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Graceful failure rating scheme

  [vote for,

When you buy an appliance, at least in North America, you often see an Energy Star label on it, telling you how energy-efficient it is. You'll also see safety ratings from UL, CSA, etc.

This idea is a similar thing, but rating how gracefully the product fails. It can be applied to things other than appliances, such as apps and smartwatches, too. Ratings are assigned by a ratings board according to some scale that would have to be defined, based on such things as whether:
- in the event of a component failure,
- without an internet connection or if its cloud service is discontinued,
- after an EMP,
- after a flood,
- if your smartphone's Bluetooth functionality stops working,
- if the power grid becomes unstable or non-functional,
- etc.,
the product continues to work fully/mostly/minimally/not at all. Details of retained functionality in each scenario could be provided as well, but the overall rating should be a simple number or letter grade for easy visual scanning at the store.

Now, if you're worried about a repeat of the Carrington Event, but you want a smart refrigerator so that you don't have to manage your grocery list manually, you can easily find one that you can expect to keep keeping your food cold after a huge power surge, even if its smart features no longer work.

Or, if you wanted to buy a smartwatch several years ago, and you wanted it to keep working for many years to come, you would look at the ratings as to continued operation without cloud service and know not to buy a Pebble.

N/A [2019-04-23]

notexactly, Apr 23 2019

PowerLine Surge Protectors by [Vernon]. The inspiration for this idea (specifically the first annotation on 2009-04-01) [notexactly, Apr 23 2019]

AVE https://www.youtube...watch?v=bT6-qk2LryM
This guy is hillarious. [2 fries shy of a happy meal, Apr 24 2019]

The Energy Balance of the Photovoltaic (PV) Industry https://gcep.stanfo...le_Symp2012_web.pdf
[bigsleep, Apr 29 2019]

A rebuttal of the claim that electric cars are more polluting than fossil fuel cars due to their manufacturing https://jalopnik.co...-more-bu-1834338565
Electric cars are not solar panels, but it's a similar argument. [notexactly, May 01 2019]

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       They should have all hazardous and radioactive substances listed in order like food labels.   

       ...and I'm surprised that EMP survive-ability rating isn't already a selling feature for more products.   

       For the ones that really matter, it already is ...   

       We'd like to see the criteria and ratings for Morton Thiokol SRB's, please ...
8th of 7, Apr 23 2019

       I would like to see a 'repairability' rating on all consumer goods. Places like iFixit already do this for things they cover. Top marks would be given for devices which can be completely disassembled and reassembled with a single small screwdriver and for which all parts are readily available.
hippo, Apr 24 2019

       This should be a thing. Further, appliances should be designed to continue to provide functional services at various stages of degradation - so a Fully Operational Death Star should be able to pop planets, launch Tie-Fighters and host Imperial Dignitaries; while one that's suffered a direct torpedo hit to the power core ought still be able to offer hospitality services to visiting bureaucrats without impairment.   

       Similarly, washing machines, phones and transportation.
zen_tom, Apr 24 2019

       You could have a corresponding Disgraceful failure rating scheme for specific politicians, and governments as a whole.   

       The scores would be fairly predictable, though.
8th of 7, Apr 24 2019

       I should have mentioned iFixit's repairability ratings, but this is distinct in that it's about rating how the thing continues to work in the interval between breaking and being repaired (or just after breaking, if repair isn't an option).
notexactly, Apr 24 2019

       I have a feeling you guys will like this guys podcast where he disassembles products to see just how well, or not, they've been engineered.
Gives me childhood hanging in-the-garage with the uncles flashbacks.

       //childhood hanging in-the-garage with the uncles flashbacks// you can get counselling for that nowadays.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 24 2019

       ...to expunge one's few fond childhood memories? For cash?   

       Naw. I'm good thanks.   

       I'm all for CO2 ratings as they would mean the cleaning up of the global economy wholesale. If Iphones fail within 2 years and need X amount of CO2 to be released to make a new Iphone - include it in the rating.   

