Your House Could Soon Be Covered in “Solar Paint” and Solar Panels

A team of Australian researchers have announced they’ve developed solar paint that can absorb water from the air and turn it into hydrogen that can be used to produce energy.

The paint, revealed along with a study on Tuesday, is a combination of a chemical catalyst and the white color used in toothpaste. When combined and exposed to rays of sun, it can turn water vapor into hydrogen molecules. Although it is probably at least five years away from being commercially viable, the paint is expected to be a very cheap way to use sunlight to create energy that can be transported or used to power a car. And since it’s just paint, it can be applied almost anywhere.

“Ultimately we hope that the solar paint might be used alongside traditional solar cells, potentially coating areas that receive too little light to be viably covered with expensive solar cell modules,” Torben Daeneke, a research fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and lead author on the discovery, states.

To turn water into hydrogen, the paint uses a molybdenum sulphide catalyst. Some of the molecules in this group are used as lubricants, like graphite powder, and the catalyst is able to absorb water and conduct electricity. The white element in the paint, titanium oxide, draws light to the paint. Since the catalyst is a semi-conductor, it uses this energy from the sun to break the water droplets into hydrogen, says Daeneke.

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“The produced hydrogen can then be directly used either in a fuel cell or in a combustion engine,” says Daeneke. To do this, the team has to apply the paint in connection with a membrane that can funnel the hydrogen to a place it can be connected. Daeneke points out that this kind of membrane technology exists today, and the team is currently working to figure out the most efficient method.

Although Daeneke things it will take at least 5 years to engineer the final product, he expects the paint will be very cheap. Since there are already cars and buses that are hydrogen powered today, Daeneke says, once the collection process is completed this could be a powerful source of clean energy in the future. And because it’s effectively just a white paint, you could put it on your house or fence to create another kind of clean energy with a little humidity and sunlight.

Keep Those Skeeters At Bay With The Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

No pest is better at ruining your time outside than the mosquito. Whether in your yard grilling up burgers or deep into a big backpacking trip – they’re always there, buzzing around your ears and biting at your legs. Thankfully, there is a solution for the summer’s most annoying problem. Introducing the Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller.

The way this works is surprisingly simple. Users just need to take the Thermacell unit, screw it down onto a gas canister, and slide in a proprietary repellent mat. Just like that, it is good to go for up to 90 hours on a 4-ounce canister. Using less gas than it takes to boil a pot of water, this setup will essentially create a 15 by 15 foot wide forcefield that keeps mosquitos out. Aside from the fuel efficiency, the best part about this gadget is its portability. The Backpacker Mosquito Repeller can easily be thrown in your backpack and taken far and wide. Summer just got a whole lot less buggy.

Why Air Conditioning Is A Basic Necessity

Air conditioning has never been considered as necessary as heating; building codes generally insist on the latter but not the former. In fact, there are lots of environmentalists and others who distain AC; as Daniel Engber wrote in Slate:

A certain class of Americans — let’s call them the brrr-geoisie — has come to see the air conditioner as a stand-in for everything that’s wrong with the country and the world.

And inevitably, as the climate warms and the population ages, there will be more heat waves and more people dying. Salvatore Cardoni writes in TakePart:

“The heat is not just an inconvenience, it kills — some of the most heat-vulnerable people are 65 and older,” says Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The numbers of these seniors in the U.S. are increasing at the fastest pace in a century. There are now 40 million seniors in the U.S. — that’s going to be 72 million by 2030.”

Some elderly people have had to make the choice between food or energy. That dire fact led to a program designed to help them: the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, which was created in 1980. The program has been heavily biased toward heating rather than cooling, probably because as Daniel Engber of Slate put it, “If you’re poor and shivering, help is on the way. If you’re poor and sweaty, you’ll have to suck it up.” But as it gets hotter and more people live in hotter parts of the country, this will have to change.

Or more likely, neither will get help, because under the budget proposal put forward by President Donald Trump, LIHEAP will be eliminated. The budget document explains that, “compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.” Arthur Delaney of Huffington Post calls it “Trump’s coldest cut”:

About 6 million households are expected to get heating or cooling assistance from LIHEAP this year at a cost of $3.3 billion, or 0.2 percent of discretionary spending. The program also helps people weatherize their homes, and it provides a pot of money specifically for crises, such as a broken heater in winter or an imminent utility shutoff.

Those in Congress who would kill LIHEAP think the federal government spends too much on anti-poverty problems that should be dealt with at the state level. One Republican think-tanker noted that “each of these programs is treated by the left as a beachhead, so if we’re subsidizing energy costs, then it must go on forever.”

