Friday, November 13, 2009

Best Inventions of 2009

You know the year is almost over when people start compiling lists. I especially like Time's 50 Best Inventions of 2009. My personal energy-related favorites are below...

A thermostat that is (possibly) smarter than me:

A couple of years ago, Seth Frader-Thompson was driving a Prius. Priuses have little screens on the dashboard that tell you what gas mileage you're getting, in real time, as you drive. It crossed Frader-Thompson's mind that houses should have something similar. So he built the EnergyHub Dashboard, a little device, with a screen, that can talk wirelessly to your furnace and your various appliances and let you know exactly how much electricity (or gas) each one is using and how much it's costing you. It can also turn appliances on and off and raise or lower the temperature in your house so you can rein in the real power hogs. EnergyHub is currently partnering with utilities for trials and will be available direct to consumers in early 2010.

The best lightbulb EVER!

With the flick of a switch, Philips Electronics may have just dramatically lowered America's electric bill. In September the Dutch electronics giant became the first to enter the U.S. Department of Energy's L Prize competition, which seeks an LED alternative to the common 60-watt bulb. Sixty-watt lights account for 50% of the domestic incandescent market; if they were replaced by LED bulbs, the U.S. could save enough electricity per year to light 17.4 million households. If Philips wins the L Prize, it will claim a cash award and federal purchasing agreements worth about $10 million.

Philips' LED bulb emits the same amount of light as its incandescent equivalent but uses less than 10 watts and lasts for 25,000 hours — or 25 times as long

Finally! A fan you can stick your fingers in!

Ever since Schuyler Skaats Wheeler introduced the electric fan 127 years ago, there hasn't been much innovation in the field. The old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind. But who ever said it was perfect? Certainly not James Dyson, which leads us to the bladeless, nonbuffeting Air Multiplier. Air is pulled in through vents in the base and then pushed out by a hidden impeller over a circular airfoil-shaped ramp that runs inside the rim of the halo, creating an uninterrupted stream of cool air. Because it's bladeless, the Air Multiplier is safer than conventional fans, and it retains normal functions like tilt, oscillation and speed control. It looks cooler too.

Behold the Human Powered Vending Machine:

When it comes to building a healthier vending machine, lesser minds have considered only swapping out the sodas and Snickers for apples and granola bars. But Pep Torres has a better idea. At his Barcelona workshop, Stereo-Noise, he attached a stationary bicycle to a vending machine so a customer who wants a product would have to pedal a certain distance to get it. Thus far, Stereo-Noise has had just one taker — a Spanish baked-goods company — but Torres has high hopes for the device. "We'd like to see it in subway stations and schools," he says. "That way, people can eat their potato chips and still get in shape."

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