Sunlight splits into rainbows through a prism. That reflects reader response to recent columns about solar energy.
We received several positive comments from those already enjoying the benefits from solar power along with some pointed questions about the environmental and political aspects of solar panels.
First, my overeager fingers mistyped the telephone number of StraightUp Solar in the last column. The correct number for StraightUp is 844-977-6527. My apologies for the error.
One reader recommended MiaSole’s Flex panels, which work exceptionally well on his metal roof. Another recommended New Prairie Construction, which installed panels on his roof.
A reader questioned the environmental benefits of solar, considering panels require some degree of “dirty” construction.
Solar panels probably cause little, if any, more pollution than making the chips in your computer or smartphone. That doesn’t give them a free pass.
However, as a source of electric power, even factoring in construction and ultimate recycling after 20 years, they come out way ahead of coal and oil, and probably well ahead of natural gas.
Another reader raised political issues, since China manufactures a prodigious quantity of solar panels. Malaysia also exports a surprising number of panels.
Imported panels tend to be cheaper than U.S.-manufactured panels. You can decide whether to purchase domestic or imported panels. This column focuses on technology, not politics.
Speaking of domestic manufacturing, Ben Quattrone of the local Honda dealership forwarded a press release from Honda boasting eight Energy Star-certified highly energy efficient U.S. manufacturing plants. The release noted that Honda aimed to make them largely solar powered.
In another form of “efficiency,” Comcast increased the broadband download speeds for many of its subscribers.
According to its pres release: “Xfinity Extreme customers will see their download speed increase from 300 Mbps to 400 Mbps, followed by automatic upgrades to the company’s Extreme Pro and Gigabit tiers later in the first quarter of 2021. Extreme Pro download speeds will increase from 600 Mbps to 800 Mbps while Xfinity Gigabit speeds will move from 1 Gbps to 1.2 Gbps. These upgrades will be made at no additional cost to customers.”
In addition, at the other end of the subscriber spectrum, Comcast announced that it’s doubling the download speed of its Internet Essentials service, the low-cost residential Internet service for low-income households, to 50 Mbps and increasing the upstream speed to 5 Mbps for all new and existing customers, also at no additional cost.
The new Internet Essentials speeds will be rolled out nationally beginning March 1. The $9.95 monthly price for the service hasn’t changed since the program was launched in 2011.
Meanwhile, out in the wilds of Champaign County, Volo continues nudging its download and upload speeds upward to their promised 1 Gbps rating as well as providing that service with virtually no down time. I once questioned the need for 1 Gbps second service. Once you enjoy it, you never want to go back to slower service.
In the CES wrap-up column, we noted LG previewed a rollable smartphone, supposedly due later this year.
About a week later, LG announced it would most likely leave the smartphone business or sell its name to another company for smartphones.
This is unfortunate, since although it rarely received much press or offered “breakthrough” phones, LG manufactured high-performance, well-made phones.
LG’s potential exit leaves yet more of the smartphone field to Chinese companies.
Finally, we received email supporting and disputing the column about projection quality at local movie theaters.
A retired film industry executive wrote: “It is a shame that your local movie theaters do not represent the state of the art in exhibition. To state that theaters are not what they used to be is correct. They have improved immensely … from size of screen (upward of 70-plus feet) to multi-channel digital surround sound to leather recliners spaced 8 feet back to back. Doesn’’t resemble theaters of yesteryear.”
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.