How smart devices can increase your energy bills – and what you can do about it

smart home

Studies suggest that 50% of us will own a smart TV by 2019. Smart TVs and other smart devices must be plugged in and kept on standby at all times – making them more expensive to run than their traditional counterparts. Here’s what you can do to keep your energy costs down.

From TVs to fridges, security systems to coffee makers, fitness trackers to speakers – more and more of our appliances are using an internet connection to become ‘smart’.

The downside to all of this smart technology is the fact that smart devices have to be kept on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week – slowly sucking up extra electricity and pushing up your electricity bill. A smart TV for example uses 10 times more electricity than a standard television set!

Energy efficiency company GreenMatch have created a guide to reducing so-called ‘vampire energy’ without ruining the fun of living in a smart home. It starts with getting a smart meter installed if you don’t already have one.

Scroll down to find out more:

standby power infographic

The ‘O-Wind’ Turbine wins UK Dyson Award

O-Wind

The groundbreaking design can capture wind energy from any direction – including vertically. The creators of the O-Wind hope that the compact design will be effective in urban areas where traditional turbines can’t be used.

Conventional wind turbines can only really capture wind coming from a single direction. Due to this and their large size, they are better suited to wide open spaces where winds are predictable.

The O-Wind by contrast is a mere 25cm wide and can capture wind energy in all 3 dimensions, allowing it to take advantage of the abundant winds found in cities. No matter which direction the wind approaches from, the ball will always rotate the same way, driving a generator and producing electricity.

O-Wind was developed by Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, who are both MSc students at Lancaster University. They believe that the concept is at least five years away from commercial production, but it could revolutionise the energy industry once it gets there. The design is a National Winner of the prestigious James Dyson Award.

Inspiration from NASA

Long before the O-Wind came to be, the team behind it were interested in using wind-driven balls to explore Mars. A prototype model was able to harness unpredictable winds and use the energy to travel forwards in a straight line. In a test it managed to travel 7km across the Atacama Desert in South America.

It soon became clear that the technology could have multiple uses, and the potential for generating clean energy was explored.

Future Plans

Lancaster University are busy testing, optimising and refining the O-Wind to maximise its efficiency. They hope that the technology could be used to power apartments, motorhomes, boats and other stand-alone structures. They are also exploring the possibility of using the O-Wind to capture wave & tidal energy.

Facebook wants to run on 100% renewable power by 2020

Facebook

The technology giant has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 75% and move over to 100% renewable power by the end of the 2020.

Around two billion people are thought to log in to Facebook every day, along with its family of popular apps & products – including WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Oculus.

Energy use

What many people don’t realise is that behind the scenes there is a huge hidden world of servers and data centres powering these apps. Every time you upload a photo, stream a video or ‘like’ a post, that information has to be stored somewhere – and all of those servers and all that infrastructure require a colossal amount of electricity to keep running around the clock.

In 2017 Facebook consumed just under 1,500 gigawatt hours of electricity – more than some small countries! As well as powering its servers, data centres eat up a lot of energy just to keep cool. And that’s before you factor in the cost of powering offices & other facilities.

Data centre
One of Facebook’s larger, custom designed data centres in Oregon, USA. Source.

Renewable energy targets

The company announced earlier this week that they would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and power their global operations with 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. They plan to use a variety of methods to achieve this goal, such as renewable energy tariffs and direct power purchase agreements with generators. Most of the renewable electricity will come from wind and solar.

At present Facebook runs on 51% clean energy, achieving a goal they set for themselves back in 2015. In 2009 they switched from renting server space from other companies and began designing their own.

 

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Bitcoin uses as much energy as Ireland

Bitcoin

New research has revealed that the virtual currency Bitcoin now uses as much energy as the whole country of Ireland!

The global network of computers involved in running Bitcoin currently consumes an estimated 2.55GW of electricity – and that figure is rising quickly. Ireland on the other hand, with its population of 4.8 million people, uses just over 3GW. These figures were estimated by Alex de Vries, a Dutch economist working for PwC in his paper titled Bitcoin’s growing energy problem.

He points out that the 2.55GW fugure is a conservative estimate, and that the real number is likely to be much higher.

Bitcoin Mining

The global Bitcoin network relies on computers to solve complex mathematical problems; a process known as Bitcoin ‘mining’. The problems become more complex over time, meaning that increasingly powerful computers are needed to solve them – to the point that there are now several companies that specialise in building high-spec PCs designed specifically for Bitcoin mining.

Computers are, of course, notorious for eating up electricity and generating large amounts of heat. Much of the energy used by computers – and large IT facilities such as data centres – is used just for cooling.

An example of an Icarus Bitcoin mining rig. Image source.

Climate Change

The amount of energy used by Bitcoin and other virtual currencies has been a hotly debated topic in recent years, as the industry is becoming a huge carbon producer and a serious threat to climate change.

De Vries estimates that the Bitcoin industry could hit 7.67GW of electricity usage in the near future, making it comparable with countries like Austria in terms of energy use.

New technology can charge an electric car in just 8 minutes

electric car

Swiss company ABB have unveiled the ‘world’s fastest’ electric vehicle charger, which can give an electric car 200km of range in just 8 minutes.

The Terra HP fast charger is said to be the fastest in the world, operating at powers of up to 350 kilowatts – around three times faster than Tesla’s Superchargers which put out 120 kilowatts, and almost 6 times more powerful than the CHAdeMO charging technology used by Volkswagen.

ABB demonstrated the new technology in front of world leaders and VIPs at this week’s Hanover Fair.

Consumer concerns

Long charging times and so-called ‘range anxiety’ are two often-cited reasons for the slow adoption of electric cars by the public, along with the relatively high price of new vehicles. The 8 minute charge-time will hopefully help to ease some of these concerns.

ABB fast charger

Worldwide roll-out

ABB have chargers in around 6,500 locations in 60 countries, including the UK. The brand has also been selected by Electrify America, the biggest electric vehicle infrastructure project in the United States.

The new fast chargers are intended for highway rest stops and petrol stations, where short charge times are essential. It’s hoped that putting charging stations along popular routes will boost consumer confidence and encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, Tesla are pushing ahead with their plans to put more chargers in urban areas. The company are busy developing new compact superchargers, which are ideal for cramped, inner-city locations where space is limited.

 

ABB is a “pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally.” The Swiss/Swedish company oprate in more than 100 countries and employ around 135,000 people.

 

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