Fundamentals of Energy Conversion and Lower Power Bills

Conserving Energy at Home: Energy Conversion

Energy conversion for heat

One
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 Energy

Maintenance Conserves Energy

Most
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 Energy

Electric
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 Energy

Consumer 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 energy

Maintenance 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 Audits

When
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.

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