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iRobot Roomba Isn’t What Anyone Expected


iRobot sent me a Roomba 560 robotic vacuum a month or two ago.  My family and I debated buying one a few times over the years they’ve been on the market, but who can justify spending $300+ on what amounts to a toy that obviously can’t clean floors?  It was fun to see the vacuum running around the floor in the stores vacuum department, but it was also pretty obvious that a robot that’s about a foot around and a couple of inches tall just can’t do a good job on the floor and we already had a couple of good, upright vacuums that could do the job for us — so we never bought one.

In March, we decided to have them on the show.  You can see the write-up on my show site here, and listen to the interview on my podcast site.  Matt Palma, the VP of Sales & Marketing over at iRobot, was pretty convincing.  We talked about some of the new technology embedded in the new 500 series of Roombas and it sounded impressive, but I’ve seen the Roombas before and since I wasn’t terribly impressed with them I knew that his talking points had been bravado.

Then the impossible happened.  They sent me one to try out.  And I tried it.  Things changed.

It took less than five minutes to get the Roomba set up.  We programmed it to start every morning at 8:30 and set up a couple of “Lighthouses” in rooms we wanted it to clean.  Then we hit the “Clean” button to send it on its way, and after playing a little tune on its internal speaker, off it went.

It uses a special pattern combined with numerous sensors to make passes on the floor and try and cover the problem areas, which is does quite effectivley.  It even monitors the stream of junk that it’s sucking in to see when it hits an area that deserves some additional attention, and will immediately go into an intense spot cleaning mode by spinning around and cleaning in some concentric circles.

The version we have, the 560, uses two brushes combined with the vacuum to do its job.  The first brush is a bristle brush not unlike those found in beater bars in regular vacuum cleaners, and the second is a four-bladed rubber brush that Roomba uses to clean tile, wood and conrete (non-carpeted) floors.  Actually they both run together in most, if not all, circumstances.

The results?  An excellent job of maintenance cleaning.  Roomba’s two trash compartments were full.  It had picked up everything from small pieces of paper and even sand all the way down to dust.  The pet hair that was on the carpet — even in corners — was gone, and the 560 isn’t even their pet hair model.

Then there’s the computer wires, power wires and tassels on the carpets.  We always have had to be careful when we’re vacuuming because the beater bars will rip up most of these wires.  Not a pretty picture.  I was concerned that the little Roomba would have some real trouble with all of these, so we spent some serious time cleaning before letting her go loose.

Of course, over the next few weeks, we stopped all of the preventative cleaning.  Wires were left laying around, the carpet tassels weren’t moved out of the way.  Things kind of got back to normal.  But how would Roomba do?

Amazingly enough, Roomba detects when it’s pulling on a wire, tassels or other obstructions and hasn’t damaged a single thing.  All of the wires have been left in-tact, all of the carpet materials are still in great shape an Roomba keeps going.

The robot takes about an hour and a half to clean our entire first floor, and it even remembers the layout of the room if it is started at the same point each time.  We use it’s “Spot” button when when take it to an area that needs cleaning and let it clean an approximately 3-foot square area, then we hit the “Dock” button and off it goes to find its dock and plugs its self in, recharges and is ready for the next vacuuming job.

My opinion of this little robot has come a long way since I first saw it cleaning a small spill at the retail vacuum store.  The Roomba is still not a complete replacement to getting out the big old vacuum and going to town, but it does do an absolutely acceptable job of keeping things fresh and clean, eliminating 6/7th of our vacuuming jobs as the old equipment (and out backs) get a break.

Good job, iRobot!

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Use Your Cell Phone to Manage Your New Home Heating and Air Conditioning System Remotely

Trane Inc.

Can you manage your airflow at home from your cell phone from a distance?  It’s now possible with Trane ComfortLink II Residential Communicating System.

Trane is the world leader in air conditioning systems, services and solutions. Trane controls the comfort of the air for people in homes and many of the world’s largest and most famous commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. Trane applies its expertise in environmental technology and energy conservation to make a difference in energy efficiency around the globe.

