November 09, 2010

New ESL Bulbs Combine the Best of CFLs, LEDs and Incandescents

EFLWhat if you could combine the best qualities of incandescent, CFL and LED light bulbs to create the ultimate bulb? Wouldn't that be great? Well, Vu1 think they have done just that with their new ESL bulb.

The ESL, or Electron Stimulated Luminescence, bulb creates light by accelerating electrons to stimulate phosphor, which in turn makes the surface of the bulb glow. By creating light this way, the ESL bulbs eliminate many problems faced by other types of bulbs.

Here are some of the benefits of the ESL:

  • The quality of light produced rivals that of incandescents and avoids the problems faced by owners of CFLs and LEDs
  • Energy usage is estimated to be around 70% more efficient than an incandescent
  • There is no mercury inside and the bulbs are easily recyclable
  • Unlike CFLs, they are fully dimmable and achieve full brightness as soon as they are turned on
  • Predicted lifespan around three times that of a incandescent

So, what's the catch? Well, the only strike against the ESL for now is the price. While no where near as expensive as an LED bulb, they are a little more expensive than a CFL at around twenty dollar per bulb.

Vu1 has just secured UL approval for the bulbs and plans to have them on the market early next year.

Image via Vu1.

November 08, 2010

Poll: Where Could You Save the Most Money?

Lately, my wife and I have been taking extra care with our spending habits, and really trying to analyze where our money goes each month. It's surprising how your standard of living can just ratchet up over time without you even realizing it. Several years back, we were living on much less and coming through each month just fine in terms of our savings.

There are a few different areas that we're targeting to see if we are spending more than what is sensible: food, transportation, entertainment, utilities. Already, we're finding that we can easily cut down on the amount of gas we use by running errands together over the weekends, and knocking them all out at once, rather than making several trips to different stores over the course of a few days. In addition, our entertainment and food expenses can be dramatically decreased just by making a schedule for when we eat out with friends and what we're going to have for dinner each night.

All in all, it's been an interesting exercise to see where most of our money is going, and we were certainly surprised by the results that we saw. I decided to make a poll to see where the WhiteFence Blog readers fell in this discussion. Where do you guys think you could stand to save the most money? Feel free to tell us more in the comments!

November 04, 2010

Would You Buy an Empty Bottle of Cleaner?

ReplenishIt turns out that only a fraction of the liquid in the cleaning products under your sink is actually cleaning chemicals. Water is the primary material in most cleaners, typically making up around 95% of the bulk.

When you buy a cleaner like that, not only do you have to pay for the water, but that water has to be transported to the manufacturing plant, then to the store and then to your home. That's a lot of wasted energy. It may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but if you add up all the fuel burned in order to move all of that water around for all of the cleaning products sold in the world, it adds up pretty quickly.

Another common source of waste with cleaning products is the bottles they come in. Those plastic bottles are not only made from petroleum products, but require fuel to be burned to produce and ship them. We usually just toss them in the trash once the cleaner is gone, which is silly if you think about it. After all, it's not like a bottle of cleaner is going to get dirty.

To help cut down on all of this waste, Replenish is selling a new line of cleaners with empty bottles. They come with concentrated pods of cleaner that snap onto the bottom of the bottle, completely cutting out all of the waste from the water. The bottles are designed to be reused for years, which further cuts down on waste. You just buy one kit at first and then buy refills as needed, filling the bottles with tap water.

Not only do you get to slash lots of waste, but you'll actually save money, too. Each kit costs eight bucks and contains enough cleaner for four bottles worth of water. Once you run out of cleaner, new pods cost just four bucks. If you do the math over a few years, that means each bottle's worth of cleaner is costing you around one dollar each.

Image via Replenish

November 02, 2010

Placing Smoke Alarms Around Your Home

Smoke-alarms Now that we've been in our house for just a few weeks over a year, it's time for my wife and I to start checking all of our smoke alarms. It's recommended that your home smoke detectors receive a new set of batteries once a year, so setting it around a yearly event such as a holiday (or in our case, the end of Daylight Savings this weekend) helps to keep track of it.

If you're wondering about the best places to put detectors, Charles & Hudson Home Security has a new blog post up about Where to Install Smoke Alarms in Your Home. Considering that each year, nearly two-thirds of all home fire deaths can be traced to improperly working smoke detectors, this is valuable information that could help you protect your family, yourself and your belongings.

