Do you really know how to turn on the lights?


One way or the other we obtain the daily energy we consume from the sun. From being harvested in minerals underneath the ground to being stored in food and even to new technology arising that allows the collection of solar radiation. Simply put, we utilize large amounts of energy but do we really know the process behind our consumption? Surprisingly, most homeowners do not know how the energy you use in your house is delivered to your home? As a homeowner, it is important to understand how your house functions and one must always be on the look out for methods of becoming more sustainable, especially financial sustainability.

Every month millions of homeowners pay additional fees to their local utility company for misusing the energy they consume in their home. Many homeowners owner inefficient appliances, leave on lights on for many hours at, yet according to the energy commission of California, most of these additional fees arise from lack of knowledge. Energy is a crucial part of the advancement of society, so why isn’t energy consumption seen as a fundamental concept that everyone should know?

So today to help address this lack of knowledge, we will be briefly review how electricity gets to your home.

We know that whenever we flip the light switch or plug in a cord, we get light and power to whatever appliance we want to use but the process to get that output is a little more complex. The huge poles and wires we see all over the city are called the electrical transmission and distribution system. These long power grids are connected to power plants all across the country where electricity is produced by huge generators. Most of today’s power plants run on natural gas. There are currently 1,793 natural gas-powered electricity plants that generate 34% of the nation’s electricity. The second main contributor is coal with 400 plants that generate 30% of nation’s electricity demand. 61 nuclear electric plants in this country contribute 20% of the nation’s electricity.

(If we take a moment and evaluate this we find that 84% of our electricity is produced in power plants that have significantly effect on our environment. With so much new technology available and it is hard to believe we are still utilizing these less efficient methods for electricity generation. )

The next step is to send the electricity, generated at a power plant, through transformers to increase the voltage to push power long distances. The electrical charge goes through high-voltage transmission lines that stretch across the country. This charge then reaches a substation, where the voltage is lowered and it is then sent through smaller power lines. It then travels through these distribution lines where smaller pole-top transformers reduce the voltage once more in order to take the power safely to your house. When it reaches your house it first connects to your house through the service drop and passes through a meter that measures much your family uses. The electricity goes through the service panel where breakers or fuses protect the wires inside your house from being overloaded. The electricity then travels through wires inside your walls and finally reaches your outlets.

It is of crucial importance to understand how and why we use energy the way we do. If we really want to improve the sustainability of the housing industry we need to first understand the basics.


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