Trane has been catering cooling systems to residential homes besides commercial. Trane has developed a new communication system which can talk to one another. Most people are not aware what’s happening behind their home.

If you have the Trane ComfortLink II fully integrated, self-configuring system, then it will verify proper installation and maintain proper airflow calibration over the whole life of the system. Your Trane heating and cooling products are now started talking to one another about how to keep your family comfortable — whether they’re in the living room or thousands of miles away.

The Trane ComfortLink II Residential Communicating System represents a breakthrough in product design and efficiency. Advanced technology has been incorporated inside. Specific air conditioning and heating system products allows components to communicate with one another so that they’re always automatically configured and calibrated to your preferred settings, constantly troubleshooting to achieve utmost efficiency.

Special technology is built into specific Trane products, allowing them to “communicate” with each other. Consumers can receive the benefits of the Trane ComfortLink II by having a complete heating and cooling system that’s perfectly matched and designed for how and where they live.

The hallmark of the Trane ComfortLink II Residential Communicating System is very ease to set-up, install and service.

You can view more ComfortLink II products here.

Randy Scott
Vice President, Product Systems Management
Trane Residential Systems

Randy Scott – A biography

Randy Scott, Vice President, Product Systems Management for Trane Residential Systems, has an extensive career in sales, marketing and business development roles with the company. Randy has twenty four years of experience in the HVAC industry.

Randy recently led the successful commercialization of several industry exclusive products including Trane CleanEffects, XV95 gas furnace, XL16c packaged unit and most recently the ComfortLink II communicating system with Charge Assist.

Randy is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management with Honor.

Trane Inc. (NYSE: TT), previously named American Standard Companies Inc., provides systems and services that enhance the quality and comfort of the air in homes and buildings around the world. The company offers customers a broad range of energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; dehumidifying and air cleaning products; service and parts support; advanced building controls and financing solutions. Selling under both the Trane and American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning brand names, the company’s systems and services have leading positions in premium commercial, residential, institutional and industrial markets; a reputation for reliability, high quality and product innovation; and a powerful distribution network.

In 2006 the business generated annual revenues of approximately $6.8 billion with $4.9 billion coming from equipment systems and $1.9 billion from parts, services and solutions. Trane has more than 29,000 employees and 29 production facilities worldwide. For more information, visit www.trane.com.

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Enerlume Energy Management Corp Shows how Businesses can save 15% on Electric Bills

Hundreds of Fluorescent Lamps, in Shinbashi, Tokyo JapanImage via Wikipedia

Going green is more than a just a cause celebre: it has become a global issue that cannot be ignored. However, at the same time global demand for energy is growing fast, with lighting accounting for 40% to 80% of a typical commercial building’s electric bill.  [Listen to find out how lighting changes are affecting business and homes.]

In fact, the House and Senate are working on legislation that over the next seven years would phase out the conventional light bulb and replace it with compact fluorescent bulbs—a move that would not only save consumers $6 billion a year in energy, but also reduce man-made emissions.

While fluorescent lighting plays a key role in conservation, advances beyond changing from older T12 fluorescents to the more modern and efficient T8 fluorescents have been largely limited to turning lights off or dimming the lights with voltage reducers. If the facility has already installed T8 fluorescents and turning the lights off, or significantly dimming them, is unacceptable there seemed to be no simple next step in saving energy.

Enter the EnerLume | EM™
The EnerLume | EM, developed by Hamden, CT based Enerlume Energy Management Corp., is a small, self-contained, easily installed device that provides a new alternative. Simply put, the EnerLume | EM reduces the electricity consumption of T8 fluorescent lighting systems and can reduce light bills by up to 15% or more. The EnerLume | EM enables corporations and institutions to save energy by preventing fluorescent lighting systems from drawing power that cannot be efficiently converted into light.