       If an electric car needs 2 times the CO2 emission to make, include it in the rating. If an electric car needs its battery replacing every 5 years, then it doesn't degrade very well because of high CO2 maintenance footprint.   

       And most solar panels will never reduce CO2 emission because they take more energy to make than they will ever generate.   

       So if you want a unit for this idea, I would strongly suggest kilograms of CO2 per year. It goes above and beyond currently conveniently cheap fossil fuel prices and dips heavily into reusability.   

       //I would like to see a 'repairability' rating on all consumer goods//   

       It would be interesting to see net CO2 figures on small repair outfits. My guess is that a human breathing for a few hours emits less CO2 to repair an Iphone, nomatter how much Apple says its impossible to resurrect a water damaged phone and you must buy a new one.   

       Of course the easiest way of preventing CO2 emissions is an advertising campaign extolling the virtues of zero energy waste by buying second hand.   

       Kilograms of CO2 per year.
bigsleep, Apr 25 2019

       // [AvE] //   

       I've seen a few AvE videos, and he is popular among my friends, and I acknowledge that he's smart and knowledgeable, but I just can't stand his mannerisms, so I avoid watching his videos, and miss out on a bunch of knowledge as a result.   

       // And most solar panels will never reduce CO2 emission because they take more energy to make than they will ever generate. //   

       I hear this often, but I've never seen any study that backs it up. It doesn't make sense to me, because people talk about how long it takes for the solar panels on their roofs to break even (never more than 20 years, that I've heard) and, if they consumed more resources to make than they save over several years of operation, then they'd cost so much to buy (to pay for those resources) that they'd never break even, and nobody would buy them except for off-grid purposes.   

       // I'm all for CO2 ratings […] So if you want a unit for this idea, I would strongly suggest kilograms of CO2 per year. //   

       You are welcome to post that as its own idea, and I might well bun it (though I suspect it wouldn't be original as you've stated it so far). My idea is only about how well the device keeps working in various scenarios, not environmental impact (though it does indirectly relate to environmental impact, in that if a device keeps working well enough, it's less likely to be replaced).
notexactly, Apr 25 2019

       //people talk about how long it takes for the solar panels on their roofs to break even//   

       That's because fossil fuel energy is still cheap. Get a solar panel to replace its own manufacturing *energy* and its near impossible.
bigsleep, Apr 25 2019

       //Get a solar panel to replace its own manufacturing *energy* and its near impossible// - but once you've done so, you have a carbon-neutral solar panel. If you then use the power from this solar panel to manufacture more solar panels, each of these new solar panels starts life with no carbon debt. You have to start somewhere.
hippo, Apr 25 2019

       //but once you've done so, you have a carbon-neutral solar panel//   

       Unfortunately this rarely happens e.g. all panels in UK. In my calculations I based it on just bulk wafer prices rather than assembled units.
bigsleep, Apr 25 2019

       // That's because fossil fuel energy is still cheap. Get a solar panel to replace its own manufacturing *energy* and its near impossible. //   

       I don't follow. Solar panels break even by saving you money because you don't have to pay for as much fossil-fueled (or other) energy when you use them.
notexactly, Apr 25 2019


       Basic energy economics:   

       It takes a finite, calculable amount of energy to produce a PV panel.   

       Inputs to the process are various ores and feedstocks, converted into refined metals, silicin, plastics, and intermediates. Most if not all of these processes require energy. There are indirect costs of transport and waste disposal.   

       The panel once installed will have a calculable MTBF and since panels are currently non-repairable once it fails the only option us replacement, then recycling the failed unit - which has more direct and indirect energy requirements.   

       So, for a 100W panel, averaging 8 hrs productive daylight exposure, and a 10 year life, rhe energy it harvests is 100 x 3600 x 8 x 365 x 10 joules which works out at about 10GJ or in more familiar terms just under 3000 kWh.   

       Since the panel produces opportunistic DC, and most systems use continuous AC, losses through a battery/inverter system nesn the actual useable energy will be rather less.   

