Posts Tagged ‘green’

TrickleStar’s TV TrickleSaver Kills Vampires In The Night

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I love electronics. The problem is that they all suck up electricity like mad. There was a time when I would have several computers running all through the night. These days, I’m much more aware of energy concerns and try to be more responsible with my usage. Having a huge electric bill is no fun either. That’s why I was pleased to get this little device in the mail.

TrickeStar TV TrickleSaver Review

Vampire Power
The TV TrickleSaver from TrickleStar is a little device that sits between your TV and its power source to stop it from slowly using power throughout the night when it would normally be in standby mode. This standby power is also called vampire power because your devices sit there all night sucking up power. The goal is to stop those power-sucking devices, be more green, and put a little green back in your pocket. But does it work?

Installing TV TrickleSaver
I really shouldn’t use that word, installing. You don’t install a TrickleSaver any more than you would install your dirty laundry in the washer. You just plug the TrickleSaver into the wall (or surge protector in my case) and then plug your TV into the TrickleSaver. It also has a secondary (“slave”) outlet for plugging in an accessory device like a game system or DVD/VCR/Bluray player. On the end opposite the power outputs they’ve placed the Trimmer, which adjusts the threshold (watts of the master device) at which devices switch on and off. The instructions point out a couple very important things. First, you probably don’t need to mess with the Trimmer. It tells you to just try it out first and see if it works at its current setting, and it did for me. This is a big plus because most people don’t want to have to figure out wattage and experiment. If it doesn’t work right off the bat, you can just adjust and test. The second important setup note is about what devices to use with it. Of course, you want toplug in your TV, but which of your accessories? It warns against plugging in devices with hard drives in them. I’d worry that it would interrupt nighttime recording of shows on my DVR, anyway, so I left the DVR alone. I would suggest plugging in some other accessory as the slave. Once everything is plugged in, your done.

TrickeStar TV TrickleSaver Review TrickeStar TV TrickleSaver Review

(View the rest of the TV TrickleStar product images)

My experiences
As a test, I hooked up my TV and XBox. Unfortunately, I don’t have a meter to watch the electricity usage change on the spot, but my TV is relatively new, so it has a power button that is always lit up. It’s as if it’s constantly reminding me of my power consumption. I set it all up and turned off the TV and off went the power switch light, too. Great. So it works, but what about the hassle of having that in the way and installing? As I mentioned above, the setup is pretty simple, so that’s not a problem for me. It’s doesn’t really get in the way, either. It has a couple mounting holes on the back, so you could put a couple screws in the wall and mount it if you want. Personally, I don’t like to mount stuff any more than necessary. I prefer to just let it sit behind everything else. It’s not tiny, but it’s not so big that it can’t be tucked behind your A/V components.

Being and saving green
This is all about being green for the environment and saving a few bucks while you’re at it. Even the packaging says “Save Electricity. Save $$$. Save Earth.”(tm). I’m sure the first thing you want to know is “how much?”. That was my first question. Luckily, they have a handy little savings calculator. I punched in my TV (42″ LCD), and my XBOX. Then it asked how many hours a day my TV is on during the week (6) and on weekends (8) which I entered and the gears started turning. After some calculation, TrickleStar says I’ll save 1198 kWh and 789 kg CO2 per year. Not bad, but what about my wallet? Here’s the part that surprised me a bit. It says I’ll save almost $180 a year. Of course, that depends on my energy costs from my provider, but even if that’s off by a little, that’s great for a device that costs just under $20.

Conclusions
This was one of those devices that left me checking the site for similar products. I am contemplating picking up another one for the other TV for another $100 or so a year in savings. Paying around $20 once to save upwards of $100 a year is a no-brainer and it helps you be more green. If you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint and your electric bill at the same time, this is a great way to do it.

SKYlasers Locakble Green Laser Pointer Shines

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I’ve reviewed other lasers, but recently, I got another green laser pointer in the mail. This one came from SKYlasers High Power Laser Pointers and it’s not like the others because it comes with a unique feature I haven’t seen on the other laser pointers that have come my way.

