To Crack or Not to Crack the Window


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Energy Conservation Tips | Posted on 06-02-2016

With the price of gas rivaling a King’s ransom, people are looking for better fuel efficiency in their vehicles. Unfortunately, the warm summer months appear to have an inverse relationship with your car’s mileage per gallon: when temperatures increase, fuel economy tends to decrease.

There are two main reasons for this: air conditioning negatively affects your fuel economy but so does driving with the windows down.

For most people, driving with neither air conditioning nor an open window is not an option; you likely want to arrive at your destination without risking heat exhaustion. So, you are left with a choice to make: crank up the air conditioning or roll down the windows.

It turns out both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Air Conditioning vs. Open Windows

The biggest advantage to air conditioning is comfort. Not only does it keep you cool on hot summer days, but it also helps regulate the noise level inside your car. In addition, using air conditioning avoids having to roll down the windows, which can actually be safer. An open window can let in insects, debris, and, on rare occasions, even birds. All of these can prove quite distracting and possibly lead to accidents.

According to Time, an open window can also increase the risk of skin cancer in the areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the driver’s left arm.

However, using the air conditioning for comfort and safety isn’t free: per the US Department of Energy, running your car’s air conditioner on max can decrease MPGs by between 5 and 25 percent. Choosing to roll down the windows also comes with some advantages. Rolled down windows allow fresh air to be let in. And, of course, an open window exhibits the true essence of the open road: radio on and wind in your hair.

Yet, these perks aren’t free either: open windows often create an added resistance that your car must work harder to overcome, thus using extra fuel in the process.

Splitting the Difference

Like so many things in life, getting the best fuel economy for your car may involve a little meeting in the middle. Using the knowledge that air conditioning dramatically reduces a car’s fuel efficiency, coupled with the knowledge that rolling the windows down also decreases fuel efficiency by causing drag (which increases with speed), the Society of Automotive Engineers performed a study to answer one question: at what point does the fuel use caused by the drag cancel out the fuel saved by not using air conditioning? Their answer was around 65 miles an hour.

The engineers concluded from this study that cars were more fuel efficient with no air conditioning and the windows rolled down for all speeds under 65 miles an hour. For speeds higher than 65 miles an hour, cars were more fuel efficient with the air conditioning on and the windows rolled up.

Thus, when it comes to air conditioning versus open windows, the answer is simple: when you’re driving slow, roll your windows low; when you’re up to speed, it’s time for some A/C.


Stephen Barnes writes on conservation, energy saving tips, alternative energy sources, renewable bio-fuels, windmills and other like topics; those who go with air conditioners may benefit from air conditioning repair Carrollton.

The Benefits of Solar Tile Installation


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Energy Conservation Tips | Posted on 05-02-2016

Photovoltaic panels on a sunny roof become a solar generator to give energy to the home. Many people would like to convert at least part of their energy consumption to solar power, but are hesitant to put obtrusive solar panels on their roof. As solar technologies advance, there are other options. Solar tiles are designed to look like asphalt tiles and blend in with the other roof tiles while generating energy.

Solar Tiles

Solar tiles are manufactured to be flexible and adaptable to a variety of shapes, which makes them look and function like ordinary roof shingles. However, they have the added benefit of generating solar power for electricity.

Before 2008, solar roof tiles only had half of the conversion rate of traditional solar panels, but with the discovery of a copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film cell, solar tiles have reached an almost equal conversion rate to traditional solar panels.  Solar tiles eventually may exceed traditional solar panels in conversion rate.

The Main Benefits of Solar Tiles

Unlike traditional photovoltaic solar panels, solar tiles do not require sunlight to generate electricity. They will function even on a cloudy day because they only require daylight. There are solar tiles especially developed for northern climates.

Solar tiles blend with the existing roof tiles and, in some cases, are almost invisible.

Solar tiles can be installed on most homes and are easy to connect to the electricity supply through weatherproof connectors.

Each solar tile has a solar module and glass laminate cover. The modules have electrical connecters and each tile is connected to the adjacent tile.

No noise, heat, radiation or greenhouse gases are emitted from solar tiles. They are a green, renewable energy product.

Any roofer without the use of special tools can install most solar tiles.

Installation costs are often lower than for traditional solar panels.

Solar tiles are incredibly strong and some come with a 25-year guarantee.

Better Installation

Traditional solar panels that are installed on a roof need to be bolted to the roof. To do this, the roof envelope needs to be pierced. The panel is fitted on the same plane as the roof, but they are thick and usually rise above the roof looking ungainly.

Solar tiles are manufactured to resemble regular roof tiles and come in several different colors. They are usually the size of several regular roof tiles together, and are thin. They can interlock with concrete roof tiles and are fixed to the standard tiling battens in the same way as regular tiles. This creates a weather-tight roof.

