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Electricity & Energy Efficiency
Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Or whether cars could someday run on cow manure? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions. Just Ask an Expert!
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New! Why does all energy have a source?
Answer: According to the law of conservation of energy, energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. If we consider our own bodies, we require food and water in order to survive. We convert the food and water we ingest into energy, which allows us to walk, talk, do homework, and the fun things that we love to do. We cannot create energy for our bodies without adding “fuel” to help them run.
The same is true for cars. A car requires fuel for it to continue to run. A car can’t produce its own fuel, so it requires an input of gasoline or diesel, which is converted into energy. Without that source of energy, the car would stop working.
In both of these examples, a source (food or fuel) is required to be converted into energy to ensure that the person or car continues to operate. The interesting thing about energy is that it is being converted from one form to another all the time. In the electricity world, solar panels collect the sun’s rays and convert them into usable energy. Likewise, wind turbines capture the wind against their blades, making the blades rotate and generate electricity.
If we want to save energy why doesn’t the city provide solar panels and wind turbines to all neighbourhoods?
Answer: This is an interesting question! In North America, city governments don’t provide energy, utilities do. And many utilities do provide energy sourced from solar and wind energy, as well as other renewable energy sources, depending on the geography of the area. Solar energy is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, and Ontario is a leader in solar energy production. Enersource is involved in a number of innovative conservation projects in Mississauga, and we continue to look for more opportunities to help our city conserve energy and protect our resources. At the Clarkson Wastewater Treatment Facility, we installed nine photovoltaic solar flares to convert sunlight into clean, renewable electricity. At the Hershey Centre, we’ve partnered with the City of Mississauga to install 144 rooftop solar panels.
Why are LED bulbs so expensive?
Answer: LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are both more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and much longer lasting—and yes, they’re expensive. There are many reasons why they cost so much, including the following: LEDs incorporate circuit board parts that must be assembled by hand, as the technology for having them produced by machines isn’t available yet. The yellow phosphor that coats an LED bulb to give it a white glow instead of its natural blue light is an expensive and rare metal compound. LEDs also require expensive “drivers” to convert energy into an electrical current. There are newer technologies being developed that are intended to bring the costs of these bulbs down, however—so keep checking the prices!
What does an energy-saving light bulb have inside it?
Answer: There are many types of energy-saving light bulbs. The type most commonly used in homes is the compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL. CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain gases (argon and mercury vapor) that produce invisible ultraviolet (UV) light when stimulated by electricity. They also contain a white phosphor coating that, when hit by the UV light, illuminates or “fluoresces,” changing the UV light into visible light. If you want to know what is inside other types of energy-saving bulbs, such as LEDs (light-emitting diodes), let me know by asking another question here.
What are some ways of saving energy?
Answer: There are many ways to save energy. These include choosing modes of transportation that use less fuel like biking and walking when possible, turning off lights and video or computer equipment when not in use, keeping your heat set to 20°C in winter, taking 5-minute showers, washing full loads of laundry and dishes, hanging laundry to dry, recycling, and replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs. For more ideas, check out the Energy-SMART! section of this website at http://enersource.e-smartonline.net/66400_get_smart/energy-smart/index.html and the Renewable-SMART section at http://enersource.e-smartonline.net/66400_get_smart/sustainability-smart/66641_preserve/index.html.
Why should we recycle?
Answer: When we recycle things like bottles, cans, paper, and clothes we conserve the resources that would be used to make these things, we save energy, and we save water. Recycling an aluminum can, for instance, saves 95% of the energy used to make it from scratch. Recycling also helps the environment because when we reduce our amount of trash, we save space in landfills. Check out the Recycling page of this website for more information at http://enersource.e-smartonline.net/66400_get_smart/energy-smart/66541_help_enviro/recycle.html.
Why was electricity invented?
Answer: Electricity wasn’t invented, it was discovered, much as humans have been discovering things in the realm of science for centuries. Technically electricity already existed in nature in the form of lightning, and people like Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, and Thomas Edison were involved in discovering how to harness this power for human use. Read more about them in the Tell Me More: Pioneers of Electricity section in the Electrical Safety-SMART portion of this website.
I once saw a pair of shoes hanging from a power line. Why didn’t the shoes get burned up by the electricity in the line?
Answer: Shoes hanging on a power line don’t get burned for the same reason that birds standing on a power line don’t get shocked: they don’t give electricity a path to the ground, so electricity stays in the line and does not go through them. But if the shoes were to touch a power line and a power pole at the same time, they would provide a path to the ground and would get blasted with electric current. It wouldn’t be pretty!
By the way, if you ever see someone throwing shoes up onto a line, tell them to stop! The shoes can damage the power line, or someone trying to get the shoes down could be seriously shocked or even killed.
Is it true that cars could someday run on cow manure?
Answer: Yes! Manure can be made into a gas containing methane. (Methane is the same energy-rich gas found in natural gas.) Certain types of bacteria emit this gas as they consume manure collected in special air-free tanks. The mixture of gases produced in this way, called biogas, can then be used in some modified car engines instead of gasoline, or burned in a boiler to generate heat or electricity.
I have heard that landfills can be a source of energy. How does that work?
Answer: Organic waste emits methane as it decomposes—or rots—in the landfill. Landfills can collect and treat the methane and then sell it as a commercial fuel, or they can burn it to generate steam and electricity. Today, there are more than 40 landfill gas projects operating in Canada.