But many living in poverty are old. Many Americans do not like so-called entitlements and would happily kill off food stamps and cut welfare and health insurance for the poor. But politicians still pay lip service to helping seniors, the elderly and keeping Medicare, social security and drug plans; these are the people who voted them in. Heating and yes, in many parts of the country, cooling, are necessary to live. Killing LIHEAP may well kill some of their constituents and will certainly anger many more.

73 Percent Of Sunscreens Don’t Work

I recently took a trip to Turks & Caicos with some friends and their daughters for a week-long vacation. One of the first things I did was make sure the teenage girls took notice of the very dark, very ugly scar on my chest, a result from surgery to remove skin cancer. They were grossed out, but they got the message: Worshipping the sun without protecting your skin can lead to skin cancer. That can lead to ugly, visible scars — and that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky it can lead to considerably more serious health problems.

Fortunately, these girls have grown up with the knowledge that sunscreen is important and have been slathered and sprayed most of their lives — unlike my generation, which thought using baby oil to get darker faster was a brilliant idea. But not all products designed to protect skin from the sun are created equally. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 Guide to Sunscreens, almost three-fourths of the products the group examined “offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin.”

“The vast majority of sunscreens available to Americans aren’t as good as they should be,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at EWG and lead author of the guide. “Sunscreens will not improve until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets stronger rules, reviews harmful chemicals and allows the use of new ingredients that offer stronger UVA protection.”

Looking beyond SPF

The guide helps consumers choose the best sunscreen for their needs, and it’s not as easy as choosing the can or tube with the highest SPF (sun protection factor). According to EWG, higher SPF ratings don’t protect much more than lower ratings. In fact, they may give people a false sense of safety, spending more time in the sun or not reapplying sunscreen because they assume the higher SPF will last longer than it does.

In fact, in 2011, the FDA proposed capping SPF values at 50+, as most other industrialized countries do since the higher numbers don’t make a significant difference. The rule has yet to be finalized, and while the FDA has held off a final decision, the number of sunscreens that claim an SPF of 70 and higher are increasing. In 2007, when the EWG published its first annual sunscreen guide, only 10 sunscreens they looked at had an SPF of 70 or higher. This year there are 69 products with an SPF over 70.

What to look for in a sunscreen

If the SPF isn’t going to help you make the best choice, what will? There are variety of things to look for when choosing sunscreen.

When choosing a sunscreen, EWG says to look at the ingredients list. They recommend sunscreens contain zinc oxide, avobenzone, and mexoryl sx. Look for sunscreens that are creams, have broad spectrum protection (both UVB and UVA rays), are water-resistant (which does not mean waterproof), and with an SPF of 15-50, whichever you determine fits your needs.

What to avoid in a sunscreen

There are certain things you want to avoid, according to EWG. If the ingredients list contains oxybenzone, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), or added insect repellent, pass it on by. Also, they say to avoid sprays, powders and any sunscreen with an SPF above 50.

It’s important to note the recommendations to avoid sprays. Yes, they seem much more convenient to apply than cream-based sunscreens, but research shows they’re far less effective. According to EWG, concerns include an inhalation risk and the inability to provide a thick and even coating on skin. In 2011, the FDA also voiced concerns, saying the agency may ban spray sunscreen unless the companies that make the products can supply data proving spray sunscreens protect skin and are not hazardous. The FDA has yet to move on that, though.

EWG recommended sunscreens

EWG rates products on five factors:

  • Health hazards associated with listed ingredients (based on a review of nearly 60 standard industry, academic, government regulatory and toxicity databases).
  • UVB protection (using SPF rating as the indicator of effectiveness).
  • UVA protection (using a standard industry absorbance model).
  • Balance of UVA/UVB protection (using the ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF).
  • Sunscreen stability (how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun, using an in-house stability database compiled from published findings of industry and peer-reviewed stability studies).

EWG sunscreen recommendations are divided into three different categories: Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens (239 products meet their standards), Best Scoring Sunscreen Lotions for Kids (they recommend 19 different products), and Best Moisturizers with SPF. The approved brands appear alphabetically so it’s easy to find the brand you’re considering to see if it meets the criteria.

To make it even easier, the EWG’s Healthy Living app is updated with the 2017 information so you can easily check recommendations when you’re standing in the store aisle looking at the dozens of options.

