May 2008

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I'm sure you've all seen the Al Gore vs. George Bush email. If not, check it out on Snopes -

Bush uses Geothermal energy to heat his pool and cool his home. He didn't do this to earn Nobel and Oscar prizes. He did this for practical reasons, since the house is in a hot, dry area.


I don't care about what idea is new or feasible, but I belive you are right the energy crisis is a failure of imagnation.

Just Me

In Toronto they're pumping cold water out of Lake Ontario and using it to cool office towers in the summer. THen the water gets pumped into our drinking water system. And no, it's not boiling hot when it comes out of the tap.



Plus the Jailer window helps to keep your kids from sneaking out at night!


I have wondered for some time now about attaching a little hydroelectric generator to my toilet.
Every flush causes 8 litres of water to flow downward, so it could be used to charge a battery and light the room the next time I take a whizz.
I also think tall buildings should have wind powered generators on their roofs; Tokyo City government is giving tax breaks to buildings that put gardens on their roofs, to increase CO2 output.

And this is creative,,,

Tony in Japan


> I often think the energy crisis is a failure of imagination.

Sorry to stomp your buzz, but this means you are often wrong.


sorry scott, but the underground heat thing has already been done:

i'm pretty sure this can also be used to cool your house


Also we need to find a way to take advantage of all the energy people expend at a gym. Surely it wouldn't be hard to make a machine that turns some turbines at X resistance when you select Xlbs to lift.


I live in Spain, where the climate is similar to that of California, with temperate to cold winters and hot dry summers. The traditional solution here, in country houses, is thick walls made of clay bricks (up to 2-3 ft thick). Let the wall's thermal inertia do the trick. It helps keeping the house warm in winter and fresh in summer. And keeps the siegers out.

Else, to avoid warming in the summer, the inside of the house is kept in shadows and closed in the day's middle hours, and windows are opened only in the night and evening. A big mistake is to force an air circulation during the hotter hours through opening windows. It ruins the shielding effect of the thick walls: you would be changing cold air for hot air. We're talking about mid-summer temperatures in the sun over 55 ºC (130+ ºF) The walls outside are painted dark in cold winter areas, and white in hot summer zones.

I guess the original idea was to dig a hole in the ground and go living there, but somehow it became unfashionable. Maybe we were too lazy to dig that much in heavy soils, or the houses tended to get flooded, or the enemies found too easy to fill it with rocks, or just we aren't hobbits.

Joel Odom

I can't believe there's no mention anywhere in this post or on the page of nuclear power (insert banal radioactive fish joke here). Reducing demand through technological innovation (LED lights, geothermal, etc.) is a great idea, but we need to hit the problem from the supply side, too.


I agree, a lack of imagination. But check this for some inspiration; cradle to cradle.


My comment was to your question "How hard could that be?". Hard in the context of having the know-how to do it? I don't think it is very hard at all. Hard in the context to justify the cost and effort for the benefit gained. I think so in the current economic environment.

However, I think this is changing as being "green" is becoming more cool.

It is stuff like this where we need a benevolent dictatorship to set the course to gain efficiencies one small step at a time when there is little profit in each of the actions. Yes, I love the USA *waves his flag lapel in the air* and the freedoms we have. No other country I want to be in.

Yet, our government is very inefficient. If we could could cut through some of the layers, we could take advantage of many opportunities to save/produce energy. Then again, I do fear that this solution is worse than the current problem. At least with our form of government it takes some effort and time for that many idiots to screw things up.


free air conditioning by using the earth? this nuclear physicist has a website giving the details--and yes, hes from California

ramesh kashyap

I found a similar solution...albeit a bit different. The engineer wanted to put huge windows in my house. I told him to put a sunlight instead, so there is very little dependence on electricity even when the outside light is low.
Simple solutions are there as long as you are prepared to look

jamie sangster

In Toronto several of the large office buildings are now cooled by pumping in water from deep in the lake where it stays cold all year. This is great for corporations but the start up cost for it, and for geothermal units is too much for average families, even if it does save in the long run.


