In ‘Sustainable products’ Category
Product profile: A very portable solar oven
We have looked at a lot of solar cookers over the years, but the GoSun Stove is the first to be based on an evacuated tube.READ MORE »
The oven consists of a 610 mm long evacuated tube with a 58 mm internal diameter and 76 mm external diameter. Inside this you slide a cooking tray which holds the food to be cooked or liquid to be heated. The tube is mounted between a pair of folding parabolic reflectors that concentrate the sunlight onto the tube, but also fold up to protect the tube when not in use. A carrying handle also doubles as support legs for adjusting the oven to face the sun.
The GoSun can accommodate up to 1.4 kg of food or 1.6 litres of hot beverage. It has an estimated heating capacity of 230 watts and can reach temperatures as high as 371 °C. Meals can be ready to eat in as little as 10 minutes.
There will also be a GoSun Mini, a more compact version for camping and similar uses.
The GoSun Stove comes with a two-year warranty on the tube which covers the cost of a replacement tube regardless of how it gets broken! The other components are guaranteed from manufacturing defects for one year.
RRP: US$279, $129 for the Mini. The GoSun Stoves will be released early 2014, but are available for pre-order now. For more information and to order go to
Product profile: Portable power without the fumes
The need for a portable power source for off-grid, intermittent use is quite common, but most people resort to a petrol or diesel generator. Aside from the fumes, noise and hassle, gensets are about the most expensive way to generate electricity there is.READ MORE »
The Yeti1250 portable solar-powered generator from Goal Zero is designed to provide power for temporary low-demand applications such as caravans, motorhomes, camping, sheds and shacks.
It consists of an enclosure housing a 100 Ah sealed lead-acid battery, a 12 V 20 A MPPT charge controller and a 1200 W inverter. Included in the package is a roll cart for easy portability, two 30 W solar panels, carry bag and cables. Also available is a second battery kit (including connectors) to double the storage capacity, a solar add-on kit that includes two 30 W panels, carry bag and cables, and a tripod for mounting four panels. Maximum solar array size is 240 watts.
There are two 10 A solar charging ports and a 20 A power socket charging port. Outputs include two 220 VAC power sockets, several different 12 V port options and three USB ports.
RRP: $2200 for the Yeti1250 kit, $620 for the additional solar kit, $417 for the battery kit and $170 for the solar tripod. Available in Australia from Off-grid Energy, ph: 1300 334 839, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.offgridenergy.com.au
Product profile: Ultra low-power server
Servers are usually large, ugly computers that suck electricity like there’s no tomorrow. Reliability and processing power is usually prioritised over energy efficiency, but it doesn’t have to be that way.READ MORE »
CompuLab has a reputation for making amazing, tiny computers with very low energy consumption. They have recently expanded their range with the uSVR, a beefy little server suitable for a great many uses.
Features include a completely fanless, all-metal case measuring just 60 x 160 x 260 mm, Celeron or Intel Core-i7 processor, up to 32 GB ECC RAM, four internal 2.5” HDDs in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 or JBOD configuration, optional mSATA drive up to 480 GB for the operating system, up to six gigabit ethernet ports and various other options. Power consumption is rated at a tiny 8 to 35 watts, depending on system configuration and load.
At time of writing we hadn’t found any retailers of this amazing little server and so it is only available from CompuLab directly. Wholesale price for 1000+ quantities start at US$ 556 and the one-off price is 20% higher, or US$ 667. An evaluation kit is also available. Note that there are minimum purchase quantity restrictions for non-standard configurations.
Product profile: Benchtops from paper
Australian-made Paperock is a high-strength building material made from multiple layers of 60% recycled or sustainably sourced paper (not certified) which can be used for benchtops. It is bonded with phenolic resin and heat, and pressure cured to form an extremely strong material.READ MORE »
It is virtually impervious to water, highly stain resistant, can be worked like hardwood and is available in a number of colours: black, sand, brown, green, a black and brown sandwich and a black and sand sandwich.
Because of its high strength, benchtops made from Paperock need not be as thick as with other materials, saving weight and cost. Paperock produces no VOC emissions and is heat resistant to 180 °C.