SKYlasers Green Laser Pointer

The extra mile
What makes this laser stand out from the others I’ve been sent is the lock and key. If you look at the bottom photos below, you’ll see on the left is the end of the laser pointer that the key fits into and on the right is the key in use. You’ll notice that there’s three positions: low, high, and off. The ability to turn the laser off when not is use is a big plus for me, because I definitely don’t want to have a laser like this on accidentally and not notice until it becomes a problem. More importantly, I can imagine what a selling point this might be for laser-happy parents. Kids will be kids, and it helps if you can just prevent them from being able to use the laser by just locking it.

SKYlasers Green Laser Pointer SKYlasers Green Laser Pointer

(Click here to see the full photo set)

The balloon test
So how well does this laser work? To begin with, I just had to put it through the balloon test. For those unfamiliar, a powerful enough laser pointer can pop a black balloon. It’s a fun way to test it, so I headed to the store and picked up a bag of black balloons. The first attempt at my office worked extremely well. The balloons were very still and I popped them from about three feet away. Unfortunately, that video got deleted, so I did it again from my house. This time, I did a big one and a smaller one, the fan was on, and I started from about six feet away. The results started without a bang, so to speak, but when I moved in to about three feet, both balloons popped without a lot of wait. That video is below.

Some laser art
In addition to the standard balloon test, I wanted to do something different for this review. In previous reviews, I lit up water, tested the distance by pointing it out into the night sky, and split the beam with diffraction gratings. With my new SKYlaser green laser pointer, I decided to try out some laser art.

Laser pointer art Laser pointer art

(Click here to see the full laser art photo set)

To get this effect, I just set my camera on a tripod in fully manual mode and set the exposure to 30 seconds. Then I snapped a shot and “drew” with the laser by waving it around for those 30 seconds while the shutter was open. The result is what you see above and the rest of the photos I took.

While you should always be careful with the more powerful laser pointers like this one, they can be a lot of fun and can also be highly useful. Some colleagues are using lasers to map their robot’s surroundings on a virtual laser grid. Others have built laser harps, and the list goes on.

Conclusions
The laser pointer I was sent is truly too much for what I did (and will do) with it. At about $300, it’s not the one I would normally buy, especially since I don’t have any of my own advanced projects that require a 150 mW. If you do, this is a great laser. For the rest of us, this is not the only laser they sell. Skylasers offers a good variety of lasers from much less powerful laser pointers that start in the $40 range to some serious hardware upwards of $600. This laser seemed like it was good quality and it came on every time I tried it. Comparatively, it’s about $80 less than one competitor I previously reviewed and the same price as another. I’d rather have it black in exterior color, but for the price, I’d have to say the locking feature makes this one my favorite so far.

Smart Home: Green Is Probably Smarter And Greener Than Your Home

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

In recent years, it seems like there is a huge push to be green. It’s not a bad thing, though. I’m not one of those people who turns his nose up at someone who drives a gas guzzler and I use up my fair share of electricity, but I applaud the growing segment of today’s society who pitch in where they can to help protect our Earth’s future. Be it the purchase of a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid or just shutting it all off for 60 minutes when Earth Hour comes around, every little effort to reduce your footprint on the planet is a step in the right direction.

Smart Home : Green

Enter The Smart Home : Green, powered by ComEd exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is a fully-functioning, three-story modular and sustainable “green,” structure designed to showcase the many ways people can make eco-friendly living a daily part of their lives. Designed by Michelle Kaufmann Designs and built by All-American Homes, MSI put together this smart home with WIRED Magazine serving as the technology and automation advisor.

Smart Home : Green

The home comes complete with software to not only help manage the electricity and all the devices, but also to show the energy consumption and production. The whole thing makes me wish I was in Chicago right now so I could take a tour through it in person. Entry is $23 for adults, $22 for seniors and $14 for children 3-11.

From the press release:

The home will feature two computers from MSI, the Wind Top AE1900 All-inOne PC and X340 Ultra-Slim Notebook. The AE1900 offers green-minded users a PC that uses 80% less power than a normal desktop computer. Similarly, the X340 notebook features an Intel ULV (Ultra Low voltage) processor that use just 1/6 the power of a standard mobile CPU.

“We chose products that showcase the engineering, design, and ecopreneurism that challenge conventional wisdom and give us practical tools to live healthier and more productive lives,” said Howard Mittman, Publisher of WIRED.

This is a great model on which my dream smart home setup will eventually be built.