Some itsy bitsy hole with a bit of thermal mass? Mate, you gotta visit Coober Pedy (South Australia). There, they don't dig a hole under the house; they put the house in the hole. Living underground, it's the cool thing to do if you're serious about aircon – free cooling.

Anarchy In Your Head

People don't care until they get hit hard enough in the wallet. I've actually become quite the carpooler lately and that just took gas getting expensive enough at the same time that I'm not making much money due to a personal artistic sabbatical. As energy costs go up, particularly oil, the market will drive the demand for both existing (there are a lot) and new technologies. As demand rises, costs will go down quite a bit (contrary to the general rule) from the benefits of scaling production. It's like VCRs and cellphones and what not. They were expensive luxury items for a little while until they caught on.


The elevator thing is non-practical for two reasons

1) The guy was lifted int he first place
2) Lifts are counter-weighted, so effectively all the motor does is overcome friction and lift the difference (interestingly, a cable is slung under the lift and counterweight, and hangs loose - this is to stop the load on each side changing as the lift moves).

Heat pumps can be used, as others have pointed out. The trouble is that though these have lower running costs, they need to be installed at build time for economy. Retrofitting is expensive, as there is a house in the way.

Straight conduction isn't tremendously good, you'd have better results by digging down a bit, but people tend to like sunlight and windows.

William Tell

I have always wondered why elevator doors are closed when waiting at a floor. Think of all the energy saved if the door would stay open. Also, elevators need a "cancel" button, for when you press the wrong floor.

Sabine Dinis Blochberger

No, no, it's great to reiterate useful ideas! Some people still do't "get it" - they have AC, so why bother.

Anyway, you can use some underground pipes to keep your inhouse temperature stable winter or summer, it doesn't matter if it doesn't freeze there. These pipes don't go so far down where it start to get hot (which is geothermic energy).

Good isolation of walls and avoiding heatbridges is also a good idea (tm) ;)

And I totally agree that the energy crisis/global warming are to a large degree due to carelessness/uninventiveness (the need being the mother of such) etc.

Scatman Dan

Most of that energy goes into adding potential energy to the counterweight, by lifting it: energy that can then be re-used to lift the next person up a few floors. It's not perfect - no energy conservation system is - but it's pretty damn good as far as they go.


Actually I think California does a pretty good job integrating energy efficiency into the building codes, particularly for commercial buildings. I can't find a reference, but I think I heard on NPR recently that per capita energy consumption has not increased in California since around 1980. That's pretty impressive, if true, considering the increased reliance on technology.


I red about a project -I don't remember if it was Chicago or somewhere in Canada- where a company is installing water pipes in the bed of a big lake. During the summer they circulate water that captures the cold which is then used to cool large buildings in the office district. Cool.

I also heard of plans to connect gym bicycles to the grid to reuse the energy generated by people training. Add some photovoltaic tiles, a small windmill and of course a Scott basement window (tm) and you should have a decent hole in your bank account. And some energy.

As for the elevator, I thought elevators have a counterweight that minimizes the energy required to move the cage, which accounts for most of the weight. I guess the weight of humans is lost in friction, but you could put some prius-style regenerative braking to capture some energy. My hunch is that it will not be worth the cost, but tecincally it should be possible.

Harry D

The system you describe with the Jailer Window and top floor window is like an old system used in the middle east. A large house had a cooling tower. At night you open a little door/window to the tower and the cold air is sucked into the room (from outside) by the rising air in the tower.

The cooling effect of your system can be augmented by a little water fountain in front of the Jailer Window. The evaporation of the water cools down the air.

Energy conservation is indeed a matter of imagination and really doing something. Because we have limited oil and gas reserves here in Europe, we have been on the road to energy conservation for the past 35 years. At the moment the average person in the US uses TWICE the amount of energy an average person in Europe (Germany/France/UK/Spain/Italy/Denmark) uses. And we do live in comfort.

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