Posts tagged ‘power’

Niagara Falls Water Volume is Lower at Night

By Chad Upton | Editor

The magnificent waterfalls known as Niagara falls are split on the US/Canada border. People come to see massive amounts of water flowing over the falls and that’s exactly what they get, during the day.

While the falls are a popular tourist attraction, many people don’t know the water is an important source of power. There is one power company on each side of the border that draws water from above the falls to turn their generators.

Unfortunately, drawing water from the river above the falls can impact what the falls look like.

During the tourist season (April to October), the power companies must maintain the water flow over the falls at 100,000 cubic feet per second. That’s not very difficult since the river has a natural flow of about 212,000 cubic feet per second on a typical summer day. That means they normally draw about 100,000 cubic feet per second for power generation and allow that same amount over the falls.

But at night, they can draw even more water and lower the flow at the falls to about 50,000 cubic feet per second. This extra flow allows them to turn their turbines and fill up their reservoirs so they have more water after the tourism flow is restored in the morning. Since the falls erode about two feet per year, drawing extra water at night also slows erosion so the falls will be around for many generations to come.

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Image: Alberto Mari (cc)

Source: NiagaraFrontier.com

August 26, 2011 at 3:00 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

Shoes on Power Lines

By Chad Upton

Tying shoes together by their laces and throwing them onto overhead lines is known as “shoefiti” (shoe + graffiti).

Shoefiti started in the United States and spread throughout the world, the photo above was taken in Berlin.

There is no single reason why people do this, there are many reasons.

When sneakers are festooned on power lines in rough neighborhoods, the conclusion for their presence is often crime related. Some believe they mark crack houses where you can get your fix or some free shoes via ladder. Others say they are shoes that belong to (or hang in memory of) a murder victim. Some say they are for marking gang turf, but Tucson Arizona police have denied that and flagged the turf marker idea as myth.

They did mention that many shoes are removed each week, since they are unsightly and can cause damage to the lines.

They also said that the volume of shoes increases during the summer break from school. A couple of stories have been told that may support this. One is that of tradition, shoes are thrown on power lines to celebrate the last day of school or graduation. Teenage boys have also been said to do this when they lose their virginity.

Perhaps the oldest story about the origin of shoefiti claims it was tradition for soldiers to hang their boots on the power lines at base when they completed basic training, went home on leave or left the service entirely.

In some movies, it’s the school bully who steals your shoes and throws them onto the lines. There are also stories of kids retiring their own shoes when they get a new pair.

Chances are good that the people who are doing it now have no idea why their predecessors did it.

Some people may think it’s a harmless tradition, but the shoes can disrupt utility services by adding weight to the lines which causes them to sag and potentially touch other lines or trees, which could also result in fire.

If you want to remove shoes from the lines, because you want your kicks back or you just want to clear the eyesore, you should call the utility company to do it — a few Darwin Award candidates have earned their nomination trying to DIY their shoes back.

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Sources: About.com, Snopes, Straight Dope, Wikipedia

Photo: edkohler

July 15, 2010 at 5:00 am 11 comments


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