Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Is Electricity Generated?

In the 21st century, electricity is a feature of life that much of the world takes for granted. However, electricity is still a relatively new invention, having only come into widespread use around a century ago.
Today, interest in different ways to generate electricity is growing, as some experts predict that traditional non-renewable sources will be depleted within the next 100 years. Here's a quick guide to the different ways in which electricity is generated in 2013.
Generating power with fossil fuels
The main method of power generation today is the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, gas and oil. These materials need to be dug out, drilled or extracted from the earth and they are called 'fossil fuels' because they contain the remains of ancient plants and animals. While oil and gas can be burned directly, coal needs to be crushed and then burned to be effective.
The electricity generation process starts by burning one of these fuels (the popularity of each varies from country to country). As the fossil fuels burn, they heat water, which creates steam. This steam then moves generator turbines within the power plant. As the turbines turn, they send an electric current through a piece of wire, which is in turn connected to a series of transformers. As the current travels through transformers, its voltage is slowly lowered and finally enters homes and commercial buildings through a service box.
Power generation from renewable sources
Although fossil fuels remain the primary source of power generation, renewable sources like tidal, nuclear and geothermal power are slowly gaining ground. One popular source of renewable power generation is wind energy. To harness the power of wind, wind turbines have to be built. Like windmills, wind turbines feature three or four blades and may take the form of huge structures dotting the countryside ('wind farms') or small models that sit on top of domestic buildings. When warm air rises, more air rushes in to fill the gaps left behind. This creates the gusts we call wind. When these gusts catch the blade of a wind turbine propeller, it starts to move round. This movement turns a generator, which produces electricity.
Solar energy is another form of renewable power generation. Harnessing solar power requires the installation of photovoltaic ('PV') cells, which convert light directly into electricity. PV panels may be expensive and the unreliability of solar energy in all but the sunniest climates means that they are still unable to provide a complete replacement to power created by the burning of fossil fuels. However, they are useful for heating certain aspects of a household - for instance, a boiler or furnace.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Importance of a Generator in Severe Weather Preparedness

Home improvement expert Danny Lipford explains the importance of having a backup generator during power outages caused by severe weather.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Home Electrical Safety Tips for Older Adults

Electrical failures or malfunctions are a leading cause of home fires every year. Older adults (ages 65+) have a higher risk of dying in fires caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment than the general population. This high-quality 60-second public service announcement provides safety tips to help older adults identify and prevent electrical hazards that can result in a home fire.

This video is part of a new, multi-faceted Home Fire Safety for Older Adults program that has been developed by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) with funding provided by a FY 2011 Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grant from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series - Home Heating Safety Tips for Older Adults and Cooking Safety Tips for Older Adults. Additional program materials are also available on ESFI's website at

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

LCD Or Plasma - What it Best Choice For Watching the Super Bowl?

Are you avid sports fan? Looking for that perfect television for the Super Bowl? But you are confused by all the techno jargon and the several different types of TVs available, and you are not all that sure you trust that salesman at the electronics store. Well here are a few tips and facts that will get you on the right track.
First of all, how big do you want to go. Recently Panasonic revealed a new 150" plasma television. If you are looking for something that big, then the answer is easy Panasonic is your only choice. Of course you could buy a high  definition projector and a screen, but then I'm not addressing projectors in this article. For purposes of simplicity, I'll assume you are looking for a 50" or larger screen. Bottom line up front - Purchase a plasma and not an LCD; here's why:
LCDs suffer more from motion blur than plasma TVs. They are improving, but plasma screens definitely have the upper hand here. Motion blur is the tendency of the picture to lose resolution where there is motion on screen. Guess what there is a LOT of motion in football. A plasma television would be preferable for any sports watching.
Plasma TVs are simply have better contrast ratios, that is their range between white and deep black onscreen. This is one the most important factors when it comes to overall TV picture quality. While LCD TVs are improving their contrast ration and closing the gap.
LCDs have a narrower viewing angle. A football party will tend to have a lot of people, spread across a room. For this reason the plasma TV is a better Super Bowl TV.
Of course plasma have some disadvantages. First, they can suffer from burn-in, that is where an area of the television "burns-in" if there is a constant image on the screen. This is predominantly a problem is the TV is used primarily for video games or a monitor. In this case we are assuming the TV will mostly be used for sports, so no problem here. Additionally, if you allow your TV to display a variety of programming for the first 12-14 hours of use, this greatly reduces the chance of the set ever developing burn-in Plasmas are a bit heavier, if you are looking to hang your television on your wall, I'd make sure to screw the mount onto a wall stud, but then I'd recommend that for an LCD as well. On the plus side, plasma's also tend to be cheaper, especially as you get into larger sizes, since we are talking big screens here - that is a definite benefit. Plasma normally do not get any smaller that about 42", but again we are talking big screens, so - no problem.
Other considerations :
Look for a 1080p resolution. Most newer sets are 1080p, so it should not difficult for you to find one. As the screens get bigger, the difference between a 720p television and 1080p becomes more evident. Since we are talking big, make sure you get a 1080 set. You may also see a 1080i resolutions, although they have the same number or pixels as a 1080p, they are refreshed about half as often, this can lead to a perceptible flickering. The difference in price is minor, so get a 1080p.
New 120Hz Plasmas. Movies are filmed at 24 frames per second (fps), while TV programming is normally 30fps, since 120 is a multiple of both, they eliminate a slight juddering that can occur when watching movies. Since we are talking sports, you won't get much benefit from 120Hz. If you are planning to watch movies in addition to sports, or perhaps movies about football, you might want to pay a little extra for this, but since Plasmas don't suffer from motion blur as much as LCDs, 120Hz helps LCDs perform better more than Plasma screens.
Start your search for a plasma screen with Panasonic, in my opinion they hit the sweet spot between price and quality. You will get your money's worth, and they make some of the best plasma screens available. If money is not an issue, and you want the best possible TV for the Super Bowl, I recommend the Pioneer Kuro Elite TVs they come in 50" and 60" and have what most video experts consider the very best picture on the market, and an excellent speaker system.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

adorne Switches + Dimmers

Switches and dimmers form the heart of the adorne collection. Whether you favor a simple touch (like on your smart phone), a satisfying click, or even the simple wave of a hand, adorne makes it a delight to hit the lights. All products are available in white and magnesium.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

WAC Lighting's Quick Connect™ Pendants - Features and Installation Instr...

