Ask an Expert about Electricity, Natural Gas,
and Energy Efficiency

 

Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Or whether cars could someday run on cow manure? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions. Just Ask an Expert!

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Electricity

NEW! What appliance uses the most electricity?
—Jay

Answer: Appliances that heat and cool use the most energy, therefore it follows that the two most energy-consuming home appliances are the refrigerator and the clothes dryer. As to which uses the most energy, it depends on how old your refrigerator is (older models consume much more energy), and also how many loads of laundry you dry per week, and at what heat setting. Using these appliances wisely can greatly reduce the amount of energy they use. You should only open the refrigerator to remove or store food items, not to think about what you want to eat! Ideally, you can hang clothes to dry either outside or on an indoor rack to avoid frequent usage of the clothes dryer, but when it is used, drying on a setting lower than ‘high heat’ reduces energy use.

What are the off-peak price hours for Eversource in Connecticut?
—Ruth

Answer: Great question! You can check out the "About My Bill" section of Eversource.com for more information about rates and billing.

What is the cost per kwh in Granby, CT? Is there a place to find these answers? Do energy rates change at different times of day?
—Harrison

Answer: Great question! You can check out the "About My Bill" section of Eversource.com for more information about rates and billing.

How is the sun a source of energy?
—Michael A.

Answer: The sun is the most powerful source of energy we know of. We can harness the energy in sunlight and convert it into electricity by using solar panels. These panels are also known as photovoltaic or PV panels. (Photo is Greek for light and voltaic pertains to electricity.) PV panels on rooftops can be used to create electricity for individual buildings, while large PV systems can be used to generate electricity for cities and towns. The sun’s heat is also a source of energy, and it can be used to warm up buildings and to heat water.

Can electricity flow through air?
—Liam

Answer: Electricity cannot flow through air, because air molecules are not conductors. However, if the air is full of moisture, as can happen during a thick fog, electricity from a power line can arc through the air to an object a short distance away. Or, if the air is full of thick smoke and ash, as can happen during a fire, electricity from a power line can travel through the smoke all the way to the ground.

Natural Gas

NEW! Where does natural gas come from? Is it pumped through pipes like water, or is it delivered to a distribution center like gasoline?
—Joni

Answer: Natural gas is drawn from deep inside the earth up through wells and into pipelines. From there, it is pumped through large underground pipes to processing plants, and then through smaller pipes to homes and businesses. So, in fact, natural gas is distributed more like water than like gasoline. For more details, check out The Travels of Natural Gas section of this site at http://eversource.e-smartonline.net/66400_get_smart/66710_ngas_safety-smart/66731_travels_gas/index.html.

Is animal manure a source of energy?
—Lior

Answer: Yes, animal manure is a source of energy. Manure from hogs and cows on farms can be converted into methane and used much in the same way as natural gas—as a fuel that is burned to generate electricity, create heat, or run engines. Methane from animal manure is referred to as biogas. One biogas plant in California uses manure from feedlots to produce enough methane to supply electricity to heat about 20,000 homes.

Why does the flame on my stove burners look blue, but the flame of a campfire is yellow?
—Evan

Answer: A natural gas flame burns hotter than a campfire. In general, cooler flames appear yellow, orange, or red, while hotter flames look blue or white. (Flecks of orange in your gas flames are OK, but if the flame is yellow, large, and flickering, the appliance may need a safety adjustment by a qualified repair person.)

Who discovered natural gas?
—Sela

Answer: The ancient Chinese were the first to discover underground deposits of natural gas. In 600 BC, Confucius wrote of wells 100 feet deep yielding water and natural gas along the Tibetan borer. The Chinese piped the gas to where it was needed through long, hollow bamboo stalks.

Did Native American people use natural gas?
—LaVonne

Answer: Yes. In 1626, French explorers found Native Americans igniting gases that were seeping into and around Lake Erie.

How fast does natural gas move through pipelines?
—Nathaniel

Answer: Natural gas travels through pipelines at the slow and steady pace of 15 miles per hour.

Energy Efficiency

Why is it important for people in the United States to save energy? Aren’t we just a relatively small part of a large planet?
—Joshie

Answer: Although Americans make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, we use about 25 percent of the world’s energy! And we consume about 15 times more energy per person than does a citizen of a typical third world country.

What kind of a difference does it really make to replace a regular light bulb with an energy-saving one?
—Anna

Answer: Replacing one incandescent light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb prevents about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted to the atmosphere from power plants, and saves about $67 dollars in energy costs over the bulb’s lifetime.

Is it true that cars could someday run on cow manure?
—Tyler

Answer: Yes! Manure can be made into a gas containing methane. (Methane is the same energy-rich gas found in natural gas.) Certain types of bacteria emit this gas as they consume manure collected in special air-free tanks. The mixture of gases produced in this way, called biogas, can then be used in some modified car engines instead of gasoline, or burned in a boiler to generate heat or electricity.

I have heard that landfills can be a source of energy. How does that work?
—Alya

Answer: Organic waste emits methane as it decomposes—or rots—in the landfill. Landfills can collect and treat the methane and then sell it as a commercial fuel, or they can burn it to generate steam and electricity. Today, there are almost 400 gas energy landfill projects operating in the United States.