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NOTE: To really go green, you've got to check out item #3 below.
1. COMPACT FLUORESCENTS
Many people are switching to compact fluorescents to save on energy bills. You know, those twisted screw-in type light bulbs. They can save you 60% to 75% in power consumption compared to their incandescent cousins. The new electronic ballasts for the new generation of fluorescent lighting is giving us greater value, greater life AND great light.
But there are some things you need to consider as you go green.
• They don't always
fit in your fixture.
• People complain that
there's something "wrong with the look" of the light.
• Compact fluorescents
2. LIGHT EMITTING DIODES (LEDs)
With low power consumption and very long lamp life, LEDs are definitely the wave of the future. The problem is that the future is still a day away. LED technology is not ready to take over. . . yet!
• Correct color. Getting a true white light with a full spectrum is hard with LEDs. If you want something to show its true colors, full-spectrum light has to illuminate it. LEDs aren't there yet.
• Lumens. Everyone knows the frustration of trying to see something in poor light. LEDs tend not to give enough "task quality" light. Some of it has to do with spectrum. Give it time.
• Cost. LEDs are simply not cost effective for most applications outside of what people are seeing now. Remember when you had to take out a home equity line for computer memory? Their day will come.
3. POWER LOSSES
With more and more new technologies coming into the home, traditional electric loads are being replaced by new kinds of power consumption. Your grandmother didn't have the conveniences of today. Black and white TV's came into the home in the 1950's & color TV's in the 1960's. Now people are buying 60" plasma sets! More and more, these new types of loads are robbing you. You are paying for power you can't use and don't even know it. The problem is known to electrical geeks as INDUCTIVE REACTANCE.
Inductive loads are electric loads that ARE NOT from glowing elements or filaments such as regular light bulbs or water heater elements. They are made from magnetic fields. Traditional ranges have elements that glow hot. Not any more! Have you seen some of the new ranges coming out? There are induction cook tops that boil water in 90 seconds! Every MOTOR, like your Air Conditioner or refrigerator, every TRANSFORMER or BALLAST, like the ones in your TV and your computer and every ELECTRONIC DEVICE in your house create inductive loads. Yes, even those "GO GREEN" compact fluorescents rob you of precious energy. What does that mean to you?
LOSS OF MONEY!
To explain POWER LOSS (and hence MONEY LOSS, since you pay the utility company based on POWER consumption), without some serious electrical theory is a bit daunting but here goes . . .
First, some definitions:
Electricity is made up of billions of electrons being pushed from one molecule to the next. This stream or flow of negatively charged electrons is called CURRENT, measured in amperes. Current is created by a pressure that pushes the current along. It's called Electromotive Force or EMF, measured in volts.
When these new types of loads, called induction loads, occur on a circuit, a counter-voltage is created. It fights the flow of electricity by pushing back against it. The electrical geeks call it impedance. This counter force causes the current to lag behind the voltage. It is that lag causes loss of power.
LET'S DEFINE POWER
= VOLTS TIMES AMPS
If you have ever purchased a UPS for you computer (and you should have), the box says something like "500VA". VA stands for VOLT-AMPS. According to the formula above, volt-amps is watts, right? Nope. VOLT-AMPS is a nice way of saying, "THE WATTS you only THINK you're getting." also known as APPARENT POWER. Now look in the fine print. It will tell you that the UPS actually puts out "350 WATTS" - that's the REAL POWER!
REAL POWER ÷ APPARENT POWER = POWER FACTOR
Power factor is the percentage of power you end up with. In the average UPS example, there is a power factor of .7 - that means you end up with 70% of the power. 30% is lost. You put in 500 but got out 350.
Alternating current is NOT a steady of electrons. The voltage and the current rise and fall in a wave. Starting from zero, the voltage climbs to about 170 volts. Then it drops down past zero to negative 170 volts and finally back to zero. That wave pulsing from positive to negative is called a cycle. And it happens 60 times every second. If the voltage wave and the amperage wave are in sync with each other, no power is lost. When they are out of sync, you pay for power that doesn't work.
Have you ever been in a hurry walking down a aisle or street? You see someone coming the other way. You move to miss them but they are thinking the same thing and move to miss you - right into your way! You zig. They zag. All to no avail. Power was expended BUT NO WORK was done for either of you to go on your way.
Inductive loss is sort of like that. Both volts and amps are there but not at the same time. It's like watching a movie with the voice track out of sync. Mathematically, any number times zero is zero. So, when voltage reaches zero value as it flows between positive and negative, amperage needs to be reaching zero value at the same time. Otherwise, you will have zero power every time EITHER one hits zero. To make matters worse, if one is positive when the other is negative, that make NEGATIVE POWER! THIS IS HAPPENING SEVERAL TIMES A CYCLE, 60 TIMES A SECOND.
It might be easier to picture it by looking at a graph of the sine wave in an alternating current when it's affected by inductive reactance. For those who want a more advanced explanation, please click on the two links below.
"e" in blue, is voltage, "i"
in red dashes, is amperage
If the sine waves are in unity, they will hit zero value at the same time and there would be no power loss.
Below is a PURE inductive circuit. Notice that the current is 90° behind the voltage. Notice that both amperage and voltage hit zero while the other is not SEVERAL TIMES in a cycle! On top of that, notice that throughout the cycle, NEGATIVE POWER is created when a positive value of voltage combines with a negative value of amperage and vise-versa.
Below is what the average house current looks like.
There is SIGNIFICANT POWER LOSSES!
SO . . . HOW DO WE GET BACK TO UNITY?
By introducing CAPACITIVE REACTANCE!