Posts filed under ‘Be Efficient’

The Dropped Call Rules

By Chad Upton | Editor

No matter which mobile phone carrier you use, you’ll eventually drop a call with somebody. Even if you don’t have a cellphone, you still have to deal with dropped calls when you’re talking with people who do.

Sometimes you both try to call each other at the same time and get each other’s voicemail. Other times, you try to call the other person and they’re still talking away, oblivious to the fact that the call was dropped.

Rule #1: Whoever initiated the call, initiates the call back after a dropped call.

To some, this rule is obvious. But, it needs to be stated to remove any confusion and prevent the double voicemail dilemma.

Rule #2: Whoever was listening when the call was dropped, remembers the last sentence the other person said.

This is less obvious, but since the listener is the only one who knows exactly when the call was dropped; they need to remember the last sentence or at least the topic — this may be the same person who needs to call the other person back.

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Photo: addicted eyes (cc)

December 8, 2011 at 2:00 am 3 comments

The Fastest Way to Fold a Shirt

By Chad Upton | Editor

Whenever I see neatly folded shirts in a clothing store, I wonder how they fold the shirts so perfectly.

One time, I noticed an employee using a piece of wood to help them. But, this video demonstrates the fastest and most mind blowing way to perfectly fold a shirt.

If you’re viewing this post on a device that doesn’t support video, pinch the shirt in the two locations shown in the following photo.

Then, carry your left hand over your right hand and pinch the bottom of the shirt inline with the two pinch points you already have. Then, lift up and let the shirt fall into a perfect square. Place the lowest edge on a table and fold over that edge so the front logo is facing up.

Voila.

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March 30, 2011 at 2:00 am 10 comments

Air Conditioning Affects Gas Mileage

By Chad Upton | Editor

In most cars, the air conditioner’s compressor is powered by a drive belt on the engine. When the air conditioner is activated, the compressor adds resistance to your engine. That extra resistance means your engine requires more fuel to turn at the same speed.

In other words, using your air conditioner burns more gas than not using it. Modern cars have very efficient air conditioners, but this truth still stands.

On a hot summer day, you have to keep cool. Does that mean it’s more fuel efficient to drive with your windows down?

Yes and no.

The Society of Automotive Engineers performed a study that examined this question in detail. They performed wind tunnel and track experiments comparing a car and an SUV. With the windows down, the car was half as efficient at 50 mph (80 km/h) than the SUV’s at 30 mph (50 km/h). It’s clear that driving the car with windows down has a dramatic effect on fuel economy, but it affected the SUV even more, especially when a 10 mph (16 km/h) crosswind was added in the wind tunnel.

Consumer Reports found that below 40 mph (65 km/h), drivers are better off with their windows down and air conditioner off.

Jason Toews from GasBuddy.com found at speeds above 45 mph (70 km/h), “wind drag becomes an issue.” He says, “Drive at speeds over 55 mph with windows down and you’ll decrease fuel economy by up to 20 percent or greater.”

Myth Busters has also looked at this issue on a couple occasions. The first time around, their methodology was flawed, so they tried it a second time. The second time, they came to the same conclusion as Consumer Reports and GasBuddy, that windows down are more efficient than running the air conditioner at speeds less than 45-55 mph (70-90 km/h) and the drag at higher speeds makes the air conditioner the more efficient option.

Of course, results vary by vehicle.

There are many factors other than windows and air conditioning that affect fuel economy: drive train, power-train, body aerodynamics and tire rolling resistance. If you want to know exactly how it affects your car, you might try experimenting for yourself. Some cars have a driver information center that displays fuel economy, otherwise you could order an after market product, such as CarChip Pro ($75-$85), which may help you get that data. If you’re interested, some of these are explored in more detail in another post, The Ideal Vehicle Speed for Best Fuel Economy.

If it’s hot outside, you should probably start with your windows down anyway. This gives your air conditioner a bit of a break by clearing the extremely hot air out of the car first.

Do prefer windows down or the air conditioner on?

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Sources: SAE (PDF), MythBusters (Ep 22, Ep 38), Edmunds, Bankrate, Consumer Reports, Missouri Gov

Photo: Tomás Fano (cc)

August 10, 2010 at 5:00 am 12 comments

How to Take the Bone Out of a Chicken Wing

By Chad Upton | Editor

When we want to know how to do things right, we look to the professionals.

For example, if you want to peel a banana easily and with minimal strings, you’d learn how a monkey does it.

The same goes for eating chicken wings. There are plenty of professional food eaters, who win contests by eating food as quickly as possible. Some of these techniques were developed by them.

Here’s one great way to get the bones out of a wing:

Here’s a way to eat it with one hand, keeping your other hand free for your 6 shooter, beer mug or tums. You can skip to the 20 second mark on this one:

For those reading this on a device that doesn’t support video, the first video demonstrates removing the bones from a flat chicken wing. Grab the smaller bone and twist it back and forth a couple times, then pull it out. Then do the same for the larger bone, you’re left with all meat and no bones. The second video shows a man placing an entire flat wing in his mouth, biting down and pulling the chicken off the bones and he pulls it out of his mouth.

Thanks to Janine for suggesting this one.

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Photo: Charles Haynes (cc)

August 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Your Dryer’s Lint Filter Should Be Washed

By Kaye Nemec | Contributor

Hopefully, you already know you need to clean the lint filter in your dryer after every couple uses. This maximizes efficiency and reduces a potential fire hazard. But, did you know that washing your lint filter every six months can further improve the performance of your dryer and also increase its lifespan?

