How to cut $21 Billion a year in healthcare costs

When I was a kid, a lot more people smoked.  But they usually knew that it was bad for you and smelly.  When they asked my parents if they would mind if they smoked, My dad would simply say, “go right ahead – but don’t exhale”.  It seems a lot of city dwellers are getting fed up with cars and trucks that exhale a whole lot more smoke.  Several European Countries are moving towards banning all new sales of internal combustion engines.  Parisians may be among the first to breathe a collective sigh of relief from air and noise pollution as the city is considering an outright ban of all diesel engines.

As a society, our continued failure is the right to clean air.  Something I learned at a young age when I worked in nuclear power, “for every failure, there is a root cause”.  While I don’t think that health care is a “right”, I do agree that the costs are out of control.  In the United States, per capita health care costs are among the highest on the planet.  It turns out, the majority of health care costs are directly related to pollution.  According to the latest report by the American Lung Association (ALA), air pollution directly accounts for: 220,000 days of missed work, 109,000 asthma-related attacks and 2,580 premature deaths per annum.  Putting a price tag on all that adds up to $21 billion a year – in just 10 states.  The primary source is burning of fossil fuels in cars and power plants.

While the ALA report promotes a more complex and gradual policy shift, I firmly believe the easier solution is to put that cost directly on the source – right at the gas pumps or the utility meter.  Then, a special health fund would go directly to, and only to, asthma and lung-related costs for consumers in the communities where the energy was purchased.  In some cases, such as near ports, special toll road fees could be deployed.  Consumers would quickly shift from fossil fueled cars and homes to zero emission counterparts.   The fund would decline over time, but so would demand – to the benefit of us all.  While I’m not a “policy wonk”, I can’t think of anything more democratic and straight forward than that.

On a personal note: we replaced our two family vehicles with an all electric for local commuting and a hybrid for the long hauls.  The all electric is by far the vehicle of choice – fast, quiet, comfortable, no smog checks, oil changes or trips to the gas station – ever!

Hackers Infect Cameras, DVRs to Pull off Massive Internet Breach

With the internet becoming integral to just about everything in our lives, building owners are connecting their buildings and machines – the Internet of Things (IoT).  With this, is a mad rush by vendors, big and small to launch wireless products.  Unfortunately, almost all of them are doing it wrong. Google’s Nest, EcoBee, enOcean and Daintree offer wireless thermostats and lighting controls.  But, they are utilizing the customer’s own WiFi network which opens up significant risk for both the customer and the installer.

How much risk?  A lot….  On September 30th, hackers took control of WiFi connected security cameras and video recorders to launch one of the biggest Internet attacks in history. The unprecedented attack raised serious questions about how the Internet will cope with a flood of connected and vulnerable devices expected to come online in the next few years.  Read more…

As if the privacy risk alone wasn’t bad enough, using the customer’s WiFi can even be in direct violation of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) laws.

Enter Fácil.  At the backbone of its deep energy savings capabilities is the inherently secure wireless controls platform.  Like others, it uses wireless switches and thermostats to connect to control relays wired to light fixtures and a/c units.  It then mashes up data points like usage trends, occupancy, external environmental data and more to learn and make management really easy (fácil).  But the big difference is in the security and cost.  The communications and internals are vastly more secure than others.  Communications are completely separate and do not conflict with the crowded and vulnerable 802.11 WiFi band.  The communications chipsets have patented security unlike others.  Without getting extremely technical, it’s kind of like comparing modern smart chip credit cards (that initiate a new dynamic ID every transaction) to old static magnetic strips (that can easily be duplicated and spoofed again and again).

One of the best parts is that being wireless (and highly secure) actually has many advantages over even wired solutions.  First and foremost,  install (cap-ex) costs are cut by 70% compared to wired and 30% – 50% compared to semi-wireless offerings flooding the market.  Second, Renovation costs are almost insignificant.  With the rise of flexible office space, it’s becoming a necessity to have wireless in order to compete.  Third, If your wired system is connected to WiFi such as at EcoBee of other big box thermostats – think again.  Your network security is only as good as your weakest link.

So, whatever you do, just make darn sure your IT manager is up to speed on compliance and signs off on your controls upgrades, confirming they meet the highest security standards”.  Just ask the giant retailer, “Target” how hard that lesson was to learn…


Is cleaning solar panels worth the cost?

Many solar power owners ask, is cleaning panels worth the cost?  Until now – no.

Let’s face it, all panels get dirty. They’re outdoors.  All you have to do is drive around any neighborhood and look at rooftop panels to see the dirt buildup, especially around the bottom third of each panel.  Studies by UC San Diego and Atonometrics have proven annual production to diminish 6% – 11% depending on dust and air borne pollutants like smog and soot.  For residential customers, this may not be a big deal.  But for a business or utility?  A 6% – 11% drop in revenue is (and should be) a big deal!