Paperock is made to order and is available in 3, 6, 10, 18, 25 and 32 mm thicknesses, with 50 mm on special order. Standard sheet sizes are 2.44 x 1.22 m or 2.85 x 1.35 m sheets. Maximum sheet size is 2.85 x 1.35 m.
Paperock also supply a similar US-made material, PaperStone, made from FSC-certified recycled paper and bonded with phenolic resins made from natural materials like cashew nut shells.
Product profile: Gleaming hot water
Continuous flow or instantaneous hot water systems are usually gas powered, but there’s an ever-increasing range of electric units on the market. These are suitable when there is no mains gas available (running water heaters on LPG can be expensive) and, being electric, there is no wastage due to continuously running pilot lights.READ MORE »
The range of electric instantaneous hot water systems from Gleamous solve the problem of no gas availability and can provide hot water without the water wastage of running hot water from storage tank systems. The smaller units are ideal where hot water is needed a long way from the hot water system, such as a second bathroom, shed or workshop. The larger unit can provide hot water to an entire home without the standing losses of a storage type system, or the accompanying maintenance, such as replacing PTR valves and sacrificial anodes every few years.
There are three models in the range, two of which have no storage (the 3.3 kW, single-phase DSK-45EP and the 14 kW, three-phase GL5) and one which stores five litres of water at the point of use (the DSL-30N).
Product profile: Finally, a leaf guard that works?
While leaf guard systems for gutters sound like a great idea, the reality is that almost all of them suffer from problems of clogging—especially when gumnuts are involved. Leaf Safe Guttering is a new gutter system designed to eliminate the problems found with previous leaf guard systems.READ MORE »
The Leaf Safe Guttering system sits below the outer edge of the roof and is completely enclosed on top by a sloping lid that prevents leaves and debris falling into the gutter. Rainwater flows over an outer vertical gutter face that has two staggered sets of perforations which still have the upper flaps attached and turned inside the gutter. The flaps guide the water flowing over the vertical edge of the gutter into the gutter trough, while the leaves and other debris continue to flow downward and off the outside of the gutter.
Leaf Safe Guttering is made from Colorbond steel and is available in the full range of Colorbond colours. The guttering can be made to size and shipped anywhere in Australia to be fitted by local guttering installers.
Product profile: Low power consumption, lots of grunt
The options for low-power computing just keep expanding. Xi3 Corporation recently released several new low-power consumption computers which are designed to provide plenty of computing power while also being easily upgradeable.READ MORE »
Starting at under $500, the X3A modular computer is an entry-level desktop designed for most home and office applications. It features a dual-core 64-bit 1.65 GHz processor and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM. It comes standard with 32 GB of solid-state storage (upgradeable to 1 TB), can support two high-definition displays simultaneously, and has two USB 3.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports and a gigabit ethernet port.
Rated energy consumption is just 18 watts.
The X3A’s much more powerful cousin, the X7A, is powered by a quad-core processor running at up to 3.2 GHz, integrated graphics with up to 384 shader cores and 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM. The X7A handles graphics-intensive tasks such as image and movie editing and, of course, games. The X7A can run three high-definition monitors simultaneously, has four USB 3.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a gigabit ethernet port and up to 1 TB of solid-state storage. Rated power consumption is 40 watts.
RRP: Starting at under US$500 for the X3A and under $1000 for the X7A. For more information go to www.xi3.com
See the complete list of new products in ReNew 124
Product profile: German-made inverters
There are many grid-interactive inverters on the market, but a lot of them are now low cost ‘transformerless’ units. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they can have some advantages, many people still prefer devices made with fully isolated low-frequency transformers.READ MORE »
The Platinum S series of German-made Diehl AKO inverters is just such a range. They are designed to handle pretty much any environment, with a maximum ambient rating of 45°C and IP54 sealing. Being fully isolated they can be earthed on either the positive or negative side of the solar array.
They also feature wide input voltage ranges, earth fault monitoring, reverse voltage protection and efficiencies of up to around 95%. They come with a full graphical LCD (pictured) and inbuilt datalogging with enough storage to store up to 30 years worth of data.
