutron® occupancy sensors or lighting control, and tie it into a home-wide lighting scheme. Remote-controlled lamps, anyone?

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