WAC Lighting's family of line and low voltage pendants encompasses a selection of hundreds of individual styles and colors of glass. Fine glass shades are sourced from leading factories around the world including Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe Asia and the American Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

History of Electricity - A Timeline of Innovation and Multiple Key Discoveries

The history of electricity is an interesting one. It outlines numerous inventions, key discoveries or milestones which collectively have brought us to where we are today. Understanding the evolution of the past and where we are today does contribute to what we should be doing going forward.
One of the first questions that arises when we think about the history or evolution of electricity is when electricity was invented or discovered and by who? In my opinion there does not seem to be a clear or single answer to this because electricity as we know it today is an outcome of multiple observations, inventions or key discoveries that took place over a extremely long period of time.
This timeline starts with the discovery of static electricity, invention of electric batteries, the concepts of voltage and Ohms law. From there direct current provided electricity to incandescent lights which was later replaced by alternating current. This was then distributed to homes on a widespread basis to address lighting and eventually appliances.
Returning now to today, just how do we generate electricity which we all take for granted? Electricity is generated or produced by several primary energy sources most notably coal, natural gas, nuclear power, petroleum. Some other renewable sources are hydro power, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass.
Why should we be concerned with understanding the history of electricity, timeline, discuss who invented or discovered it and how is it generated today?
The first main reason is to understand that the electricity is a secondary energy source. This means that it is generated from other primary energy sources. To draw out an example we can use the US. The Department of Energy has reported that during 2006 approximately 49% of the total electricity produced was generated from coal and about 19% from nuclear power generation. In terms of renewable sources, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal collectively generated about 5% of the overall electricity during the same period.
This helps me to introduce my second point which is the overall majority of electricity produced or generated in the US for this period was a result of using non-renewable energy sources. There is obviously a limitation further down the road which implies this course of action is not fully sustainable.
The last point to highlight is the journey or evolution of discoveries and innovations which have led us to where we are today will likely continue going forward. This implies that on-going usage of energy sources should be adapted, new or enhanced technologies that optimize electricity will ideally be deployed. The increased awareness today on energy conservation and renewable energy sources should act as a strong catalyst towards even further innovation over the coming years.
The take-away for consumers is we should collectively implement ways to conserve energy or more specifically save electricity wherever possible. In parallel to these energy conservation steps, adopting new renewable energy sources should be a key priority. The outcome ideally being to stimulate more innovation, similar to what we have see in the past.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Electric Vocabulary - James Sheils

View full lesson on TED-Ed BETA:

We all know the words around electricity, "charge," "positive," "battery" and more. But where do they come from and what do they really mean? Let the history of these words illuminate the physics of electric phenomena.

Lesson by James Sheils, animation by TED-Ed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Electrical Tips When Buying A New Home

Electricity is one of the most important aspects to a home. Without proper electricity, a number of amenities would be affected. We would not be able to use lights, appliances, computers, air conditioners, some cable and phone systems, and even our heaters or hot water heaters. When you are considering a new home purchase, it is valuable to check the home electrical systems to ensure your needs are met.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when checking the electrical systems of a new home...

1. Know what to expect. An electrical system includes incoming power lines, the electric meter, the service panel, subpanels, household wiring, electrical boxes, the receptacles or outlets, switches, appliances, lights, and extra equipment used for home entertainment or communication. These should all be included in a new home.

2. Ask for the age of the electrical system. There have been a number of upgrades through the years. It is important to know how old the electrical system is so that you can ensure it is up to code for the house you are buying. Older systems might need to be replaced to handle your electrical needs and this could become quite costly.

3. Check with the Electric Company or previous owners for an estimate on their electric bill. Although you might use more or less electric then the current occupants, you can get a general idea of what to expect.

4. Consider how you will use each room. Make sure there are proper outlets and switches to fit your needs. You do not want to set up your home office and realize you have no phone or internet connection to access. And, if you are building a new construction home, it is a lot cheaper to make these adjustments before the house is complete.

5. Check and existing light switches and outlets to make sure they work properly. A common problem is a switch that does nothing or an electrical outlet that is not functional. These are issues that should be cleared up before buying the house.

6. Make sure the electrical system is sized to handle the electricity amount that you plan to use. An average amp size is 100 or 200 but larger homes could require up to 400 amps. Having the correct size electrical unit will prevent future "blown fuses" when a larger amount of electricity is suddenly needed.

7. Insure that the electrical box is properly labeled. In the event that a circuit needs to be reset, you will want to know which breaker to switch. You do not want to be left cold and in the dark without a clue as to how to reinstate your lights and heat.

8. And, finally, BE SAFE! Electrical systems are required to pass building codes. This increases the safety of you and your family. Circuit breakers prevent fires, Ground fault circuit breakers protect from electrical shocks, and smoke alarms alert occupants of an emergency. These should all be incorporated and working correctly in your new home.

Guaranteeing the electrical system is accurate to your needs and working efficiently is an important and valuable process when purchasing a home. You do not want to be stuck paying high costs for electrical fixes or attempting the "Do it yourself" method. Be sure to use these helpful tips to make certain you are not left in the dark!

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