Guest Post: Is a Vegawatt Energy System Ideal for Your Restaurant?

This guest post from Paul Taylor covers a topic about which many of us are interested, the generation of energy from sustainable sources. The tool Mr. Taylor introduces is called the Vegawatt, designed for restaurant use. Read on! – GRM

A Vegawatt™ system contains more than just power generation equipment.  It includes a turn-key waste vegetable oil (WVO) refinery, automatically transforming the darkest, nastiest used cooking oil into fuel appropriate for power generation. Source: Vegawatt

A Vegawatt™ system contains more than just power generation equipment.
It includes a turn-key waste vegetable oil (WVO) refinery, automatically transforming the darkest, nastiest used cooking oil into fuel appropriate for power generation.
Source: Vegawatt

As I constantly browse the Internet looking for new and innovative ways people have been developing green technologies, I recently stumbled across a website that promotes using a system to use vegetable cooking oil to power your restaurant. Although this isn’t a new technology by any means, Vegawatt is not a well-known technology to many – at least those in my rural community. When you consider how much money is spent on the electricity bill of any particular restaurant, a method to fuel your own miniaturized power plant using Vegawatt could be quite interesting to investigate.

1. Biofuel – These Vegawatt systems utilize your old cooking oil in order to fuel the power plant. According to the company’s website, this system is ideal to power your restaurant if you have three to five deep-fryers on site. For regular to large-sized fast food locations, the power generation could be ideal to diminish the power that is used from the grid. Not only will this provide a cheaper way to maintain your establishment, but it could also assist in the removal of waste products.

2. What it Does for LEED – For those establishments that are trying to get subsidies and grants based on a LEED score, these Vegawatt power plants can be greatly beneficial to this score in a variety of ways. The more your establishment or home conforms to green living and sustainability, the higher your LEED score will become. Depending on your situation, you could receive tax cuts, grants, specialized loans, and more by having a high score. For the Vegawatt system, this score is affected by:

Renewable Energy
Emissions Reduction
Solid Waste Management

3. Direct Benefits – The Vegawatt system isn’t designed to generate 100 percent of your restaurant’s power needs. Although it is designed to create the most power possible, it also provides a method to safely dispose of cooking oils. Essentially, you are paid in power generation by “recycling” your oil into the unit. Personally, I find the procedure quite alluring especially for rural and private locales. While the amount of power is dependent on the amount of oil your establishment uses, the savings and marketability could make installation of these units far worth the investment.

4. Marketability – How does waste removal and power generation play into marketing for an establishment? In today’s world, a large portion of people are looking to live a greener and more sustainable lifestyle. By mentioning that your restaurant utilizes such a device as this unit, you are placating to the general public by providing a cleaner location. Not only are you attracting attention to yourself as a company that reuses cooking oil to power the locale, but you’re showing eco-friendly practices for a sustainable future. Although it may not impact a large portion of your patrons, such decisions could greatly impact others to visit.

Thanks to the innovations of today, there are many ways that a restaurant can improve its own sustainability. Between the Vegawatt system above and a small solar array installation, a large portion of the restaurant’s power demands can be accommodated. Low energy devices such as LED and CFL lighting can help further reduce power consumption from illumination that is utilized from open to close. Even motion-sensing light switches in bathrooms could make a great impact to the electric bill if you don’t need to leave the lights on. Discover other ways to improve your facility in order to secure a sustainable future for everyone.

Author Bio: Paul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.

Guest Post: Sustainably Sourced Materials & Doing Your Bit for the Environment During Your Next Building Project

We’d like to welcome guest writer Grace Nolan who writes on the importance of using sustainably sourced materials and sharing this information with all folks taking on a new building project.

Architectural details of Welsh Assembly building. Wooden planks from sustainable sources. Eco-friendly design at its best. Source: Shutterstock

Architectural details of Welsh Assembly building. Wooden planks from sustainable sources. Eco-friendly design at its best. Source: Shutterstock

When building new houses and other construction projects, think about the materials you are using and how you can help the environment.

Becoming eco-friendly has become huge in all industries, such as, cutting down on paper used in an office, walking or riding a bike to work and using recycled materials.

Old construction and building materials are a major contributor to landfills. This needs to change as soon as possible and one of the ways you can help is to use natural, eco-friendly construction materials and recycle old construction supplies.

We all need to work together to keep our waste products to a minimum, especially non-biodegradable materials such synthetic carpets.