A standard, tumble dryer has a fan that pulls fresh air into the dryer where it is heated to evaporate the moisture in your clothes. The warm air and the moisture then pass through
your lint filter where anything that was picked up with the tumbling motion is trapped. From there, the air is sent outside and the cycle starts over again with fresh air.

If you don’t clean your lint filter between uses, the flow of this moist, warm air is restricted and your dryer is much less efficient. What you probably didn’t know is that
the dryer sheets you throw in with each load of wet clothes are covered with a silicone based film that, overtime, also builds up on your lint filter and causes your dryer to work less efficiently.

Don’t believe me? Take your lint filter out and run some warm water over it. Is it pooling up on top and not draining through? Is there just a slow trickle of water passing through the screen? Odds are, the water is not rushing through as it would on a normal screen.

To wash your lint filter, try the following:

  1. Remove your lint filter from your dryer.
  2. Wash the screen with warm soapy water. You can use a soft brush (an old toothbrush works) but don’t put too much pressure on the screen.
  3. Hand dry the screen and leave it out until it’s completely dry.
  4. Reinstall the filter into your dryer.

You can clean your filter as needed or every 6 months to a year.

Some dryers also have moisture sensors (the black object in the photo) and the film can build up on those as well. To make sure your sensor continues to work efficiently, you can clean it with a little bit of detergent and a soft brush.

With the variety of dryers available today, you should confirm the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations in your owner’s manual first.

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Sources: Snopes.com, eHow.com

Photo: p0ps Harlow (cc)

August 5, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

How to Increase Mobile Phone Battery Life

By Chad Upton | Editor

Sometimes, you’re far from your charger and won’t be back anytime soon. Here are some tips to extend your battery when it’s running low.

Not all of these tips will apply to all phones, so use the ones that match the features on your phone. If your phone, camera or other gadgets frequently run out of power while you’re away from an outlet, consider an economical backup battery charger.

Turn Off 3G and Data

Most data capable phones can operate in different modes. If you turn off the high-speed wireless data mode, such as 3G, you will significantly reduce the power your phone consumes. This is the single biggest thing I find affects battery consumption.

Dim the Screen

The screen’s backlight uses a lot of power, keeping it off as much as possible will extend battery life. On the iPhone, press the top button, on many BlackBerrys, press ALT + ENTER to lock the keyboard and shutoff the screen. If your phone has an option to adjust the brightness, dim it. If it has auto-brightness, enable it. If you can set an “auto off” time then set it to the shortest time allowed.

Text Message Instead of Calling

If you can get away with communicating by text message, this can save power too. Although, it does require your screen, so short messages are better. These messages are embedded in the signals that your phone is already sending and receiving to normally communicate with the mobile network, even when you’re not using the phone, so it’s a very efficient way to communicate.

Turn Wifi and Bluetooth Off

Wifi and Bluetooth are great conveniences, but when you’re away from your charger and worried about losing phone capabilities, they’re a luxury that can go. Most phones with these features, have an option to disable them.

Don’t Play Games or Music

Well designed mobile phone processors have a low power mode that sips power when the phone is waiting for incoming calls in standby mode. Playing games requires the processor to work at its limit, which requires a lot more energy than standby mode. The same goes for playing music, especially if they’re compressed, high bit-rate or encrypted or drm protected music files — extra processing is needed to process these files and power the headphones or internal speaker.

Stop Background Apps

Some background apps use more power than others, it really comes down to the hardware in the phone the app is using (ex GPS) and how processor intensive the activity is.

Generally, if you’re trying to save power, closing the apps you don’t need can save power. This mostly applies to BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile devices.

It isn’t as important on iPhone since background apps aren’t true background apps, they have limited capabilities and therefore don’t consume a significant amount of battery power. That said, if you have a GPS tracking, VOIP or a music playing app running in the background, it could use significant amounts of power over long periods of time and it should be closed.

If you have any other ideas, drop them in the comments. Thanks to Kraig Brachman for suggesting this secret.

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August 4, 2010 at 5:00 am 58 comments

Lights Use More Energy While Turning On

By Chad Upton | Editor

There is a belief that it takes more energy to turn a light bulb on than it does to leave it running. That is true.

But, in some cases it’s still more energy efficient to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

That’s because the spike of additional electricity that is used to turn on a light bulb, is very short lived. That extra energy varies depending on the type of light bulb.

For most bulb types, the extra energy is equivalent to less than one second of energy that is consumed while the light is on. That means, you’d have to leave the room and return within one second to save energy by leaving the light turned on.

The one exception is fluorescent tubes (not compact fluorescents), they require a lot more energy to turn on than they consume while running normally.

Depending on the source of the information, fluorescents use energy equivalent to 5 to 24 seconds of regular use, just to power up. Therefore, if you use fluorescent tubes, there would be times when it would be more efficient to leave them on than turn them off.

If you have a large room that is lit with fluorescent tubes and you were going to leave the room for a few minutes or less, it would be more efficient to leave them on instead of turning them off and then back on when you return. But, if you’re leaving for more than that, you should shut them off.

That said, turning lights on and off does cause wear and tear on the bulbs. LED “bulbs”, which are now available at most hardware stores, are most resilient to this type of wear and tear.

Incandescent bulbs are extremely cheap, so the cost of replacing these bulbs isn’t an important consideration, although the environmental impact may be. But, it is important to consider this wear and tear for more expensive bulbs such as compact fluorescents. It is for this reason that the EPA recommends that compact fluorescent lights are used in areas where they will usually be turned on for at least 15 minutes at a time. This will contribute to bulb lifespan.

Although I used a couple other sources for this post, Mythbusters did some great experiments on this subject and I’ve embedded the video if you’d like to watch it.

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Sources: Mythbusters, EPA, EnergyStar (PDF)

July 30, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

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