       Thus, if the process of manufacturing a 100W panel consumes more than about 2000 kWh of energy, it's better in terms of energy budget (not financial cost ) just to use that energy directly and forget about making a PV panel at all.
8th of 7, Apr 26 2019

       //So, for a 100W panel, averaging 8 hrs productive daylight exposure//   

       A 100W panel is about half a metre squared. On average over a whole year 1m2 in the UK receives about 110 watts, so rather than 100W x 8 = 0.8 kWh a day you actually get 110W x 0.5m2 x 20% (top efficiency) x 24 = 0.26 kWh i.e. one third.
bigsleep, Apr 26 2019

       // Inputs to the process are various ores and feedstocks, converted into refined metals, silicin, plastics, and intermediates. Most if not all of these processes require energy. //   

       And the manufacturer has to pay for that energy. If that energy (plus the materials) costs them more than they can sell the finished panel for, they won't make it. And if the customer doesn't expect to save more money on energy from using the panel than they have to spend to buy it, they won't buy it. Therefore, the fact that manufacturers are manufacturing and customers are buying solar panels demonstrates that the energy they save by being used is more expensive than the energy (and materials) they cost to make.
notexactly, Apr 26 2019

       Just because something is financially economic doesn't mean it's energetically economic.
8th of 7, Apr 26 2019

       So the manufacturer gets much cheaper grid electricity than the consumer, so much cheaper that they go through a whole complex manufacturing process just to be able to sell some of that cheapness to the consumer?
notexactly, Apr 26 2019

       Think of it this way:   

       You want to heat a room. This requires 5 kWh of energy.   

       You can   

       (a) Burn a given quantity of fossil fuel such as coal in an efficient hearth, or   

       (v)Use a PV panel to collect solar energy into a battery, then dissipate that stored energy through a resistor.   

       If the hearth is made from, for example, locally available stone, the energy input to create it is likely to be substantially less than the energy to make the PV system.   

       It is not about the price of energy in cash terms - it's hiw much energy goes into the manufacturing process compared with the amount recovered.   

       A system can be financially beneficial yet energetically abysnal.
8th of 7, Apr 26 2019

       I wasn't thinking about heating at all. My understanding is that heating is generally done using fossil fuels rather than electricity because the fuel is cheaper for the same amount of heat (vs. grid electricity) or because your power budget is limited (with off-grid electricity). Also, as you said, the equipment is cheaper to make (in energy, in materials, and in money to pay for energy and materials). On the other hand, solar heating (whether direct solar thermal or with an electricity step) doesn't consume any fossil fuels or cause any emissions once the equipment is made and installed.   

       I don't see why you brought up heating, actually, because most electricity use is for other things that fossil fuels can't as easily be used for at the location where the task needs to be performed (refrigeration, air conditioning, lighting, laundry, …). For that much of the electricity demand, locally burned fossil fuels are not a good alternative to solar panels.   

       I will bring up another point: Current demand for solar panels drives improvement in the technology and manufacturing processes. If it is true (though I'm still not convinced) that current ones never break even, at least the large demand for them will accelerate progress toward ones that will.
notexactly, Apr 27 2019

       Lets go through the installation of a 1kW system which would be 5 square metres and cost about $100 for the raw solar wafers. Let's say the same $100 buys you 1000 kWh, it could probably buy more but we don't want to chase too much of an energy target for our solar generation.   

       So by the earlier figures, we get 2.5 kWh per day for a 1000W system, with an energy payback after 1000 / 2.5 = 400 days. Financially, we need to get our $100 back and based on 2.5 kWh/day at $0.1 per kWh, that gives $0.25 per day and we're also looking at 400 days.   

       <Enter the guy with the truck who installs your system/>   

       He loads the stuff into a truck and drives 20 miles to install. The round trip takes one gallon of gas costing $2.5.   

       1) Energy is 1000 kWh (for PV manufacture) + 33 kWh for the energy content of a gallon of gas.
Energy payback is 1033 / 2.5 = 413 days.
But the cost is $102.5 so the financial payback is 102.5 / 0.25 = 410 days.