EnerLume | EM’s built-in microprocessor employs a sophisticated algorithm to provide timing direction to the ballast (a device that converts power from the AC grid to a form suitable to light fluorescent lamps), determining when to draw power in such a way as to maintain full peak voltage to maximize light output. The ballast draws power when it is most efficient to do so, increasing the lighting system’s efficiency and providing more foot-candles of light per watt consumed. While taking energy out, the EnerLume | EM reduces the operating temperature of the ballast thereby increasing the expected life of the ballast. With the ballast running cooler, and reducing the temperature of each lighting fixture, one can expect a reduction in the electricity required to operate the air conditioning.

The EnerLume | EM system is suitable for use in buildings such as manufacturing facilities, parking garages, distribution centers, warehouses, retail space, and school systems. The EnerLume | EM system is easily installed between the feeder circuit and the lighting panel. A single EnerLume | EM can save energy on up to 2,300 lighting fixtures. Running Windows-based software, the device is easily programmed to power lighting systems on and off; facilities do not have to rely on the “last person out” to hit the light switch, providing considerable added cost savings. The EnerLume | EM also allows for remote programmability, making light changes and shut down easily monitored by any authorized computer.

Enerlume’s Chief Executive Officer, David Murphy, says, “Because of the rising cost of energy as well as the desire to minimize one’s carbon footprint, companies large and small, contractors, and government officials are all looking for new ways to save money and go green. The EnerLume | EM allows them to go greener. It provides an affordable way to save significant electrical energy while maintaining the light needed in the facility.”

Saves Energy Without Leaving You In The Dark

Consider This:
While there have been many power reduction devices available for fluorescent light over the years, they have almost universally worked on the principle of restricting the amount of power the ballast can draw by reducing the peak voltage. In effect, these power restrictors simply “dim” ballasts that were not originally designed to be dimmable. The percentage of watts saved is roughly equal to the percentage of lumens lost.

The EnerLume-EM® works on a completely different principle. It does not limit the amount of power the ballast draws, it restricts when it may draw power. AC power is delivered in a sine wave. A single wave happens very fast – 60 times per second. Ballasts need power to operate the fluorescent tubes. By restricting when on the sine wave cycle the ballast may draw power, the EnerLume-EM® allows the ballast to get the power it needs when it is efficient to do so. This results in lower power consumption.

This way, the ballast still provides very nearly all the power the tubes need to maintain full brightness. This is why, at a very significant electrical savings of 15%, there is no detectable loss of light. This is simply because the tubes still get the power they need. The EnerLume-EM® guides the ballast to create the needed power for the fluorescent tubes with less power pulled from the Utility. This leads to longer ballast life and reduced cooling costs.

With the EnerLume-EM®, the facility manager can further increase the savings beyond the 15%. Beyond this, depending on the ballast used, there will be a dimming effect as the time restriction becomes great enough to interfere with the ballast’s ability to get enough power to provide the tubes with what they want. That said, it is still not in direct proportion. The additional power savings exceed the lumen loss. Users report savings of up to 30% in power consumption.

Bottom Line:

The EnerLume|EM® and power restrictors are not the same. Power restrictors limit power drawn by dimming the lights. The EnerLume|EM® teaches the ballast to be more efficient. It actually increases the efficacy of the fluorescent lighting system.

What is the EnerLume|EM®
The EnerLume|EM® is an energy saving device for use with new or existing fluorescent lighting systems. By conditioning the incoming power wave, it reduces electrical consumption with negligible lumen loss at savings up to 15%. Greater savings are possible with some lumen loss. Savings percentages are set using the EnerLume|EM® software (Windows® based) provided. This software allows the user to program changes to savings and “On/Off” as timed events.

Installation:
Installation is accomplished by “splicing” the EnerLume|EM® in between the supply feeder and the lighting panel. Suitable for three phase or single phase systems.

Ballast Requirements:
The EnerLume|EM® works with either T8 or T12 ballasts. Testing shows that the greatest savings with the least lumen loss are achieved when the EnerLume|EM® is used with single voltage T8 ballasts.