Today, solar tiles can be installed in two-thirds the time of traditional solar panels, which cuts the installation costs. They also cost about 10 to 15 percent less per watt than PV panels.

Different Types Solar Tiles

The technology in solar tiles is rapidly advancing. There are profiled solar tiles that exactly match traditional profiled roof tiles. These tiles can replace existing profiled roof tiles as well as be used for new construction.

The only shape available today is the pantile or S shaped profile. These tiles are made from high performance polymer and are very light, unbreakable and recyclable.

Another solar tile is the flat tile used on flat roofs to replace ceramic tiles. Technology is advancing to produce the first PV pavement that is strong enough to withstand pedestrian traffic.

Solar tiles have a huge advantage over traditional solar panels because they fulfill two essential needs of a home or other building. They provide excellent roofing as well as a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative energy source.


Paul Dayton writes on conservation, eco-conscious living, environmental preservation, home improvement, green homes and other related areas. Those interested in redesigning their home should view the resources at Home Exterior Systems.

A Look at the Train Systems of Texas


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Business | Posted on 05-02-2016

Texas has many railroad operations for both freight and passenger service. The rail system in Texas consists of national, regional, and local railroad systems with several types of passenger and freight service, operating speeds, and frequency of operation. The existing rail corridors are owned and operated by freight railroads, mostly single track operations with sidings spaced 10 to 20 miles apart to allow passing. The composite railroad system in the state is outdated, complex, and slow.

Since 1996, the United States Surface Transportation Board (STB) has economic regulatory oversight of U.S. railroads, controlling rates, service levels, and the construction and abandonment of rail lines, carrier mergers and acquisitions, and interchange of rail traffic between carriers. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has overall authority over the railroad transportation systems within the state – this power transferred to TxDOT from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) in 2005. TxDOT published the Texas Railroad Plan in 2005 to identify problems and improvements to the Texas railroad infrastructure. Since that time, progress has been slow, but since 2010 some momentum has been gathered and projects are moving forward.


The STB categorizes rail carriers into three classes based upon annual earnings. In Texas, the companies that fall into each class are listed below:

CLASS I Interstate Railroads

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF)

BNSF plans to invest $240 million on maintenance and rail capacity expansion projects in Texas in 2013. Major improvements include replacement of the Galveston Causeway Bridge, a siding extension near Somerville, Houston Intermodal Facility (HIF) expansion, a new loop track facility in San Antonio, and track maintenance and rail bed improvements on nearly 4,400 miles of Texas tracks.

Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS)

Union Pacific Railroad (UP)

UP invested $100 million in the San Antonio Intermodal Terminal (SAIT), a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the growing intermodal volume in southern Texas. This terminal:

1. Is in close proximity to the Mexican border and hundreds of maquiladoras (factories) in Mexico,
2. Provides an alternative intermodal location for Mexican freight,
3. Connects South Central Texas with major markets in Los Angeles and Chicago,
4. Is conveniently located close to commercial property available for development,
5. Is centrally located for efficient freight service to many Texas markets,
6. Serves San Antonio, Austin, Eagle Pass and Laredo, and the entire south Texas market.

CLASS II Regional Railroads

• Texas Mexican Railway (TexMex)

CLASS III Connecting Service Railroads

• Fort Worth & Western Railroad (FWWR)
• Texas & Northern Railway (TN)


Interstate Passenger Service

• AMTRAK operates the only interstate passenger service in Texas. The Texas Eagle provides daily service between Chicago and San Antonio with stops at Austin to Dallas, and connecting service from San Antonio to Los Angeles three times a week on the Sunset Limited.

Commuter Rail Service

• Trinity Railway Express (TRE) – TRE commuter rail service operates between Fort Worth and Dallas and all points in between six days a week with no Sunday service. TRE connects with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail service systems.

Rapid Transit Service

• Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) – The DART Rail system has 61 passenger stations connecting downtown Dallas, South Dallas, Oak Cliff, North Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Garland, Carrollton, Pleasant Grove and Irving and dozens of other points in the Dallas Metroplex.

• Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) – A commuter rail project called TEX-Rail is being developed by The T and is projected to bring passenger rail service to Tarrant County in 2016. TEX-Rail will run from the downtown Fort Worth through northeast Tarrant County to Grapevine, then to the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

Other Cities – Austin and Houston have limited METRO-Rail service.


The Texas Railroad Plan, as amended, identifies improvements to Texas rail service, and some of these initiatives are being undertaken; but, there is still a long way to go before reliable, efficient freight and passenger service will be the order of the day. Increasing Federal environmental regulations, rising fuel costs, and impact of national economic conditions pose threats to accomplishment of TRP objectives. Though the state is on the right track, it is important that the plan moves ahead or it may be run over by the next train.


Derek Frump writes often about transportation, train systems, shipping, vehicles and car mechanics, trucking and other similar topics. Those curious about the transportation industry in the state of Texas should take a look at freight forwarders Houston TX.