There are eight models in the range, from 2300W to 5100W peak input. They all measure 720 x 320 x 250mm and weigh from 30 to 43kg. They come with a 10-year warranty.
Product profile: No maintenance decking
We’ve looked at a number of composite timber replacement materials over the years, but arguably the most realistic looking materials are Trex Transcend and Trex Accent.READ MORE »
Available in a range of colours and numerous decking and cladding profiles, as well as posts and rails, they feature woodgrain texture and darker highlights to imitate the look of wood as closely as possible.
Trex decking is made from 95% recycled content, including wood recovered from used palettes and sawmills and recycled plastic from many common household items including sandwich bags, newspaper wrap and grocery bags. Trex, a US-based company, recycles almost 300,000 tonnes of material each year, preventing this vast quantity from entering landfills, although they are American landfills, not Australian ones!
The decking won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter and requires no sanding, staining or painting. Spills wash off easily with just soap and water.
Available through Woodhouse Timbers in Victoria, ph:(03) 9761 6464, email@example.com, www.woodhousevic.com.au and WCT Distributors in Western Australia, ph:(08) 9240 7343, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.wctdistributors.com
Product profile: Great coffee, less energy use
Home espresso machines have become more popular in recent years. But while they can allow you to make a real coffee at home, they use a lot of energy per cup, take up bench space and, like many home appliances, contain a lot of materials for the simple job they do.READ MORE »
The ROK Espresso Maker from Presso Ltd is a compact espresso maker that is almost completely human powered. The only energy input is to make a small amount of boiling water—the rest is done using elbow grease.
The unit is made almost entirely from high-grade metal, making it almost completely recyclable, and being far smaller than an electric coffee machine, it is ideal for homes with limited space and for people on the move.
The ROK comes in a reusable metal storage tin and includes all needed accessories: Portafilter, stainless steel milk frother, single espresso splitter, tamp/spoon and instruction booklet. It comes with a ten-year warranty.
RRP:$250, although at time of writing it was on sale for $187. Made by Presso Ltd, www.rokkitchentools.com and available in Australia from Espresso Unplugged, PO Box 724, Mullumbimby NSW 2482, ph:(02) 6684 9400, email@example.com, www.espressounplugged.com.au
Product profile: Using CO2 to save energy
Carbon dioxide is normally considered an environmentally damaging gas, being the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. However, it also has its good sides—it makes a great refrigerant.READ MORE »
Sanden has used this property in their new heat pump water heater to produce what is arguably the most efficient water heater available in Australia.
The Sanden Eco has a rated coefficient of performance of 4.5, meaning that it uses as little as 22% of the energy of a regular electric element heater. It also features a fast recovery time of four hours when heating water from 17 °C to 65 °C.
The Eco comes with a 315 litre stainless steel tank and has an operating temperature range of -10 °C to +43 °C, making it suitable for use in frost-prone areas. Noise levels are rated at 38 dB. The system comes with a three-year warranty and the tank has a huge 15-year warranty.
Other features include a split system design, so that the heat pump and tank can be up to four metres apart and the option of two different tank shapes to suit the available space—tall with a reduced diameter or short with an increased diameter.
Product profile: See the MidNite Lite
The MidNite Solar Classic range of MPPT solar regulators are quite popular, but they are not the lowest cost regulators on the market. To address this, MidNite Solar has released a somewhat lower cost Lite version.READ MORE »
The Classic-Lite version includes almost all the features of the regular model, except for the LCD and arc fault detection.
Features include up to 250 V input, current controlling capacity of up to 96 A of solar, wind or hydro on a 12 V battery (or up to 5 kW on a 48 V battery), ethernet port and 380 days of data logging.
By dropping the LCD and arc fault detection, the cost of each model has been reduced by around $150 over the equivalent full Classic model.
Simple programming is done via DIP switches and more complex programming via the ethernet port and the included free PC software. User feedback is via LEDs and a manual equalise button (auto-equalise can be programmed via a PC).
