Daily Archives:May 2, 2007

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Green Places for Travelers

State of MichiganPhoto Credit: State of Michigan
Eco-tourisim is a growing field, but it's not the only sector where people want to find a green option when they need travel accommodations. Whether they are traveling for business or for recreation, even if they aren't headed to an eco-destination, travellers need a place to stay. And while the Building Design + Construction magazine's 2006 white paper on green building suggested that the hospitality industry was "missing an opportunity" by lagging other construction sectors in green building, there are some places that are beginning to offer greener places to stay.

I started looking into this when a developer in New York City sent out an announcement concerning their plans to build a hotel with a range of green features, including striving for LEED Gold certification. The press material also speaks of organic cotton sheets and other amenities. Unfortunately, this project is still more than a year from completion, and I do not like to write about proposed or incomplete projects, because they can so often fail to meet the expectations, or the final product does not match what was originally promised. And LEED certification is no guarantee that the building or its rooms will be attractive either.

Weekly DIY: Solar Shower

Path to FreedomPhotoCredit: Path to Freedom
If you have been exploring solar energy at all, you already know that the payback period for a solar hot water system is much shorter than that for a solar photovoltaic system. The system for solar hot water is much simpler. Rather than converting solar energy into electricity with expensive photovoltaic panels and then rectifying the current through an inverter to create AC power, a solar hot water system uses a series of loops to directly heat the water moving through the collector.

Solar hot water systems are a little more complex in cold weather locations where they need to be filled with anti-freeze fluid for heat collection and then use a heat exchanger to transfer heat to the water, or valves and mechanical systems in the plumbing in order to prevent damage from freezing. But even with these elements, the payback period for a solar hot water system can be just a handful of years, even in a northern state.

But if you want to do some experimentation with a hot water system without going to a whole house system, this project will provide an inexpensive demonstration project that gives you a useful device.