A large variety of green electrical equipment exists for those who like to travel, camp or assuage their guilty consciences about the amount of batteries they use. Luckily, they are far from a chore.
A Radio, Video and it winds up
The most impressive of the wind-up toys is The Trevor Baylis Eco Media Player. The inventor of the original wind-up radio has created a gadget that not only plays MP3's but also video on a 1.8inch screen and FM radio. It has a torch, a sound recorder, a photo viewer, a mobile phone charger, an ebook viewer and can be used as a data storage device. It only has 2gb of memory but extra capacity can be added easily.
www.ethicalsuperstore.co.uk for €251.
Many homes have a pile of empty batteries lying around due to uncertainty on how to dispose of them properly. The Alkaline Battery Recharger isn't much to look at but it performs it's innovative function well. This recharger is for use with the ordinary AA or AAA batteries that most electrical devices take and can recharge old batteries up to 100 times. As with an ordinary recharger for rechargeable batteries, it can simultaneously recharge mixed types, is protected against overcharge, overheat, short-circuit, and polarity reversal, and has an LED to inform you when ready.
€22.00 from www.ectopia.co.uk
Illuminating the world
With greater power comes greater effort (or something like that). The 4 in 1 Multifunction Torch is a step up from the Shaky Torch. It not only performs its illuminating functions but also features a mobile phone charger, a radio and a panic alarm. No batteries are required as the gadget is powered using that most traditional form of energy, human hand power. This is only one of many wind-up products on the Funky Leisure website, many of which are a lot prettier than the torch, which wins a spot here due to its plurality of functions. €30.00 from www.funkylesuire.co.uk.
Shaking for the light
The Shaky LED Torch runs on Faradays Principle of Induction which says that voltage is produced across a conductor situated in a changing magnetic field or through a conductor moving through a stationary magnetic field. In layman's terms, you shake the torch for 15-30 seconds to obtain 5 minutes of continuous bright xenon light that can be seen for up to one mile. The 82 gram torch sells for €7.38 and would quickly pay for itself in savings on batteries.
Nifty but stylish bikes
Electrically Assisted Bicycles get a bad rap, but the stylish machines from Electric Bikes may be the ones to change opinions. Unusually, these bikes are rear wheel powered, leading to a more balanced and superior traction due to the rear bias of weight distribution on all bike types.
They run on electricity, with the average cost per full charge at about eight cents. This equates to more than 450 Km per litre of fuel (based on equivalent petrol cost) or about 1,900 miles to a gallon of fuel.
To comply with EU regulations, the bike weighs less than 40KG, has a continuous power rating of less than 250 watts and power assisted speed does not exceed 25 kmph. Riders must be 14 years or older to ride the bike legally on the road. You still have to pedal, but much less than on a normal bike.
Solar energy without the sun
Portable, usable, foldable multifunctional solar power is now a reality. Funky Leisure again offers a wide range at reasonable prices, but there are many other suppliers out there.
The energy they produce is photovoltaic. PV solar technology turns light into electricity. It doesn't require direct sunlight, so it works even in cloudy conditions. The energy produced does not contribute to climate change – it produces no pollution, and is completely silent. There are no moving parts, so it is reliable and low-maintenance. There are no running costs, so once your system is installed the electricity is free. The solar panels come in everything from a pocket-sized mobile phone charger to a rugged, military-style fold-out 55 watt 36 panel sheet that would be perfect for emergency situations, expeditions or less dramatically for a camping trip, complete with laptops, hair-straighteners and mobile phone chargers. Prices start at €30.00 for the unit that will charge a mobile phone and go up to €1295.00 for the giant kit mentioned above, with many smaller sizes in between.
Smaller is sometimes better
Several engineering companies now make micro-turbines that, instead of connecting to the national grid, harvest wind energy for homes and commercial buildings.
More discreet than the monolithic turbines lining the countryside, these micro turbines are compact, aesthetically pleasing and perfect for rooftop installation in rural or urban environments. Unlike larger turbines that are fixed in position to maximise the capture of prevailing winds, most micro versions are designed to catch wind from any direction.
Additionally, because the micro-design mounts a lighter blade, it can generate power from a windspeed of six miles per hour and can continue generating in winds exceeding 70mph. However, windspeed does not correlate linearly with power; a phenomenon known as the ‘Betz Limit' describes a power threshold for every turbine, irrespective of windspeed. Nonetheless, one turbine model purports to generate 55kWh of electricity a month at an average windspeed of only seven miles per hour.
According to WestWind Renewable Energy, this accounts for between nine and 13 per cent of an Irish household's energy consumption.
Another advantage over the larger model is that micro turbines do not have the same level of vibration, and therefore require less maintenance and repair.
Revolutionsing the laundry
Ecoballs are a revolutionary way of getting clothes washed in a cost efficient and environmentally friendly way. They claim to be “natural, environmentally friendly, efficient and cost-effective, and deliver a clean, fresh, sensitive alternative to conventional washing powders that pollute the water supply and reduce the lifespan of your washing machine”.
The balls are reusable and will last for over a thousand washes. They work by producing ionized oxygen that activates molecules naturally and allows them to penetrate clothing fibres to lift dirt away.
They result in savings on water and remove the need for fabric conditioner. Ecoballs cost €44.37 and are available from www.ecoballsdirect.co.uk and come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
A water-powered calculator
Guaranteed to make a splash in school or the office is the water-powered calculator. No batteries are required. Fill it up through the nozzle on the top and turn it on. After about a month the water will have evaporated and you will have to refill it. Apparently, the water isn't the source of the power.
The electricity is being produced by the difference in electrode potentials of the anode and the cathode, which are inserted into the water. It's just a battery that looks a little bit different, but the calculator draws a very small amount of current anyway.
In other words, it is powered by a dissolving lump of zinc. On second thought, this is not actually very green, certainly not as green as the common-or-garden solar-powered calculators. €8.86 from www.ectopia.co.uk