The new Classic-Lite allows relatively inexpensive grid-connect type solar panels to be used on any independent power system where high levels of user information are not needed, such as on mobile and marine systems or weekenders.
Product profile: Who needs petrol!
Until the advent of high capacity lithium batteries, attempts by makers of power garden tools to create alternatives to petrol-powered machines had been lacklustre at best. Nowadays, in the realm of weed trimmers, the best readily available in Australia appears to be the Stihl FSA85. But at $349 plus around another $400 for the battery and charger, it is expensive.READ MORE »
As an alternative, the CGT400 trimmer from Core Outdoor Power in the USA uses Core Power’s new motor design that has no wire windings at all. Its pancake motor uses high powered magnets on the rotor and a heavy duty circuit board as the stator. The result is a very compact, very efficient motor with enormous torque.
There are two settings, the 5000 rpm ‘torque’ setting and the 7000 rpm ‘speed’ setting. The motor has a rated life of 10,000 hours and run time is up to 70 minutes. The CGT400 features a dual 2.4 mm line bump-feed head and comes with battery and three-hour charger (120 volt only, so you will need a step-down transformer).
Having used the CGT400, we can say it is by far the most powerful rechargeable trimmer we’ve come across and is very quiet.
Product profile: Super low energy ceiling fans
Ceiling fans are one of the most efficient methods of providing a cooling effect, but many are noisy, they wobble and they still use a lot more energy than they should for the job they do.
Aeratron fans have been designed not only to look great, but also to use very little energy while helping to keep you cool. They are available in two-blade (e502) and three-blade (e503) versions, in white, black and silver finishes.
Rated power consumption of their DC motors is less than four watts on the lowest of the six speed settings, while maximum speed uses just 18 watts. Regular fans of this size can use 60 watts or more, so there’s no doubt the Aeratrons have been designed for high efficiency.
Fan rotor diameter for both models is 1260 mm and the six-speed controller also has a reverse function for pushing warm air from the ceiling down to floor level during winter.
To improve the fans’ eco-credentials further, Aeratron has worked to reduce waste during production, the fans are supplied in ‘eco-packaging’, and carbon offsets are used to reduce their carbon footprint.
Read about more products in ReNew 122.
Product profile: Grid interactive wind turbines
Soma wind turbines are a bit of an icon in the Australian renewable energy industry, being the only Australian-made small wind turbine available.READ MORE »
While they are usually used to charge battery banks, Soma also makes a grid-interactive version of both their 400 and 1000 watt turbines for people with grid connections and a good wind resource.
The SOMA 400GC and 1000GC turbines feature a higher output voltage (192 V and 165 V respectively) than the battery charging versions. Their rated outputs of 400 and 1000 watts respectively come at 10 m/s, lower than many other turbines, and they have maximum outputs of 600 and 1400 watts. Maximum rated wind speed is 50 m/s for both turbines.
Both come complete with controller and rectifier and they are compatible with several brands of grid-interactive inverter, including the SMA Sunny Boy and Windy Boy units. Soma can also supply 13 m and 19.5 m tower kits to suit their turbines.
See more products in ReNew 121
Product profile: Non-toxic children’s accessories
There are lots of accessories and toys for babies and young children but most are not made with the environment in mind and many contain toxic materials and additives such as BPA and phthalates which have yet to be banned in Australia.READ MORE »
IttyBittyGreenie has a large range of bottles, utensils, food storage, toys, clothing and other accessories that have been designed specifically to reduce their environmental impact.
Their utensils and bottles are all BPA-, phthalate- and PVC-free while their toys are made from plantation rubberwood painted with non-toxic water-based paints, or from recycled polyethylene or polypropylene.Packaging is either from recycled materials or fully recyclable, depending on the supplier.
There are some unique products, such as the star-shaped Eco Stars crayons made from recycled crayons collected from schools, restaurants and other organisations.
Every product in the IttyBittyGreenie range seems to have been selected to be as eco friendly and safe as possible—exactly as it should be when buying toys and accessories for your children.