About the EnerLume|EM®

In many applications, fluorescent lighting accounts for 40% – 80% of your electric bill. One way to reduce that cost is to simply cut voltage and dim the lights. That’s the way traditional “Black Box” sine wave toppers operate. Another is to turn the lights off. Building Management Systems save money by eliminating light. Now you can keep the lights on and bright, and save money at the same time.

The EnerLume-EM® is designed to improve lighting efficiency so your lighting levels are maintained with less electricity. While other devices cut electrical flow by “topping” sine waves. the patent pending EnerLume-EM® takes a more intelligent approach, resulting in an entirely new way to reduce electrical consumption. Additionally, this new technology works with both new and existing fluorescent lighting systems.

The EnerLume-EM® gives you greater flexibility and control over your fluorescent lighting system. You are not only cutting power, but managing it. The EnerLume-EM® management features include remote programming and adjustable energy levels.

The EnerLume-EM® dramatically reduces the cost of running fluorescent lights without sacrificing lighting quality. In addition, the EnerLume-EM® can be programmed to dim or selectively curtail after hours lighting levels for even greater savings.

EnerLume-EM<sup>®</sup> Wire Diagram (Click image for full size image)The EnerLume-EM® is a lighting energy management system designed to reduce the power required for operating magnetic or electronic ballasts in fluorescent lighting systems. The EnerLume-EM® manages the incoming power so the ballasts draw energy only when power transmission is most efficient. This patent pending capability cuts energy costs while reducing light levels so little that no light loss can be seen by the human eye.

In typical installations, the EnerLume-EM® is mounted adjacent to the fluorescent lighting panel to be treated. A single EnerLume-EM® unit can treat all fixtures fed by the lighting panel. The EnerLume-EM® is UL and CUL listed and housed in a steel, NEMA rated enclosure. The EnerLume-EM® is offered in six different models to meet your specific voltage and capacity requirements.

Case Studies

Hospital Complex – State of New York
We installed a 100 amp, 277/480v EnerLume|EM® in an electrical closet servicing one floor of an eight story research building. Prior to the installation, the normal hours of operation that the T-8 fluorescent lights remained on were 6:00AM to 11:00PM weekdays and half days on weekends. The department relied on the “last person out” to shut off the lights, but that was rarely achieved. Therefore, the 400+ fluorescent fixtures typically remained on 24/7. Upon installation of the EnerLume|EM®, we achieved a sustainable 30% savings in kwh with the lights on and an overall 50% savings over a 24 hour period by programming the unit to shut lights off from 11:00PM to 6:00AM. There was less than 1% loss in ft/c. Considering that the utility rate was over $0.21 kwh, the ROI was measured in months.

Large Education Facility – Central New England
This two year old public school was originally built using four lite T-8 fluorescent fixtures with occupancy sensors in each room. The school typically has the lights on from 7:00AM to nearly 11:00PM weekdays and a half day on Saturdays. With an electric rate exceeding $0.14 kwh, a 200 amp, 277/480v EnerLume|EM® was installed on a first floor dedicated lighting panel and connected to like panels on the second and third floor. Overall building savings exceeded 10% of the total load and the lighting panel savings exceeded 18%. Ft/c loss was imperceptible at just under 2 ft/c. The ROI was calculated at 14 months.

Public Warehouse – Southern New England
It is a 465,000 sq, ft. public storage facility that contained 464 – 400w HID’s incurring an exorbitant monthly electric bill. We recommended and installed six lite T-8 fluorescent fixtures with mirror reflectors and occupancy sensors on each fixture. Four EnerLume|EM® 100 amp, 277/480v Energy Managers were also installed. Overall utility savings was 78% and the EnerLume|EM®’s accounted for more than 15% of that savings. The utility incentive was approximately 50% and the ROI came in at less than 17 months.