Here is a list of what you can do to help the environment during your next building project:

Reuse materials – Reusing materials from other building sites is a great way of helping the environment. When things are thrown out, it doesn’t mean they can’t be reused. There are lots of materials that can be salvaged and used again, you just have to look for them.
Eco-friendly materials – It can be hard to find materials that are natural or have been made from recycled materials but you just need to make sure you look closely at the label or ask somebody before you buy it. Some sustainable products which can be used are: Slate tiles, natural carpets and no VOC paint.
Recycle – When building a new house or property, you may find that you have materials which have been overused and badly damaged that they need throwing away. If this is the case, please recycle as many materials as possible. You’ll definitely be helping out the environment.
Solar panels – Installing solar panels to a house or building will create green energy reducing the amount of power used to light and heat a property. They will also reduce costs and continue to generate energy by converting sunlight into electricity.
Insulation – Insulating a building will keep heat trapped inside for longer meaning there is less heating equipment being used. Some of the sustainable materials you can use for insulation are: wool, recycled newspaper and spray foam. These materials are eco-friendly and will help with heating any property.

When planning your next building project, think about the materials you’re going to use and how you’re going to recycle and reuse any materials you have left over when you’ve finished your project.

This guest post was written by Grace Nolan, a guest writer specialising in sustainable materials and the construction industry, on behalf of Beddard Roofing. 

Photo: Welsh Assembly Building using sustainable planks from Shutterstock


Looking at Radiant or Underfloor Heating

Come wintertime, most people have little trouble locating all the cold spots in the house they want to avoid. That is, unless they happen to have radiant, underfloor heating in place.

According to the Underfloor Trade Store, modern underfloor heating systems are growing in popularity in the UK. Homeowners enjoy low operating costs, low environmental impact and pleasant home temperature.

underfloor heating system shutterstock_97794680

Radiant heating systems, as they are often referred to, are not a new concept at all. Similar systems were used many centuries ago by Romans, to heat buildings. A network of small pipes was used to run hot air from a central furnace and heat up the building. The hot floors created a warm air convection which heated up the main living space.

Underfloor heating systems in the UK use either hot water (wet systems) or electric heating units (dry systems). Wet underfloor heating systems use pipes and the water running in the pipes serves as a transferring medium of heat from a central boiler into the floor and onto the living space of the room.

Underfloor Trade Store is a leading supplier in the UK of underfloor heating products and systems. With many years experience in theunderfloor heating industry we can cater for every requirement and offer you support right from your initial enquiry through to after-sales care. Whether you are a plumber, architect, builder or property owner, we can offer you the guidance and backup you need.

Underfloor Trade Store only sells quality products from sustainable sources, allowing us to offer industry-leading guarantees, while remaining competitive. We also pay detailed care to packaging and delivery solutions, making sure you get your goods on time and in good condition – every time. With our vast stocks, including up to 200,000 metres of underfloor heating pipe, we can service your every requirement. We conform to all the industry regulations and have many accreditations including ISO 9001.

Here are some of the benefits from using underfloor heating systems:

Even Heat Distribution
Heating Systems Efficiency
Heating Systems Cost Savings
Heating Systems Visual Benefits
Ease of Control
Silence
Hygiene

As for the downsides, one common complaint about some underfloor heating systems is the slower heating time compared to other forms of heating – so a room or area can take longer to heat up, depending on the system, though it will also take longer to cool down. Underfloor systems also cost somewhat more than radiator systems.

In terms of sustainable clean heat and even distribution, however, the pros far outweigh the cons.

This post was sponsored by the Underfloor Trade Store.

Photo: Underfloor heating system from Shutterstock


Guest Post: Go Green On Your Roof

A green roof or a living roof has a profound effect on the quality of life of an individual and the surrounding community alike. Its influence is particularly noticeable in urban areas, where concrete and unnatural materials dominate the landscape. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal, having vegetation on the roof has many practical advantages over other available roofing solutions, spanning from long-term financial gain to improving living conditions on a grand scale. The following is a brief introduction to some of the benefits of green roofs.

Green roof Kerry 800px-Norðragøta,_Faroe_Islands_(2)

Protection

Growing a layer of vegetation on your roof will protect all the systems that are in contact with it, as well as the roof itself. It will prolong the life of waterproofing membranes, as a green roof offers offer much better insulation than conventional roofing solutions. As a result, waterproof materials in the roof will be less exposed to big temperature fluctuations, identified as one of the causes of micro-tearing and ultraviolet radiation.

Energy efficiency

Green roofs also brings a drastic improvement in energy efficiency. Many don’t know that roofs are responsible for the biggest heat loss in the winter and warming of the house in summer months. Better insulation offered by a living roof will reduce the amount of energy needed for moderating the temperature of your house. Results of a research conducted by National Research Council of Canada indicate that an extensive green roof (supporting 10-25 pounds of vegetation per square foot) can reduce air-conditioning costs in the summer up to an incredible 75 percent.

Reduction of fire, noise and EM radiation

In addition to offering much better insulation, green roofs have much smaller burning heat load. In other words, they burn much slower and at much lower temperatures, ensuring minimal damage to the property in the case of fire.

Living roofs are a have excellent noise-reduction properties, especially in dealing with low-frequency sounds. Research shows that an extensive green roof (see above) can filter out outside nose up to 40 decibels, while an intensive one (supporting 80-150 pounds of vegetation per square foot) can reduce the noise by an incredible 46-50 decibels.