Here's a rundown of the list:

  • Put a smoke alarm in each bedroom and on each floor of the house. Yes, that includes the basement!
  • Connect the alarms so that one alarm will trigger each one. That way you will be alerted if an alarm happens to go off somewhere that you would not have heard it before.
  • Smoke rises, so place alarms either on the ceiling or near the top of a wall. Too low and the warning could come too late.
  • Test your batteries each month, just in case!

Hopefully this list proves helpful for anybody that needs to re-inspect their smoke alarms in the near future. For more information, be sure to visit Charles & Hudson.

November 01, 2010

Find the Best Offer for Your Old Cell Phone in Seconds

Recycle Cell PhoneI don't know about you, but when I get a new cell phone, I just throw the old one in a box and forget about it. I'm not sure if it's that I want to keep it as a backup or if I'm slowly turning into one of those hoarders you see on TV, but that's just what I've always done.

The other day I was cleaning out some boxes in the garage and came across the mother lode of old cell phones. Between my wife and I, we'd amassed a collection of about 15 phones! Some were broken, some had been replaced when they became obsolete and some neither of us could remember owning (cell phone fairy?). It was a sorry pile of forlorn electronics and it got me thinking.

I knew the old phones could (and should) be recycled, but I was wondering if there was a way of getting a little cash in the process. I took to the Internet to research the topic, and came across EcoSquid. Just like how WhiteFence lets you compare offers on home services from multiple providers at once, EcoSquid lets you compare offers for your old cell phones from multiple buyers and recyclers at once.

Just head to EcoSquid, enter the details about your phone(s) and you'll get offers in just seconds. Depending on the age and condition, you may find that there are companies out there willing to pay you for your old phone. If not, the site will show you a variety of ways to easily recycle your cell phone locally or by mail. Either way, you can get a little clutter out of your house and feel good in the process.

As for my stack of old cell phones, about half are actually worth something, with a total value of around $50. The other half are too old or damaged to have any value and are due to be shipped off to various recyclers. While it may not be a fortune, I'm certainly happy to find $50. Maybe I can use it to upgrade my cell phone...

October 28, 2010

WhiteFence's Favorite Halloween Costume

WF HalloweenHalloween is now just a couple days away! Do you have your costume picked out yet? I don't. For some reason, I just can't get a good idea going this year. I've got nothing and I'm quickly running out of time.

With that in mind, I turned to my fellow WhiteFencers for some inspiration. I asked a group of co-workers what their favorite Halloween costume of all time was, whether it was something they had worn, something they'd dressed their kids (or pets) in, or just something cool they'd seen around.

Here are some favorites from around the office:

  • Monica, Manager of Marketing Content – My favorite Halloween costume as a child was when I went as Raggedy Ann. I was 8 years old and I had a HUGE Raggedy Ann doll, so that year I borrowed her clothes to make my costume. Yes I was that petite and the doll was that big.
  • Tara, Senior Manager of Paid Search – My favorite Halloween costume ever was when I put my English Bulldog—Delilah—in a tutu (my husband was not impressed)! She waddled sideways in embarrassment until we took it off! Poor thing... but a bulldog named Delilah just needs a tutu—seemed only fitting!
  • Amanda, Manager of Product Marketing – My favorite costume was my son’s first Halloween costume. He was 11 months old and the cutest giraffe ever! I dressed up as a ladybug, complete with antennae and wings, though it didn’t compare with how cute my little giraffe was!

    2 Giraffes
  • Eddy, Senior Copywriter – When I was a kid I dressed up one time as MC Hammer. My mom made me the Hammer pants, and I loved them so much I wore them the next day to school, where I was ridiculed for the rest of the week. I’m not sure why she let me leave the house like that. Now that I think about it, that’s probably not my favorite costume.
  • Molly, Web Designer – I tend to lean more towards animals than humans. I think mainly because it can be  more clever in my opinion! I think I may take my cow color-coated dog as an excuse to dress her up as the most hilarious dog costume I have ever seen:

    I think she can pull it off! Either that or a Chik-Fil-A cow.
  • Brooke, Manager of Paid Search – A favorite of mine was a group of children dressed as s'mores. They all wore black turtlenecks and pants, strapped white pillows to their chests and backs and topped it all off with sheets of cardboard over the pillows. For a costume that didn't cost anything, it sure had a lot of impact!

