What's All The Fuss

There may be those that ask what all the fuss is about, and why there is even a need for solutions to power quality, but a look at this following edited newspaper article says quite a lot in just a few words - even the title carries some punch!


The boom in electrical creature comforts - from microwaves to PlayStations - has sparked a surge in energy use. Electricity consumption rose by almost 50% between 1970 and 2000, while the amount of energy used by appliances has gone up 9% in the past decade, a Department of Trade and Industry study, found.

With this level of increase there is going to be a time when the network will just no longer be able to carry the energy requirements of those connected to it. At some time the copper is just not going to be able to keep the losses to an acceptable level, and it is just going to become too expensive to feed electricity to us. The message is simple - we need to reduce usage.

The first reaction is usually the thought that there will not be enough electricity to do what we have always had it do (which is to make our lives easier). Thankfully, it is not that we actually need to reduce what electricity does for us, we simply have to use it more smartly.

The comment "energy used by appliances up 9%" does appear strange, until one remembers that appliances of time gone by were simple electro-magnetic-mechanical designs. Now they are 'fully computerised', and usually have a clock or something that is powered 24 hours a day. Ok, it may only take 5 watts or so, but that is 120W/h per day, or over 3.6kW/h per month! Now a simple multiplication of this by the number of such devices around the house brings an alarming result!

There appears to be something missing from all reports about electricity usage, but one that is exceedingly important in the strive to lower energy usage throughout the UK. Electricity companies, called "Distribution Network Operators" in industry, deliberately inflate the voltage supplied to our homes so as to cause more energy to be used within the home.

Our voltage is meant to be approx. 230V, but it is approx 245V. The energy used by some devices within the home is relative to the square of the voltage therefore raising the voltage from 230V to 245V (an increase of about 6.5%) will increase the energy used by approx. 13%.

Devices that are not affected are kettles, immersion heaters, and other direct heating devices. The kettle and immersion heater will simply warm the water 13% quicker. What is not included in this group are room heaters (blow heaters, etc.). These will draw 13% more energy and produce 13% more heat, but the "warming effect" will not be perceived as such thus is nothing more than wasted energy.

Lamps (lights, bulbs, or any other name that takes your fancy) will, however, produce 13% more usable light and if the voltage was reduced to the nominal 230V there would be some complaining about dimmer lamps. The negative about inflated voltage is lamps burn out about 50% quicker (it's less with "energy saving" but they are also prone to shorter life with inflated voltage).

We must not ignore the financial impact of reducing the voltage. DNOs make profit from every unit of electricity that passes through their network and will not fancy the idea of reducing their throughput and thus their profits. To compensate, energy companies will increase their tariffs.

Lamp manufacturers will compensate from a drop in sales by increasing their price.

The real winner in all of this is the immediate environment impact will be reduced, and the required generated electricity is reduced giving the UK time to catch up with other means to produce electricity (just think of the immediate drop in imported gas!).

This actually means our primary enemy is the inflated voltage. Not everyone is going to agree with applying the solutions given in the folllowing pages, especially for only one or two hi-tech items in a location, however, significant savings will be recognised by major users who adopt some of the simple cures mentioned. The ultimate aim is increased reliability of the networks and therefore further savings.


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© 31.08.06