Sunscreen is not the only precaution

There is no definitive proof that sunscreen prevents most cancers, and the fact that many people don’t use them correctly may contribute to their lack of effectiveness. But, they can, when used properly help block harmful rays, which is one of the factors that leads to skin cancer.

EWG recommends wearing clothes that cover your skin, finding or making shade when you’re outside, wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays, planning activities in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky, and checking the UV index in addition to using sunscreen to help avoid the harm that can come from sun exposure.

Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Are So Popular They’re Sold Out Until 2018

Deliveries for Tesla solar roof tiles have yet to start, but if you’re interested in adorning your abode with Elon Musk’s latest invention, you’re already going to have to wait until next year. The company only started taking tile pre-orders 16 days ago, but eager fans have been quick off the mark to invest in their home of the future.

Sources speaking to Electrek confirmed a report from RBC Capital Markets, which claimed that the company has sold all its stock until well into next year. The source claimed that early orders exceeded expectations.

Bear in mind that Tesla has only started taking orders for two styles of tile. Customers can only pre-order textured and smooth tile styles for now, with the pair expected to start shipping sometime this year. Pre-orders for the tuscan and slate styles are expected to start in six months’ time, with deliveries expected to start next year.

The price of the roof depends on energy consumption needs and the percentage of active solar tiles on the roof. On average, the roof should cost around $21.85 per square foot, undercutting a figure suggested by {Consumer Reports that a solar roof needs to cost less than $24.50 to compete effectively.

Although they haven’t yet shipped, expectations are high as the company has made an effort to promote the tiles’ capabilities. Alongside energy production, the tiles are capable of defrosting themselves using a similar technique to the anti-ice wires used in car windshields. They also have the added benefit of providing a higher level of protection than traditional roof tiles.

It’s still unclear how many solar tiles Tesla was planning to make, and how many orders have been placed. Tesla is making the initial batches at its Fremont plant, before moving production to the Buffalo factory. With plans for a third, fourth and fifth Gigafactory expected to be unveiled later this year, it may not be long before the solar tiles receive an added boost in production capacity.

The Tesla Solar Roof Finally Has a Price

On Wednesday, Tesla opened up orders for its long-anticipated solar roof. On average, the Tesla solar roof price $21.85 per square foot, which is less than the cost of a normal roof, even without the energy savings.

The cost of a Tesla solar roof ultimately depends on how much energy you need and the percentage of active solar tiles on the roof itself. To help people determine that, Tesla also dropped a solar roof calculator with the release so people can estimate exactly the cost and how much money the roof will save them over time when they order. The solar roofs will be able to be installed in the United States this summer, and should ultimately pay for themselves, which Tesla points out makes them significantly more affordable than regular roofs. Along with that, the solar roof is stronger and lighter than a typical roof, which Elon Musk demonstrated on Instagram.

And although Elon Musk joked that he wasn’t going to make the warranty for the tiles infinity, it turns out that he changed his mind. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla rep tells Inverse.

The Tesla solar roof is made of tempered glass, which makes them three times stronger than things like slate or asphalt tiles, according to Tesla. They are also half as heavy as other roofing methods. On an entire roof, the tiles will be a mix of non-active and active solar tiles. And while Consumer Reports found that a solar roof needs to be $24.50 per square foot to compete with other kinds of roofs, the Tesla solar roof comes in at $21.85 with 35 percent of the roof being active solar.

Determining the cost of a solar roof take into account how much of the roof can be active solar tile, and how much will just be the non-active glass tiles. A glass tile, without the solar elements costs $11 per square foot, and the solar tiles themselves are $42 per square foot. For most houses, Tesla says only about 40 percent of the roof will be active solar, but the percentage of active tiles depends on how much energy a household needs.

If you want to price your own roof, you can use the Tesla Solar Calculator to determine the amount of energy a solar roof will produce over 30 years, the flat cost to purchase a roof for your house, and even adjust the cost based on your electric bill.

Of the four tile options, the grey smooth and textured black glass tiles are open to order, and the slate and tuscan style tiles will be released early in 2018. Within the United States, Tesla plans to start installing the solar roofs right away, and will start installing outside of the US in early 2018. Tesla says that installation will take about five to seven days, entirely managed by the company itself.

With all of the solar roof announcements, Musk took a moment to upload another kind of recommendation for the solar tiles. He posted a video of a hail cannonball hitting a solar tile, leaving the solar tile entirely unscathed.

