Responsible Manufacturing

Carbon Dioxide emissions are in the news again as we experience more violent weather in 2014 and a drought in the west.

We know our customers care about reducing energy consumption and the corresponding Carbon emission reduction.  So when time came to upgrade our production machinery and assembly lines we made sure we choose equipment that has the lowest energy footprint possible.  For example our high speed CNC punch is an AC servo motor driven turret which uses less than half the energy of a typical hydraulic machine and a 1/3 of the energy use of a machine of 15 years ago.

In addition, we made the conscious choice to supply the energy required to produce our whole house fans from renewable sources. Today, our on-site Solar PV array provides all the energy required to power our cutting and punching equipment as well as a significant portion of our assembly line.


Did you know an AirScape whole house fan could be your best energy savings investment?  Read on:

cheapest way to reduce co2

We have (at least) two huge problems facing us.

  • Climate Change (too much CO2 is being emitted)

  • No Money (we’re all in debt)

Logically, we should spend our limited resources to the best effect. So, what is the best bang for our buck ? The parameter to measure is Tons of Carbon Dioxide (avoided) per Dollar…. the lower the better. So, here are a few of the common things we can do to reduce energy usage.  The spreadsheet shows most of the calculations (contact me if you want to know more details), but what is missing is the usual energy savings return on investment. This figure is all about environmental good. It just so happens that environmental good is good for your pocketbook.

So, please let’s spend our money wisely. Hint: Electric cars are cool (not as cool as pluggable hybrids), but they are not the best way to spend our money if we want to reduce carbon dioxide.

* There are many other energy and carbon dioxide reducing strategies not mentioned here.

Trains and coal strange bedfellows

We love railroads. Who can’t love their efficiency. BUT… They like coal. They really like coal. According to this report 44% of railroad car traffic is coal. And coal is dirty. It’s dirty in terms of carbon emissions. It’s dirty (but can be cleaned) in terms of particulate emissions. It’s not all that wonderful in terms of mercury dispersal either.

So, which way do you think railroads will lobby (they are corporate “citizens” after all).  Will they throw their weight towards laws which reward efficiency => win for rail transportation. Or will they throw their weight behind more coal burning => still good for railroads.?

Sustainable or Self Contained?

The concept of sustainable living, or sustainability has wide appeal. It’s hard to argue with the idea that if you think of natural resources and energy as a bank account,  we should not be overdrawn.

If you do it right, and it’s a tall order, you could model the “real” costs of resource extraction.  Our simplistic economic models increase the Gross Domestic Product when a tree is cut down, or oil is burnt.  Basic accounting practices would at least require us to decrease the amount in our natural resource account.

Let’s table that thought. Onto the rant du jour.  Our local food co-op has the following announcement:

——————————local Co-op announcement——————————————–

FRIDAY also means PORT ORFORD Hook and Line Caught Fish are here.Port Orford fisherman also dropped off some sea water! We’re going to make our own “Port Orford Sea Salt” for Eat Local Week!


Isn’t that great?  Well, of course not! Otherwise this would not be a rant.

How do you make your own salt?  Evaporate the water.  Great. With what energy?  Electricity as it turns out.

Let’s do some calculations …

Percent salt in seawater (by mass) 3.50%

Energy to evaporate 1 kg water 2,257,000 joules
Efficiency of Evaporation* 60.00%

Energy to recover 1 kg salt=> 107,476,190 joules
Convert to=> 29.85 kWh
pounds of CO2 per kWh 1.35 source: DOE
pounds of CO2 produced per 1 kg salt=> 40.3

* Engineering Estimate

Salt Evaporation Using Solar Energy
Salt Evaporation Using Solar Energy

Bottom line. You made your own salt. If you had purchased standard packaged salt, it would most likely have been harvested using solar energy, and energy efficient vacuum evaporation process (see

Perhaps this adventure falls into the self-contained, but not sustainable category.

Why we have to upgrade existing houses.

new efficient house
new efficient house

Low leakage windows, better insulation, and more efficient heating and cooling systems are among the many wonderful energy saving products and techniques that allow us to build very efficient houses.

Houses built to the high standards of a passivhaus , can use as little as 10% of the energy required to run the average U.S. single family house. For so many reasons, reducing energy use is critical to our society’s future. So….. let’s build a bunch of new passiv houses with an American flair. Well…’s the problem.

In a typical year, the housing industry produces about 1.5 million new housing units per year. This is within a base of approximately 128,000,000 existing housing units. (source So, it would take about 85 years (with no population growth) to replace all of our existing houses.

This leads us to the conclusion that we must devise a way to make our existing housing stock efficient users of energy. It’s not a simple task. Standards must be developed and a process must be implemented. Oh, and by the way, perhaps government (good government) should direct this. I think we’re not even going to ask the finance industry to be involved in this one 🙂