Posts Tagged ‘energy conservation’

More than one way to keep your heating bill down

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

King Jim's Urapoka brings the kotatsu experience to your work station

In general, insulation in Japanese homes is poor, so that means during winter heating devices have to be constantly on, driving up heating bills and sapping the power grid. Though this winter is predicted to be warmer than most, many Japanese, aware of energy shortages, will be feeling more than usually chilly as they try to cut down on power consumption.

A traditional method of beating this problem is the kotatsu, a low table that has a heating element underneath and a warm blanket hanging down from all sides; by turning up the heat on legs and feet, the main heating device in the room can be turned down, thus saving energy. Modern methods of keeping nice and toasty without resorting to turning up the room heater are understandably catching on. We’ve compiled a list of the best:

King Jim’s Urapoka: This nifty heating device transforms your desk into a kotatsu. After attaching the heat-sealing flaps to the sides of your desk, simply pop the device under your feet to warm up those frozen toes. 30W, ¥7,329.

Behold the Humanoid Sleeping Bag.

Humanoid Sleeping Bag from Doppelganger Outdoor: Specially selected by Nikkei Trendy as one of the best energy-saving products for winter on the market, if you snuggle up in these caterpillar suits, you probably won’t need to bother switching on the heater at all. It’s possible to unzip hands and feet to free them up for work, though the puffy style probably falls outside the bounds of smart casual business attire. ¥11,550.

Heat Tech underwear, Uniqlo: A survey conducted in October by Nikkei BP’s AIDA showed that over 60 percent of Japanese were intending to wear some from of “underwear”(including short and long t-shirts and short and long shorts) to protect against the cold this winter. Most modern innerwear is designed to have quick drying properties and, of this type, over 50 percent of both men and women favored Uniqlo’s heat tech range. This year sales of heat tech products are up 25 percent from last year, according to Sankei Biz.

Nitom’s Transparent Window Glass Film: Since double-glazing is rare in Japan, many people simply opt to insulate by sticking plastic sheeting directly onto window glass. A newish kind of insulation that sticks onto the window frame, rather than directly onto the glass, thus creating an air pocket, is very popular this year. According to Sankei Business, sales of the stuff during November were triple that of the same period the previous year.

Sassor’s ELP shines a light on energy consumption

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Sassor's ELP module and receiver

Though we’re all doing our best right now to cut down on power consumption, by turning off unnecessary lighting and keeping the air conditioner temperature down low (if it’s on at all), when it comes to finding out just how much energy we’re actually saving, most of us are in the dark. But a new device and app called the Energy Literacy Platform (ELP), developed by startup company Sassor, can shed some light on our personal energy consumption.

Info on domestic power usage can be tracked via iPhone

The ELP, which is on limited release to homes in and around Tokyo this summer, was found to assist in cutting domestic energy consumption by as much as 25 percent in a recent trial run on the NHK morning show “Asaichi.” The ELP package consists of modules that are plugged in between your electric sockets and appliances, a main ELP receiver and software for your computer and iPhone. The modules collect information on power consumption and then send them via wireless signal to the receiver, which then forwards the info to the company’s server. Users can then check their power consumption on their PC or iPhone.

Though devices like Google’s “Powermeter” already allow users to monitor domestic power consumption, Sassor’s system allows users to identify devices, such as hairdryers or kettles, that are causing a huge drain on the power grid. If you’re checking on devices from your iPhone, you can even turn them off remotely via the ELP website. The information is displayed in graph and pie chart form, so you can easily get a handle on your power consumption habits. The app will calculate how much you’re spending on electricity and it’s also possible to compare and contrast your power usage online with friends.

While this sounds great, the device is yet to be mass-produced (only 100 sets are going out), so unfortunately, it won’t realistically be till winter that most people can get their hands on them. The pilot scheme version is called ELP Lite and you won’t be able to monitor more than five appliances with this slimmed-down package, which costs ¥41,500 for the year (or ¥19,500, if you only get one module). The current modules are also rather bulky, a big problem if you’ve got a lot of devices to monitor. However, Sassor are developing a prototype module that fits snugly over a plug socket.

Sassor is the brainchild of CEO Shuichi Ishibashi and COO Takayuki Miyauchi, who submitted their first prototype to the British Council E-idea competition. Now big business is understandably interested, according to Nikkei Trendy, and the company have received capital to get things rolling from Samurai Incubate.

Super cool biz and signs of a setsuden summer

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

For most people in Tokyo, life two months past the March 11 quake and tsunami is back to usual. But it’s not as if nothing at all has happened. In addition to paying keener attention to minor rattles (will it get stronger? was that just the tail end of a much bigger quake elsewhere?) and keeping go-bags at the ready, the signs are small, but they are there. Signs in store windows, from convenience stores to fashion outlets, carry the ubiquitous cheer “Gambarou Nippon.” Company mascots, from Lee Jeans’ Buddy Lee to KFC’s Colonel, are joining in the rallying cry. Waiters at the hip Good Morning Cafe wear subtle red buttons with the same message.

Many are wondering if the coming summer will really bring the promised  electricity cut-backs. Setsuden (energy-saving) measures are at once an attempt to stave off power reductions and a taste of what they would entail. What’s cooler than Cool Biz? Super Cool Biz.  This year’s incarnation of the power-saving and sweat-inducing measures runs two months longer than last year and relaxes the standard business dress code even more. Where last year the most that  a hot-under-the-collar salary man could get away with was ditching the coat and tie, this year he can lose the collar altogether. T-shirts, jeans and Hawaiian shirts will be permitted under the Ministry of Environment’s new guidelines. (Only nice jeans, though. Standards specify “no rips or holes.”)

Continue reading about setsuden measures →

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