Fundamentals of Energy Conversion and Lower Power Bills

Conserving Energy at Home: Energy ConversionEnergy conversion for heatOne of the fundamentals of conserving energy that we need to keep in mind as we strive to use less energy and become more energy efficient is the simple fact that energy is neither created or lost. Rather, to suit our needs to power our homes, we simply change energy from one form to another.Whether we live in a single family home in the burbs or a multi-family unit near downtown, residential energy is constantly being changed from one form to another. Electricity is changed to produce light and natural gas to make hot water. The power plant that is burning coal changes coal energy to electricity to power your entertainment and firewood is converted to heat by combustion to heat our homes.In all this energy conversion, what we really need to do is work towards seeing how little energy we need to convert. Households and the environment are simply better off if we work to leave energy in it’s original form. Leave the wood in the forest and the coal in the ground. By leaving energy in it’s original form, we are conserving energy, kind of like down at the shoe store where you buy one pair and get a second pair of shoes at half price.I think energy efficiency goes beyond just a percentage. If we have a gas furnace that is 70% efficient and we replace the furnace with a 95% efficient furnace, one could argue that your home is now more energy efficient. I would like to add that, beyond the fact that we are more energy efficient, we should not be satisfied until we are conserving energy by not turning on the 95% furnace so often.Combustion Heating and Conserving EnergyMaintenance Conserves EnergyMost homes in the United States are heated by combustion heating systems. When the carbon and hydrogen atoms in the fuel mix with oxygen and a hot flame, the chemical reaction we call burning begins. The trouble is, we also call this chemical reaction by some other choice names. Names like pollution, global warming, carbon release, dirty energy, etc.The transfer of chemical energy into heat at the flame is usually nearly 99% efficient. However, the farther the heat travels away from the flame, through the furnace and through the distribution system, the more heat is lost. These progressive heat losses make most central heating systems less than 70% efficient at converting the fuel’s chemical energy to useful heat for the home.Electric Heating and Conserving EnergyElectric resistance heating changes electricity, usually generated by heat, back into heat. When an electric furnace turns on and the coils or plates turn red with heat energy, the resistance elements are converting electricity at a rate of one watt in and one watt out. Therefore, it is said that electric heat is 100% efficient. However, considering one dollar in and one dollar out, the electric furnace is not as efficient as a gas furnace or heat pump.Best Ways to Stop Converting EnergyConsumer education:Household education can be one of the most beneficial and cost effective energy conservation measures. Notice I said “household education”! Energy efficiency is not supported by a home that has the teenager leaving the TV on in their room all night, the wife that keeps lowering the thermostat to get more cooling, and the man-of-the-house taking a 30 minute shower after work.Behavioral differences, living habits, comfort perceptions, and household operation and maintenance can account for a lot of unnecessary energy conversion.Home audit conserves energyMaintenance and tender loving care:We are better at changing the oil in the car than the filter in the furnace. We are quick to replace the ineffective windshield wiper blades but the door seal on the refrigerator remains damaged for years. The sun roof leaks a little water and gets fixed right away. The heating ducts can waste a ton of conditioned air and cost hundreds every year, but goes unnoticed. The dryer needs to run twice as long as it used to to dry a load of clothes, but the dryer vent never gets cleaned.Basically, we all seem to have the mind set that the home is suppose to take care of us instead of us taking care of the home. To keep from turning the heating and cooling system on so soon, we need to spend a little more time making sure the system is in good working condition.Home Energy AuditsWhen the car is making a funny noise or there is an idiot light shinning on the dashboard, we usually take the car to a pro, somebody that has the training and the equipment to diagnose the problem and make educated guesses on how to fix things. The same is true of your home.There are energy audit programs on the web and it is possible to perform your own home energy audit. If you have a little construction or energy experience, the do-it-yourself method maybe the way to go. If your better at programming a computer than checking the insulation level in your attic, than I would suggest letting a pro audit your home for energy efficiency. The best place to start to locate a good energy auditor is through your power company. Give them a call, they know more about Conserving energy than you would believe.Conserving energy is going to be more important as time goes bye. More people and more energy demands means we had better begin to get the most out of ever molecule of energy we convert for our use.