While most residential owners would like higher production, getting a water hose extension long enough is too unwieldy and climbing up on a ladder or sloped roof trying to reach the high spots is too unsafe.  Commercial owners would also like higher production, but the production savings is usually negated by the cleaning costs or halted by environmental runoff regulations.  Besides, do you really want a lot of foot traffic on your roof, creating potential leaks?  For utility-scale owners who monitor production like a hawk, a truck spraying de-ionized water or a chemical solution does the trick.  But that cost erodes the savings too.

There just hasn’t been a workable solution – until now.

3fficient’s clean-tech incubator has launched a modern nano-technology that keeps panels super clean, thus increasing solar yields 6 – 11%.  It’s a “coat it and forget it” solution.  This nano-coating is applied to solar panels and keeps them clean and spot free for up to ten (10) years.  The nano-coating can be applied to panels at the factory or job site prior to install, or afterwards on the rooftop.  It can be re-applied in the future to add another decade of high productivity.   The clear liquid solution is literally painted onto the clean glass surface and dries in 2 minutes. The anti-static properties repel most dust and dirt.  The super hydrophylic properties repel water drops so any heavy debris like bird droppings are carried off with the morning dew or next rain.  3fficient offers a similar product for skylights, glass windows, windshields and doors.

To request a quote for PermaClean, click here.

High performance windows for the price of tint.

As the sun bears down on our buildings or cars, most people reach for the thermostat instead of stopping the heat BEFORE it gets inside your space.  Luckily, there’s a great new solution that will not only keep you comfortable, but will save your furnishings, your pocketbook and the environment.  If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then you are a good candidate for this low cost “upgrade”.

  • I want to see through my windows or glass and don’t want the view obscured or diminished.
  • I want my windows to allow natural light in to reduce lighting costs and make my space feel healthier.
  • I want my windows to block 100% of UV light to protect my flooring and furnishings from being ruined.
  • I want my windows to block heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter to reduce a/c costs.
  • I want a solution that is really durable, but a lot cheaper than installing triple pane glass with low-e coatings

Read more to see how liquid nano-tint coatings can be “painted” on to almost any glass or plastic surface to give it the same thermal properties as replacing the entire window system.

Blockchain-based microgrid gives power to consumers

A new project in New York City is letting residents buy and sell renewable energy to each other, bypassing the central authority and the associated costs.  Could this be the future of distributed energy?  If so, what are the impediments?

Who will maintain the wires or distribution between buildings?  That should be the job of the utility distribution company and can be competitively bid by cities or counties.  It can also be managed by the municipal utility as is currently done in many cities already.  But, for pricing to be truly transparent, they should not own any generation.  Energy supply should be on the open market and priced competitively with full effects priced into the product.  For example, many states have outlawed smoking in public places.  Power generation should not be exempted.  Any waste or emission should be the responsibility of the generator.  In other words, no smoking allowed…

When will renewable energy be as reliable as we have come to expect from fossil fuels?   In some cases it already is, even at the granular rooftop level.  In very sunny climates, solar is very consistent.  With automatic load management and limited storage, it’s sufficient enough to be off grid altogether.  Perhaps a better question is, “Does solar really need to be as reliable as fossil fuel power plants?”  As more and more devices become unplugged, like project FreeCharge is doing, communities are realizing that the in many ways, distributed solar power is more reliable and resilient than central station fossil-fueled power plants.  Just ask the residents of New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Read more about peer-to-peer energy transactions.


Crown Estate rolls out smart street furniture in shopping parks

The Crown Estate invests in smartphone charging benches at two of its Lifestyle retail parks.  Customers at both the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park and the MK1 Shopping Park in Milton Keynes will be able to charge their phones using smart benches.  The Crown Estate has rolled out smart benches at two of its Lifestyle retail parks – one of 14 retail parks managed by the company. The benches are designed by Strawberry Energy and sold in the US, Canada and Mexico by  They can charge Android, iPhones and other devices with USB connections.  Read more…

How US coastline would change when the ice melts

According to estimates of the worst-case scenario, global sea levels will rise by up to 10 feet in the next century.  That may not seem like much, but it threatens millions of citizens in coastal communities and will result in billions of dollars in construction costs.  Then again, maybe that’s what big infrastructure companies and unions want.  The bigger problem is the global temperature changes causing all this melting is destroying natural resources and the food chain we all depend on…  How US coastline would change when all ice melts – Business Insider

Feds: Drought kills 66 million trees in California’s Sierra

The number of trees in California’s Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people’s lives, officials said Wednesday.

The root cause – man made climate change.  The more fossil fuels we burn, the more pollution causing the greenhouse effect on this fragile planet.  The result is higher average temperatures, extended droughts and then come the bugs and infestations.  All we have to do is say yes to more efficiency, yes to renewables and no to fossil fuels.  It’s that simple.

Details: Feds: Drought kills 66 million trees in California’s Sierra |

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah – seriously…

When it comes to comedy, Jimmy Kimmel is right up there.  Now my new favorites are climate scientists.   As Jimmy says, ” they are people just like you and I but smarter”.  I just wish they were truly joking.   You have to watch this excerpt all the way to the end….  Then check out what you can do to help.