David J. Murphy – Co-Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer: David J. Murphy a Co-founder of the Company was appointed as its President and CEO during February 2007. He had served as the Company’s Acting President and Chief Executive Officer since August 2005. Since 1986, Mr. Murphy also served as a
Director. Other positions held by Mr. Murphy at the Company include serving as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. His prior experience includes serving as Operations Manager for Campus Dining at the University of New Haven and as an Adjunct Professor in the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism School. Mr.
Murphy received a B.S. degree in International Business from Quinnipiac University, as well as earned a certificate in Exporting Marketing from Quinnipiac University.

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Quick Recharge Batteries for Cars

Phoenix Sport Utility Trucks (SUTs). Photo by Bill Dale on 6-27-2007 taken in Ontario, California.Image via Wikipedia

Current Automotive batteries take hours to recharge an don’t last. They were great in the 1940’s, but just don’t cut it for our newer, more battery intensive automotive applications. I interviewed Alan J. Gotcher Ph.D, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the leader in a whole new standard for rechargeable batteries. [Listen Here to the Interview]

Altairnano, Inc., the leaders in innovative battery technology, have created a rechargeable, nano-titanate battery system that provides fundamental advantages over existing, traditional lithium ion batteries. With a very fast charge, long life, high power, an extremely wide operating temperature range, and inherently safe, Altair’s lithium titanate batteries are cost effective with prices similar to that of other rechargeable batteries.

  • Altair’s lithium titanate batteries are rechargeable in a few minutes, versus hours required for other rechargeable batteries.
  • Altairnano’s batteries do not explode or exhibit thermal runaway. These thermally stable batteries are well suited for hostile environments.
  • Altairnano batteries can operate at temperatures as low as –50°C and as high as +75°C, with no unsafe characteristics
  • With instantaneous power even at very cold temperatures, Altair’s lithium titanate batteries deliver power per unit weight and unit volume several times that of conventional lithium ion batteries. Altairnano laboratory measurements indicate power density as high as 4000 W/Kg and over 5000W/litre.

Phoenix Motorcars, Lightning Car Company, Micro-Vett and many others are leveraging this technology.

Here is the comparison:

Phoenix Electric SUV/SUT

2007 Cadillac Escalade

480 lbs. Torque

417 lbs. Torque

0-60 Less than 10 Seconds

0-60 Less than 7 Seconds

275 Horsepower

403 Horsepower

130 Miles to a Charge (Expansion pack Available 250 mi.)

17 Miles to the Gallon

Alan J. Gotcher Ph.D
President and Chief Executive Officer

Alan J. Gothcher – A biography

Dr. Gotcher was appointed CEO in August, 2004 and President in March 2005. Previously, Dr. Gotcher was Chairman and CEO of Nevada-based InDelible Technologies, Inc., and prior to that he spent fourteen years with Avery Dennison, a well known public company in Pasadena, California. While at Avery Dennison, Dr. Gotcher served as Senior Vice president, Manufacturing & Technology, and Chief Technology Officer. During his tenure Dr. Gotcher led Avery’s teams that created and commercialized the Duracell On-Cell tester battery label and pressure sensitive battery labels, which created new business sales in excess of $100 million per year, and the United States Postal Service’s self-stick stamp products which created new sales of approximately $100 million per year. Prior to joining Avery Dennison, Dr. Gotcher was Laboratory Director, U.S. Corporate Research and Development, with Menlo Park, California-based Raychem Corporation where he lead the business development teams that created, developed and commercialized the profitable, conductive polymer-based PolySwitch® over-current protection device business

Altairnano is an innovator and manufacturer of advanced novel, ceramic nanomaterials which are used in products that exhibit ground-breaking performance. Altairnano’s products address a diverse range of high-growth energy, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications. Working with leading market partners in their respective industries, Altairnano licenses or manufactures superior products. Rapid commercial successes are achieved through Altairnano’s tightly integrated and dedicated teams of product development, scientists, management, production, marketing, and sales people.

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