Energy Edge Solutions

Energy Efficiency: Balancing Cost and Output

By John Gerace, PhD, PE

Methods and techniques that reduce the energy level required to produce the same level
of service from the energy. The term energy efficiency means achieving more results
from the same effort. Sometimes, efficiency can be translated into dollars and cents. It
is measurable in terms of watts of visible light, or units of heat or degrees or cooling
required.

Energy production has taken the path of attempting to produce more energy from the
same components, as evidenced by nuclear power plants. This concept is the opposite
of efficiency. Efficiency in energy usage studies how to get more benefit from existing
energy sources.

Any entity that uses energy, whether it is an automobile, light bulb or huge
manufacturing complex can be a target for reducing the amount of energy that is required
to operate the entity. Installing skylights instead of additional light fixtures is efficiency
at work. Making automobiles that get more miles per gallon is another way to make
better use of energy. Trapping the heat from manufacturing processes and using it for
building heat is another example of being energy efficient.

Efficient use of available energy helps to address the problem of dwindling resources and
sky rocketing costs. New oil fields may be found beneath the earth’s crust, but they are
still a finite energy source. By creating a more efficient use for oil, the reserves will last
longer.

Since the 1970s, more effort has been expended in making building codes more energy
conscious. Individual efforts are helpful but are less certain to create efficiency in
the uses of energy. Studies have found that up to 75 percent of the energy used in the
United States today could be eliminated through simple measures that are not costly or
burdensome.

A three-fold process for increasing energy efficiency places efficiency first, use of
renewable resources second and new fossil energy sources in third place. The benefits are
not only in non renewable resource protection, but in the cost per unit of electrical power
produced and delivered. Ultimately, efficiency in both cost and service should be the goal
of a technologically advanced and energy conscious society.

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