Energy Efficiency

 

   


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Ten Things to Address Global Warming Ė We have known for quite some time now that we need to take steps quickly to avoid the worst effects of Global Warming.  There is not a silver bullet that will address this issue; we need to do multiple things all of which, done together, will help us avert a crisis which, in the worst-case scenario, could lead to a mass extinction event.

 

In a series of 10 articles, I will try and set out my vision for what needs to be done to prevent the world from overheating.

 

1.    April 25, 2021 Ė Energy Efficiency

 

It might not seem like an important first step but it is.  Energy efficiency means using less energy to do the same thing.  We have been following this path for quite a while now and while our efforts havenít been enough to curb the amount of fossil fuel used it has put quite a cap on the growth in usage that we have seen

 

For transportation energy efficiency means going further on the same amount of fuel.  The world has made great strides in this area by making engines more fuel efficient.  Unfortunately, this hasnít translated into less fuel usage as much as allowing larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles like SUVs to be driven with only small increases in the amount of fuel being burned.

 

This trend is being pushed further as governments around the world introduce tougher and tougher fuel economy requirements.  The automobile manufacturers are responding with a number of strategies.

 

Fuel economy can be improved by reducing the weight of a vehicle.  This needs to be done without impacting the safety of the car or truck.  To accomplish this, manufacturers introduced things like crumple zones which are designed to compact during a collision to absorb the energy of the crash eliminating or at lease reducing the severity of injuries.

 

Vehicles can also be made lighter by using lighter materials.  For example, to reduce the weight of its F150 pickup truck Ford switched from using steal for the body to fabricating in from Aluminum.  Other manufacturers are also experimenting with the use of carbon fiber which can produce body panels that are both lighter and stronger than steel. 

 

The real improvements in fuel efficiency are being made in the power train.  Fuel savings can often be gained by adding additional gears into the transmission.  In the past most cars had either 3 speed or 4 speed transmissions but now 6 speed transmissions are becoming much more common.

 

Another strategy for improving power train efficiency is to add electric motors.  This can be as simple as adding a bigger starter motor and battery to allow the engine to shut down when the car is at a stop, then start immediately when the driver removed their foot from the brake pedal.  More complex systems, like those used in most conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius, involves the combined use of electric motors and the gas engine.  Systems like this can show extensive fuel economy improvements over using just ICE alone.

 

Itís not just in the Automotive world that we need to build efficiency.  Big gains can also be found in lighting for the home.  For over a century the incandescent lightbulb ruled supreme.  This lightbulb proved much better than the use of oil or gas lights but still consumed quite a bit of energy.  A typical bulb would consume 100W and several would be required to adequately light a room.  In recent years the introduction of the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb provided the same amount of light but consumed about 23 W.  They were not done though.  The introduction of the light emitting diode (LED) bulb meant that you can get the same amount of light using only 15W.  People are now replacing lights with more efficient bulbs when the existing bulb fails.

 

A big user of energy in a house is for air conditioning and heating.  The amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home or office and be reduced by ensuring that the building has adequate insulation.  This can often be seen in snowy weather.  One house will have a roof clean of snow when house next door will still show significant amounts of snow on the roof.  The lack of snow indicates that heat is escaping from the house through the roof.  The house with the snow probably has good insolation in the attic which prevents this heat loss.  This house will use a significant amount less energy.

 

Energy transfer can also be done more efficiently.  For example, replacing an AC unit with a heat pump can significantly reduce the amount of energy required to cool a house.  Tesla also use heat pumps in the AC system on some Model Y vehicles.

 

In the US the Federal government has introduced the Energy Star designation for appliances.  Having and energy star rating means that the appliance has met energy Federally mandated energy efficiency standards.  The Energy Star designation applies to most electrical equipment from computers to refrigerators.

 

Advances in energy efficiency are occurring on a regular basis but donít mean a thing unless they are implemented.  The best thing that we can do to help them succeed is to implement them.  When you change out an appliance look for the Energy Star label on the replacement unit.  When lightbulbs fail update them to a more efficient option like CFL or LED.  An LED television is going to use less energy than a direct view television so select an LED TV for your next television.

 

Given all this, we still need to conserve energy when we can.  That means turning of lights when you leave the room, or reducing or eliminating phantom loads by unplugging things like chargers when they are not in use.

 

None of this will prevent global warming to it is at least going to slow it down.  It will also be a big contributor to making everything else that needs to be done a success.

 

Next - Renewable Energy


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