Device Sniffs Out Smuggled Money
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Green, DIY Home Improvement Projects
Interested in saving the planet? Start at home. Going green means cutting back on resources and saving money. Win, win. But if you think retrofitting a home is a laborious ordeal, think again. From updating clunky appliances to installing low-power lighting, we found eight simple fixes to make your home eco-friendly. They're perfect for a weekend project, so what are you waiting for? Get ready to save some dough — and the environment.
By far, the easiest way to cut back on energy bills is to swap out those old incandescent bulbs for more energy efficient ones. CFLs are good, but let's do one better: LEDs. While far more cost effective than incandescents, compact-fluorescent lights have shorter lifespans and dimmer output. A traditional 100-watt incandescent light bulb is about 1800 lumens bright. To achieve the same brightness, CFLs use about 30 watts while LEDs use about 20.
Image: Nest Labs
Next on the list: tackling heating and cooling costs. About half of energy costs can be attributed to heating and cooling. Programmable thermostats help households save about $180 a year. But instead of remembering to set the right temperatures, Nest Labs, founded by Tony Fadell, best known for designing the iPod, introduced a learning thermostat that adapts to households' behaviors, schedules and preferences, automatically turning down heating or cooling when nobody's home. In addition, the thermostat will suggest more energy-efficient temperatures to help homes further cut costs. Nest, which connects to homes' WiFi networks, can be adjusted remotely via laptop, smartphone or tablet. $249
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With proper insulation, homes can efficiently stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Tearing down walls to add insulation might seem like a daunting task, but installing double-paned windows (two pieces of sealed glass separated by space) is a doable weekend project that can make a big dent on energy bills. Another bonus: Street sounds will be a lot more muted.
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Identify energy suckers
How do you identify other energy offenders? Belkin's Conserve Insight can help you find out how much energy appliances and gadgets consume. The reader connects to one device at a time and its screen shows the amount of carbon dioxide produced to generate the electricity consumed, the number of watts used and total cost of operation. $29.99
Image: Energy Star
Energy Star appliances
Armed with the knowledge of the Belkin Conserve Insight, you know which appliances are the biggest energy suckers. Now it's time to replace them. Whether you're shopping at Fry's or Amazon, look for the Energy Star label. The government-backed symbol for energy efficiency has helped Americans save 6 billion kilowatt hours and more than $800 million in energy costs to date. That translates to 10.4 billion pounds of greenhouse gases.
Clean air filter
Energy Star recommends changing the HVAC air filter every month -- at the very least once every three months. Dirty filters slow down air flow, forcing heating systems to work harder than they have to. Furthermore, changing the filter will keep heating and cooling systems running cleaner and longer.
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Washing in cold water
When you run the washing machine, 90 percent of the energy is spent heating the water. Sister site Treehugger crunched the numbers and found that washing a load in cold water has the same impact of driving 9 miles. Considering the average household washes 392 loads in a year, it becomes obvious cold-water washing is the way to go. While you're at it, if it's a nice day out, why don't you hang those sheets instead of putting them in the dryer? Your wallet will be glad you did.
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Instead of sending yard trimmings and leftovers to the landfill, compost the waste and feed it to your garden. Compost can help regenerate and clean up soils while helping prevent erosion and turf losses on fields and hills. Furthermore, the use of it can reduce fertilizer, pesticide and water use in the garden, according to the EPA.
Ahhhh, the smell of money. That distinctive ink-on-linen scent. I’m surprised Glade hasn’t bottled it. I’m even more surprised that about $30 billion of U.S. currency is smuggled into Mexico each year from the United States without a trace.
Now researchers have come up with a technology that’s able to sniff out hidden money bound for the border.
Suiqiong Li and Joseph Stetter of Newark, CA-based KWJ Engineering have developed a portable device that mimics the way trained dogs sniff out trace chemicals emitted from money. But unlike dogs, this device doesn’t have to be fed, walked or trained.
It works by extracting gas samples from a traveler, a bag, a vehicle or even a shipping container and then analyzing the sample for the signature chemicals that make up that money-smell.
“We have found that U.S. currency emits a wide range of volatile organic compounds that make up a possible ‘fingerprint’ that we can identify in less than a minute,” explained Stetter in a press release.
A security officer would simply wave the probe over clothing or inside a piece of luggage and if the chemicals were detected, an indicator light would come on.
The researchers say that it could take two or three years to develop the device and get it ready for use at border crossing or at airports.