Energy-Efficiency Electronics Hardware a "Bridge Fuel" to the Future


Demand for energy continues to be a major topic around the world. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro power are increasingly being utilized to provide for that demand. Many States have even recently passed laws raising the minimum renewable usage cap that utility companies must implement into their overall supply. But … we still require escalating amounts of energy for agriculture, industry to heat our homes and offices. Emerging as a “bridge fuel” to clean energy and renewable resources, the power electronics industry is poised to span that gap with hardware solutions needed to build intelligent power systems.


The Obama administration plans to spend billions of dollars on power conservation and sustainable energy projects as part of a $787 billion stimulus package which is focused on energy efficiency. Andrew Fanara, of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has famously said, “Energy efficiency is the bridge fuel we must build on and must invest in.” He stresses “Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to act.”


In part, the administration’s strategy is to use improved energy efficiency as a method of buying time to invest in and explore emerging and clean energy options. With initiatives like the smart power grid gaining traction, the power electronics hardware that makes it all work and its new designs aimed at increasing energy efficiency will be at the core of the plan.


Already, there is huge demand for power efficiency by consumers found an industry survey. And, consumers are willingly paying a premium for electronic hardware that delivers energy efficiency. This trend anticipates a growing number of electronic hardware devices will be utilize, which lowers costs and drives improved energy efficiency. Measured in dollars per watt this high volume of hardware deployment forecasts the efficiency for power electronics may drop to as low as 12 cents per watt by 2013.

The focal point of “smart power” systems and a national smart energy grid has clearly been on the hardware side of the equation. To be successful, in the not too distant future, engineers will also make use of the intelligence provided by software so that the hardware components communicate most effectively to accomplish maximum reduction of power consumption. The know-how exists now for this integrated software, but it is still far from widespread.


Power Profiling is a valuable energy-efficiency tool that granularly identifies the power consumed specifically by HVAC, appliances, networks, lighting etc. and communicates this information to users. A user profile is developed by use of proprietary algorithms that calculate information regarding a structure’s overall usage, and several data points such as the time of day and its energy consumption history.


Home Area Networks (HAN) are increasingly communicating with utilities in addition to the traditional media centers and computers. Both utilities and consumer electronics companies are offering and assortment of hardware solutions with methods of pre-programming and remotely controlling home systems such as water usage, heating & cooling, and appliances. With the arrival of “smart” appliances and new wireless network protocols designed specifically for energy-efficiency, many of these hardware solutions communicate to users and utilities over one or more wireless systems.

  • ZWave for media and home automation
  • ZigBee chosen by utility companies because of its secure protocol, and
  • EnOcean, a European self-powered energy harvesting technology that powers devices without the use of batteries.


Hardware using these wireless protocols can all be controlled from a single point building management system, or a homeowner’s computer. Even though these technologies are still on the leading edge, trends indicates they are very near to wide-scale adoption, enabling buildings to connect to smart grid applications that exponentially increase energy-efficiency.


Advances in alternative energy sources have provided greener ways of producing electricity and the burgeoning energy-efficiency industry is providing a plethora of energy saving hardware devices to help users re-tool . We can reduce energy consumption with these advances and make strides toward energy independence.


Consider what T. Boone Pickens says “In additional to putting our security in the hands of potentially unfriendly and unstable foreign nations, we spent $475 billion on foreign oil in 2008 alone. That’s money taken out of our economy and sent to foreign nations, and it will continue to drain the life from our economy for as long as we fail to stop the bleeding.”

“Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion – it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”

“By investing in renewable energy and conservation, we can create millions of new jobs. Developing new alternative energies while utilizing natural gas for transportation and energy generation; securing our economy by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and keeping more money at home to pay for the whole thing.”


Moving forward with renewables is a must, but it is also a documented fact that this increased capacity will not be enough to meet upcoming demands and provide energy independence. The tremendous strides being made in energy efficiency technologies are to help stem the tide, bridging the gap.


Speedy Low-Cost Path to Meeting Escalating Energy Demand


Efficiency in home and commercial heating is a priority for government agencies and research centers. Mike Davis, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment, at PNNL (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) stated that; “Improving building energy efficiency may well be our fastest and lowest-cost method of meeting increasing demand for energy.” PNNL announced, on July 12, 2010, that Alaska has been chosen for a study concerning efficiency of commercial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.


In line with the PNNL announcement, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in conjunction with, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is moving forward on the development of zero-energy homes. In order to develop the case studies required to transform the top 3000 builders in the United States into net-zero energy home providers by the year 2020, the agencies have been working with some of the nation’s most forward-thinking homebuilders.




How can a 218,000 square-foot office building ingest such a minuscule amount of energy that it doesn’t pull one electron from the power grid? In a related story of amazing technology, the new NREL office building is designed to do exactly that. NREL has opened the doors of its highly publicized zero-energy office building in Golden, Colorado. A net zero-energy building will produce as much energy as it consumes. Craig Robben, Information Technology project manager for the DOE’s, RSF (Research Support Facility) said it very well. He stated that to make it work, “every watt has to count.”

What's "Hot"? Revolutionary New System


Unique and important ideas come in all varieties and from any direction. Imagine how it captured our attention the day a client came to us asking us to develop a highly, effective and economical radiant heating system that not only heats but also prevents up to 50% of a building’s heat loss. The cost for the energy to power and run it is 40% less than the most cost-effective gas fueled forced air system. This evolutionary approach to home and office heating will change the way we heat our homes and businesses. It is designed specifically to be cleaner and more energy-efficient than previous radiant systems. In addition to those advantages, it improves human comfort by spot control, is more effective and much less expensive to install and operate than other systems currently on the market. Once we learned the concept and science behind its patents, our team eagerly plunged into the design phases of its development.

The hardware development phase of the new energy-efficient system will be completed in the 4th quarter of 2010 and the agency approvals for the system completed in time for a product launch in for the 2011 building season. Advantage involvement encompasses all engineering design and technical development, engineering prototype system, product testing, agency approvals such as UL, CE and FCC as well as product production. This electronic system marries science and technology in way that will not only assist with lowering energy costs (pays for itself rapidly), it minimizes the building’s carbon footprint, and improves the human comfort factor.


The system is designed to achieve a phenomenal 98% efficiency which is a full 13% better than anything else available, and significantly higher than forced air. System sensors provide continuous feedback and there are failsafes in place in case of a malfunction. Advantage utilized a ZigBee protocol for the controller that drives the system power, effectively eliminating not only heat loss, but functioning as a radiant heater that is efficient enough to reduce the need for forced air or eliminate it altogether.


It is exhilarating to be participants in what the future holds in energy, which is one of the most important technologies of the century. Advantage has already developed several products in energy and renewables and at this time is in the design phase of a new renewable energy project. For a number of years we have led the charge in green energy solutions including renewable energy, smart grid systems, intelligent power sensors, alternative power generation, demand and load balancing as well as transmission and distribution.

Let Advantage help you with development of your energy-efficiency hardware development from smart-grid to alternative energy power generation.

You Can Rely on Advantage for your Electronic Product Development Needs

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