       2) For the next 1000W system customer he has to drive 1000 miles -   

       Energy is 1000 kWh + 830 kWh for 25 gallons of gas. Energy payback is 732 days.
Cost is $100 + $63 so financial payback is 163 / 0.25 = 652 days.

       3) For the next customer he has to drive 10000 miles -   

       Energy is 1000 kWh + 8300 kWh for 250 gallons of gas. Energy payback is 3720 days.
Cost is $100 + $625 so financial payback is 725 / 0.25 = 2900 days.

       So due to the lower energy cost of petrol vs solar PV, the financial payback is much sooner than the energy payback. You could argue that the installation distance is ridiculous, but the calculations haven't included the distance travelled by the trucks mining the raw materials for the solar cells and all the associated costs of the management electronics etc.   

       Essentially what we are talking about for small installation solar PV is megatons of electronic waste and increased CO2 emissions in manufacturing all that crap.
bigsleep, Apr 27 2019

       [notexactly] Sorry about the detour this idea took because of my anno, but the 'distance to install' equations really highlight the appalling "graceful degradation" rating of solar PV.
bigsleep, Apr 27 2019

       So your argument is that most solar panels never reach the "energy payback" date even if they do reach the "financial payback" date? Those numbers you came up with don't look so far apart that that seems likely to happen often.   

       The ratings assigned to solar panels under the scheme I've proposed would rather be about things like whether the panel can still provide most of its rated power after being struck by a meteorite (like happened to Dave Jones), frozen, or overheated, and how its power output declines over time. They aren't intended to take into account anything that happens before the rated device is installed and/or put in operation. That can be covered by a separate rating scheme.
notexactly, Apr 27 2019

       //Those numbers you came up with don't look so far apart that that seems likely to happen often.//   

       The numbers are heavily biassed in favour of pro solar PV, but they still don't work. If anyone is pro solar PV and can come up with better numbers then please add them.   

       At commercial scale there is 30% difference in favour of coal, but small solar farms can have rapid start up. At domestic scale its a tragedy of electronic waste. I've run the numbers many times and they don't get better.   

       The same is true of electric cars - to justify the additional energy manufacturing cost of the battery etc, any buyer of an electric car needs to do some serious mileage or they are harming the planet. But then, can anybody justify *serious mileage* rather than saving energy and video conferencing, public transport or just plain working from home for a few days a week.   

       There are many barking mad well intentioned people in the world such as AOC and to a certain extent Musk, but so long as the global warming is because of CO2 thing is doing the rounds then we need to address how CO2 is generated. For the most part its for every $1 spent, $0.5 is burning fossil fuels and releasing CO2.   

       Ok, I've done too many calculations. Other peoples turn.   

       How many square metres of solar panels do you need to buy to make up for the energy wasted making a replacement smart phone ?
bigsleep, Apr 27 2019

       With new technologies, the numbers rarely add until consumers get hold and grinds the item all ways to sunday which forces more and better iterations. Or the product evaporates in a cloud of debris.
wjt, Apr 27 2019

       That's the part we like best.   

       Another point to ponder:   

       If you install PV panels, you have ab initio expended the energy to create them, and are relying on " payback" by energy collection.   

       But if for any reason the installation isn't used, that point moves further into the future, towards the MTBF of the panels - when you have to expend more energy to make replacements.   

       However, unused fossil fuel simply remains unused - "coal in the coalshed" - until needed.   

       If you put in PV panels today, it's in the pious hope that you will eventually recoup the CO2 "cost" you have already paid. This is not guaranteed.
8th of 7, Apr 27 2019

       So mankind should just use only what it manufactures, starting with all current stock, rather than manufacturing on the hot co2 of possible sales.
wjt, Apr 27 2019

       //better numbers//   

       Do your numbers take account of the full life-cycle energy costs of generating, transmitting and distributing fossil-fueled power? I'm guessing not, if only because those costs are so variable geographically.
pertinax, Apr 28 2019

       My initial thought was a colour changing tag for humans.
wjt, May 01 2019

       //colour changing tag for humans//   

       The previous iteration wasn't so graceful unless you met Peter Ustinov.
bigsleep, May 02 2019


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