October 27, 2010

Choosing Secure Passwords Online

If you're anything like me, you get freaked out every time you hear stories of online security failures. Whether it's people getting their e-mail or Facebook accounts hacked, I just can't help but get a little more paranoid, wondering if all of my passwords could be compromised just as easily.

For the most part, I try to keep my passwords fairly complex while still easy to remember. I also don't use the same password for every single site I access. While these are fairly basic online security procedures, I'm sure there is much more that I'm unaware of.

That's why it's a good thing that Mozilla put out a recent video titled How to Choose Strong Passwords. It's got a handy guide to helping you choose passwords that are easy to remember, extremely secure and also different for all the sites you visit. It's definitely worth checking out if you're unsure about how secure your online accounts are.

Feel free to share your own thoughts about Internet security in the comments!

October 26, 2010

New Hybrid CFLs Reach Full Brightness Instantly

Hybrid CFLWhile millions of Americans have taken the plunge and swapped their traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), there are still a few issues with the bulbs keeping everyone from making the switch.

Two of the most common complaints are aesthetics and the time it takes the green bulbs to reach full brightness. We learned earlier this month that CFLs don't have to be ugly, and now GE has announced a new type of CFL that takes care of the brightness issue.

GE's solution is actually quite familiar to fans of eco-friendly consumer goods; it's a hybrid. There's no easy way to get the fluorescent element to brighten up any quicker, so this new design incorporates a second halogen element. Both elements turn on when you slip the switch, and once the fluorescent element comes up to full brightness, the halogen element shuts off. Quite an elegant solution, really.

There's no cost to energy efficiency for the new "instant on" feature, with the 15 and 20 watt bulbs planned for launch able to replace 60 and 75 watt incandescents, respectively. Product life shouldn't suffer either, with GE claiming the bulbs should be good for 8,000 hours. As a bonus, these new bulbs also have much less mercury than a standard CFL.

The new hybrid bulbs should be available next year, but there is no word on pricing yet.

Image via GE.

October 25, 2010

10 Free Ways to Learn More About Home Repair

Home-repair It is no secret to my friends and my loved ones that I'm the opposite of handy, whatever the name for that happens to be. There are some people that just seem to know how to do everything in the handyman's repertoire, and I'm just not one of them. Give me a hammer, and I'll find a way to put a hole in something. Tell me to hang something on the wall, and I'll stare back at you for a few absentminded moments with a blank look on my face. That's just the way it's always been for me.

However, I'm always up for the opportunity to learn more. I'm sure there are probably classes that do this kind of thing, but I never know where to start. For the handy-challenged like myself out there, MSN has put together a list of 10 Free Sources for Home Repair Know-How. This list is actually full of both practical suggestions such as volunteering with home building organizations or helping a handy neighbor. It also sports a few online resources such as Expert Village's YouTube account. No matter what tips you're looking for, you're sure to find something that meets your needs on the list.

For those of you that happen to be handier than the rest, what resources did you use to learn more about home repair and home improvement? Was it just one of those things where you had to jump in and get your hands dirty? Did you do any of the things on the list? Share in the comments!

To read more of the article, visit MSN. For help with home improvement, visit WhiteFence.

October 22, 2010

Control Any Device's Power Consumption With the Belkin Socket

Conserve SocketOver the last year, I've told you about Belkin's cool Conserve series of green products with articles on the Valet charging station and the Insight energy monitor. They're back again with another cool new product that can slay even more energy vampires.

The Conserve Socket is a simple gadget that plug in between your wall socket and a device you want to control. You set a timer and once that timer is up, it will cut off all electricity to whatever you have plugged in. It has three different settings: 30 minutes, three hours and six hours.

The applications are pretty diverse. For traditional energy vampires like a cell phone charger, it functions the same way as the Valet charging station by cutting off the small trickle of power that flows through a charger when it's not charging. But you also can use the Socket with things like lights and fans, leaving them on for a little while without having to leave them on indefinitely.  You can even use it with curling irons and hair straighteners to prevent fires.

The Conserve Socket is available now for $9.99 from the Belkin store.

Image via Belkin.

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