Extent of potential health risks of exposure to electromagnetic radiation from wireless devices and mobile phones is still a matter of some debate, but all agree that noise-reduction properties,

Guest Post: There’s No Need Spending a Small Monthly Fortune Watering Your Lawn

If you are the kind of person that appreciates a green lawn in the summer, no doubt you have been burned with an outrageous water bill during the dry periods of the year.  Water bills can get to be outrageous, as much as $500 per month in hottest periods of the year for an average-sized lawn.

Urban water tank

Urban water tank

So what are your options to mitigate your water costs? In this article, we will review the 3 most common types of alternative water sources available, their initial investment, ROI [Return on Investment], and pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision on your option.

Separate Water Meter

The simplest and most widely available option is to install an additional water meter for your irrigation needs.  By doing so, you will save the sewer charges on your water bill, as the water dept. will not charge you the sewer expense on the water use recorded on the 2nd meter.   This will save you at least 50% over watering with the domestic meter (the same meter that supplies your home with water).

There are a few caveats to consider if you are considering this route.  First, many utility companies offer a summer sewer credit, meaning they will calculate an average of the amount of sewer cost you incur during the winter months and credit you back the difference for the peak sewer costs you incur during the hot summer months. If this is the case with your water dept., then the ROI of installing a separate meter is essentially negated.

Another point to consider is the initial installation cost and how long it will take to recover your investment. Typically a separate meter will cost $2k-$4, and the process for installing one is different with most water departments.  Most municipalities will perform the installation for you and charge you the quoted amount; some will only sell the meter hardware itself and require you to contract an approved plumber to set the tap and install the meter.  Call your water dept. to confirm their procedure and associated costs.  In most cases, you will need a 1/2” to 3/4” meter for an average lot size of 10,000 sq. ft– 50,000 sq. ft.   Based on my experience of consulting hundreds of homeowners, typically a separate water meter will require 2-4 years to recover the initial investment.

Irrigation Well

A well is a more costly initial investment; however, it is what I recommend for homeowners in most cases because the water is free, forever!  Ok, you will have to pay the electricity for the well to operate, but that will be a fraction of what the water would cost.   You can also share the expense of a well with a neighbor by drilling it near your property line, and both parties can bear the initial investment.  I have seen 3 and 4 households work out a suitable schedule for sharing share the same well, which made it a highly cost-effective water source for irrigation.

However, there are drawbacks to drilling a well, and installing one can be a nightmare if things don’t go optimally.  The initial investment can be cost prohibitive, as the average irrigation well runs $5k-$10K for the drilling, pump, and turnkey setup.  These cost will be about 50% less if you reside in a coastal area, as the water table is shallow in these areas, and the well will not have to be as deep.   Another scary concern is that there are no guarantees that you will hit water when drilling a well, especially if you live inland.  I have consulted homeowners on several occasions when a well was drilled but ultimately not producing enough water to properly supply the irrigation system. When this happens, there are two options: cut your losses, or keep drilling deeper and deeper.  I’ve been involved in a project where the homeowner gave up at $15,000 and 600’ deep.  This is worst-case scenario; however, you must weigh the risks. Interview well drillers in your area, as well as your neighbors that have wells; this will provide you with informative insights to evaluate if drilling a well is your best option.  In most cases, it will take 3-5 years to recover the investment cost of a well system.

Rainwater recovery system

Rainwater recovery is an ancient practice and can be a possible alternative with its own set of associated limitations.  While it can be as a simple as placing a barrel at the bottom of a gutter drain, the reality is that to adequately irrigate with recycled rainwater, you’ll need to invest in a professional automated system including catch basins, underground storage tanks, and pumps. Turnkey rain water recovery systems will require an investment of $3k-$6k.  In most cases, a water recovery system is cost-prohibitive, given the more suitable alternatives.  One of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of availability of water when you need to water the most.  I have consulted with many homeowners frustrated by having made the initial investment in a complex system, that requires ongoing maintenance, and then not be able to utilize it during the hottest, driest periods of the year.  Domestic water will have to be used as a stop-gap source when the water storage tanks run dry in the summer.

The advantages of a rainwater harvesting system are that it demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and is also a solid way to obtain LEED certification credits.   I have consulted clients that had an admirable, unwavering environmental mindset and were willing to deal with the drawbacks of rainwater recycling, as a tradeoff to better stewardship of the environment.   These are the dynamics to consider when looking at rainwater recycling as a water source for irrigation.

Regardless of which option you select, investing in an alternate water source can result in smart use of your money if you plan on living in your home for over 5 years, can lessen your impact on the environment, and allow you to enjoy a guilt free green lawn throughout the summer.

Bryan Clayton is a 15 year Green Industry veteran, founding and exiting Peach Tree Landscapes and currently co-founder at GreenPal.

Photo: Urban water tank from Shutterstock