People-Powered Gyms

This seems so obvious and logical it amazes me that it has taken so long for this trend to take hold. That said, it’s encouraging to see more gyms adopting the concept of people power to generate electricity, along with more companies who are providing the green exercise products.

The Green Microgym in Portland, Ore., has all the usual stuff you’d expect — sweaty people, thump-thumping music, sleek exercise equipment — but it has some extras as well. Everywhere you look, there are power cords. And these aren’t the typical kind that let you surf the Web while you slog away on a spin cycle or elliptical machine — although you can do that too. The gym uses specially configured exercise equipment that captures the energy you create while pedaling, converts it into electricity and channels it into the power outlets.

The idea of using exercise equipment to generate electricity is not new. A gym in Hong Kong has been doing this since 2007. Lots of music festivals have turned to bicycle generators to power their concerts. And some hipster bars are even making customers pedal for a few minutes to get their pitchers of perfectly blended margaritas.

But clean (and healthy) energy is just now starting to catch on in U.S. gyms. There are now converters on exercise equipment in more than 80 locations in North America, including My Sports Clubs in New York City and Washington. “We have seen a significant increase in interest in the past six months, which is a good sign that fitness centers are ready to invest in green technologies,” says Mike Curnyn, co-founder of the Green Revolution, a Connecticut-based firm that wires bikes into a central battery that can store energy.

The article points out there there are a number of different options. Some rig the exercise equipment to channel energy directly to wall outlets, while others like Green Revolution send the energy to storage batteries. Plug Out is a brand that sends the energy directly to a standard wall outlet and the energy created is automatically used before the building draws power from the grid. Other companies are ReRev and Resource Fitness.

Expect this market to explode over the next several years.

Scoring homes for energy efficiency

This is good news regarding conservation and our push for energy independence.

U.S. homeowners will be able to get low-cost energy audits that rank a home’s efficiency on a scale of one to 10 and get federally insured loans for upgrades, under an Obama administration plan to be announced today.

With the new Home Energy Score, consumers will find out how their home compares with others and how much money they could save by adding insulation, sealing air leaks or doing other upgrades. Nine U.S. communities will test the score, similar to a miles-per-gallon label for cars, before it’s rolled out nationally next summer.

Information is power, and now consumers will be more informed about the energy efficiency of current homes and home they intend to purchase. This will breath more life into the market for green building materials and upgrades, and along the way our housing stock will become more energy efficient.

It will also be interesting to see how this affects the real estate market. Buyers will begin to insist on a Home Energy Score so they know how efficient their new home might be. I suspect sellers will be have an incentive to make the modest investments necessary to improve the score.

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