Product profile: Elevated garden planters
Most people would love to grow at least some of their vegies at home. After all, the benefits are numerous—you can grow organic, you have the food on tap when needed and you save money, of course. But many people have neither the time nor the space for a vegie garden.READ MORE »
Elevated Gardens has a range of fully automated self-contained growing systems that can be used almost anywhere. They consist of a growing tank, the growing medium (cocopeat) and an automatic watering system that can be either solar- or mains-powered.
There’s a range of models, from the tiny Grow Zone for small spaces such as balconies through to the Sustain Plus which comprises three or more Sustain 2D tanks (pictured) and a greenhouse cover. There’s even a vertical solution for making green walls, the Sustain 3D. The tanks come in a range of Colorbond colours, and some are available in a granite-effect finish.
A range of consumables, such as the growing medium, nutrients and a nutrient meter are also available, although these may be easily obtained at local nurseries.
Product profile: Nokero solar light
We come across some interesting and unusual ideas quite often here at ReNew, and the Nokero solar light bulbs would have to fall into that category.READ MORE »
Available in three models, they all feature embedded solar panels that charge an internal replaceable NiMH AA battery. When it gets dark, the bulbs turn on and provide light until the battery goes flat. Runtime ranges from around two hours to more than six, depending on the model, brightness setting and daily insolation.
The original model, the N100, has five LEDs and four separate solar panels. It looks a lot like a Mercury space capsule! It has only one brightness setting.
The N200 (pictured) has a different design, with a single solar panel and four LEDs. It is rated at 13.5 lumens on high and five lumens on low. While this won’t light a room, it does make for subtle safety and garden lighting, or an ideal backup light for camping or hiking.
The N220 is similar to the N200 but has two batteries and a single higher-power LED to produce more light than the other two models.
RRP: US$15 for the N100, $20 for the N200 and $29 for the N220. Volume discounts are available. For more information and to buy, go to www.nokero.com
Product profile: Biolite stove
There are lots of camp stoves on the market but most require you to take some form of fuel with you too, such as an LPG cylinder or methylated spirits. Of course, you can burn wood, but wood smoke is a pollutant and can be damaging to the lungs.READ MORE »
The BioLite CampStove is a wood-burning stove that uses a fan to increase airflow and so virtually eliminate smoke. It will happily run from twigs and sticks collected on site. Unlike other designs, the Biolite produces the electricity for its fan itself, by converting some of the heat directly using an inbuilt thermoelectric generator.
One of the great things about this design is that it produces excess electricity—enough to charge mobile devices such as phones, GPS units and similar. You can charge your phone while you cook a meal and, in case of an emergency, you’ll have a charged phone!
The BioLite CampStove is not just for camping: it also makes a great backup at home during power failures and natural disasters. It can cook a meal, provide warmth and some light, and keep your gadgets charged.
The larger version, the HomeStove, while not yet available, is aimed at replacing polluting open fires in developing countries.
RRP: US$129. For more information and to reserve a unit, go to www.biolitestove.com
Product profile: A personal heliostat
Sunflowers naturally track the sun, and now there’s a man-made sunflower that not only tracks the sun but reflects it into your home.READ MORE »
There are many reasons you might want to do this—lighting a dark and dingy south-facing room, bringing light to indoor plants or creating a sunspot for your pet.
The Sunflower Home Heliostat from Wikoda Inc in the USA is a fully self-contained stand-alone automatic heliostat for domestic uses. It features six reflective panels that give it the sunflower look, mounted around the central solar-powered sun tracking controller dome.
It is relatively simple to assemble and set up, and once running it will track the sun and maintain the reflection at the same spot on the house, whether that be a window, skylight or even a solar water heater.
The Sunflower has a reflective area of around 0.5m2 and can be installed on any pole with a 1¼” NPT female thread. An optional mounting kit is available which includes a PVC pole and mount, but for Australian buyers we recommend you source your pole and mount locally as it will be a lot cheaper!
RRP: US$399. Available directly from the website or check their link to their eBay listings. Shipping is around US$100 to Australia. For more information, contact Wikoda Inc, 52 Bradford Street, Concord, MA 01742, USA, ph: (978) 610 6492, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homeheliostat.com