Bloom Box: a practical, clean energy solution for homes?

Photo via CNET.

Like many people, I just started hearing about the Bloom Box from Bloom Energy. It isn’t the first time that 60 Minutes has come up with a story about some type of miraculous energy source that seems too good to be true.

Indeed, free energy scams are as old as energy itself!

But here’s why the Bloom Box isn’t actually a scam. It doesn’t ever claim to be a device that creates free energy. It’s just a fuel cell device that makes ultra efficient use of methane or natural gas to generate electricity cheaper and cleaner than buying it from the grid.

And look who is actually using these devices right now:

Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Google, Staples, Ebay, FedEx and others. These are real companies, using a real, functioning device.

Makes you wonder things like, how well would it run on propane? Could you power an entire house off the grid? And how long would the propane last?

Would it be cheaper and/or cleaner if you have a natural gas hookup at your home to use a Bloom Box to generate your electricity instead of getting it from the grid?

How much will they cost for one suitable for a house? What will the payback time be in years?

Want to learn more about the Bloom Box?

The Bloom Energy official web site is starting to offer more details about the device, now that they are actively seeking out media coverage.

CBS 60 Minutes had a segment about the Bloom Box.

CNET has also been covering the Bloom Box, and even live blogged one of their media events.

Readers, do you have anything interesting to say about the Bloom Box?

The right power cords save power and money

Photo courtesy of abrunglinghaus at

Many of us have a blind spot for extension cords. We tend to treat these power cables as interchangeable parts, but not all extension cords are the same.

Length is important. The longer the extension cord you use, the more energy is lost in transmission. If you only need to add 5 feet, it doesn’t make any sense to use a 100′ cord!

The thickness of the wire is also important. Thin cords lose power faster, and they can also heat up dangerously with heavy power loads. When using extension cords, it’s important to make sure that the wire is thick enough to safely and efficiently conduct electricity. Wire thickness is often referred to as “gauge”.

Gauge numbers are rather tricky. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, thicker wires have a low gauge, and thin wires have a high gauge. Many power cords are available in 18, 16, 14, and 12 gauge sizes. Of these choices, 18 is the thinnest and 12 is the thickest. Thicker wires are generally more expensive, but they can save substantial amounts of electricity. Thick electric wire can also handle higher amperages than thin wires without bursting into flames. That’s good to know if you want to avoid burning your house down or melting your tools.

So, know your cords! Pay attention to cord gauge and length, and they’ll pay you back with a reduced electric bill.

Photo courtesy of ClintJCL at

Solar powered cars on the horizon?

Flickr photo courtesy of Rodrigo Walker Armijo.

The Christian Science Monitor writes about developments in technology that are bringing us closer to the possibility of solar powered cars!

The ranks of potential buyers for such cars are growing by leaps and bounds, say many car-industry analysts. But don’t look for them on normal streets just yet, they add quickly. Limitations of batteries and solar panels — though lessening — are still issues, among others.

Yet “fringe markets” — such as commuters within small towns, seniors in retirement villages, and users of industry fleets — are in a position to drive the first sales boomlet for such cars, analysts say.

Until then, Titus and other inventor-tinkerer types are offering a peek into the future of transportation in America – well before the major car companies.

“Garage tinkerers like Titus are the tip of an iceberg of innovation demonstrating the direction of the national, global trend,” says Steven Letendre, professor of business, economics, and environment at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., who lectures widely on the future of electric and hybrid cars and solar energy.

In fact, their ideas are increasingly showing up in the mass-market innovations of larger car companies, Letendre and others say. America’s Ford Motor Co., Japan’s Mazda, and Europe’s Venturi Motors have all debuted prototypes at exhibitions with solar panels that boost electricity for internal lighting.

I did a quick search and found that the Solar Bug has a web site with more information about it. Check it out here. I was disappointed to find out that they don’t have any prices listed on the site. It says “Available 2008” on the front page though. This would be a perfect short commute car for taking to work.