Tesla Solar Panels Are Designed To Provide As Much Renewable Energy As Possible To the Home

There has been a lot of chatter recently around the news that Tesla has surpassed GM as the most valuable American motor company. Yet, to be honest, we’re not 100% sure if Tesla should be designated strictly as a car company. Look at their newly announced Solar Panels and you’ll see what we mean.

According to the company, these solar panels are designed to provide as much renewable energy as possible to the home while not standing out or drawing too much attention. By the looks of it, they’ve more than succeeded in this task. The low profile nature of the panels, while nothing compared to the solar tiles the company recently announced, hide any and all wiring and mounting hardware from view. In addition to a sleek look and efficient performance, the panels boast a seamless integration with Tesla’s Powerwall – so you can use your solar energy day or night. What car company do you know of that does something like that?

A Crib that Simulates Late Night Car Rides to Help Babies Sleep

For some parents, the late night car ride is a tried and true method of finally getting their stubborn newborn to go to sleep. The problem with the method is the driver often doesn’t know how long the drive will take, and longer, frequent trips start to add up in both time and money costs. Plus, God forbid, you could get in an accident. But all those dangers and costs drop away with the MAX Motor Dreams crib. Users download an app, which they use to record any drives they take. It then syncs with the crib to accurately replicate the ride, allowing you to lull your child to sleep in the safety of your own home and the comfort of their own bed. Thanks to Ford Spain, you get all the benefits of the traditional late night drive, updated with the ease of modern technology.

It’s Time to Tidy Your Neighborhood for the Great American Cleanup

If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved in your community while improving the great outdoors, Keep America Beautiful has just the thing.

The 19th annual Great American Cleanup launched on the first day of spring and will run through the fall. The annual nationwide effort brings millions of people together to improve their communities, parks, trail systems, waterways, and even vacant lots. This year’s theme is Clean Your Block Party, which encourages participants to do something on their own blocks to improve the local area and to bring neighbors together.

Some 50,000 events are expected to be held this year — and that’s a lot of litter picked up and flowers planted. According to KAB, here’s a better breakdown of what they hope to accomplish:

Nationally, the Great American Cleanup annually delivers more than $175 million in measurable economic benefits to communities. The program is led by more than 620 Keep America Beautiful state and community-based affiliates and hundreds of other community, business and government partners who plan community improvement events and experiential education programs that help to:
– Clean and improve 100,000+ miles of local roads, trails, shorelines and waterways;
– Plant millions of flowers, trees, shrubs and community gardens;
– Revitalize and restore acres upon acres of public parks, nature trails and recreation areas as well as vacant lots;
– Collect tons of litter, debris and other items for proper disposal, recycling or reuse.

“It’s inspiring to see millions of volunteers, businesses, public officials and others turn out each year for Great American Cleanup events to ensure that our nation’s vital public spaces – our parks, trails, beaches, oceans, rivers, lakes, roadways, community gateways and more – remain clean, green and beautiful places to live,” said Mike Rosen, senior vice president, marketing & communications, for KAB.

Interested in starting your own Clean Your Block team or hosting an event in your neighborhood? Visit the Great American Cleanup page to find out what’s going on in your neighborhood or to get something started.

Google Wants To Help You Get Solar Panels

Google wants to help you do your bit for renewables. The company has updated its Project Sunroof tool to include 3D models of 60 million rooftops across all 50 states. The company has looked at things such as local weather, how many pesky trees might be blocking sunlight, and how much solar energy a rooftop can generate, and offers owners frank advice over whether it’s worth them joining the clean energy revolution.

The take-home headline from the update? Seventy-nine per cent of rooftops analysed are “technically viable” for solar panels. If you live in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada or New Mexico, your home is very likely to fit into that category (90% of the buildings studied), whereas if you’re in Pennsylvania, Maine or Minnesota things look decidedly less sunny (just above 60%).

Top of the list of cities overall is Houston, Texas which – according to Google’s data – could provide a whopping 18,940 gigawatt-hours of energy per year. The company estimates that a single gigawatt-hour is enough to power 90 homes for a year, meaning that cities such as Los Angeles (14,905GWh), Phoenix (11,686GWh) and San Antonio (10,648GWh) could make a huge impact if every viable building joined the solar party.

In fact, if every one of those cities maxed out on solar panels, Google estimates that eight million homes could be powered for a year. Wowsa.

Of course, it’s beyond Google’s power to install solar panels on every house, but it is at least making it as easy as possible for conscientious Americans to explore the possibility. Just head to the Project Sunroof website, enter your address, and the tool will provide estimates of how much energy you can generate, alongside the cost of leasing or buying the panels.