Electricity powers everything from lights, televisions, appliances, and computers, to the most efficient heating and cooling systems and electric cars. Your local HVAC contractor likely uses tools that rely on electric power to get the job done. Despite many advancements, electricity is still electricity, but here’s a look at its history and how things have changed.
The earliest experiments in generating electricity took place as early as the mid-1600s. Benjamin Franklin demonstrated it was naturally occurring in 1752, while Nikola Tesla’s work in the early 1800s led to the development of alternating-current (AC) and direct-current (DC) systems. Industrial use of electricity as an alternative to steam power became a reality in the late 1800s. It would soon power the earliest streetlamps and telecommunications equipment.
As you’ll see, things have come a long way. In this blog, we will explore how electricity has evolved from the earliest inventions to become what it is today, in respect to the most modern advancements.
HVAC Energy Efficiency
Power usage is one of the primary factors considered in HVAC repair and maintenance. Every component must be working properly or power will be wasted. This is just one reason to rely on HVAC services for maintaining your system.
To help manage this issue, Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors are now used to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, proximity, level, acceleration, light, carbon monoxide, and more. These IoT sensors can measure actual temperatures and track temperature changes, which can help an HVAC system automatically adjust to environmental conditions. Humidity sensors powered by electricity detect how much water vapor is in your home, so any adjustments can be made if necessary.
The first electric light was built in 1802. It was created during an experiment by Humphry Davy while inventing an electric battery. This Electric Arc lamp was followed by a vacuum tube device with a coiled platinum filament created in 1840, by scientist Warren de la Rue, and an evacuated glass bulb with carbonized paper filaments in 1850 developed by physicist Joseph Wilson Swan. For several decades, Swan continued to improve upon his design.
In 1874, Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans built lamps in glass cylinders with different sized and shaped carbon rods. These rods were connected with electrodes, and the cylinders were filled with nitrogen. They later sold the patent for this design to Thomas Edison.
The light bulb, as we know it, has taken these important leaps:
- Incandescent Bulb: Thomas Edison’s commercially viable light bulb was developed in 1879, but there were many other inventors of incandescent lamps. These lamps require a material that can withstand high amounts of heat, a strong vacuum, and high resistance. While being affordable, readily available, and versatile, incandescent bulbs lose about 90% of their energy as heat, so are not at all efficient by modern standards.
- Fluorescent Bulb: Fluorescent lights aren’t new (Edison invented a type in 1896) and were used during World War II to meet manufacturing demands. Fluorescent lights weren’t widely available on the consumer market until the 1980s and 1990s. They convert more power to light and last many times longer, but come with several disadvantages, including frequent switching (reducing operating life), mercury content, and ultraviolet emissions.
- LED Bulb: A light-emitting diode (LED) is up to 90% more efficient at producing light than an incandescent bulb, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It requires just a small electric current to pass through a microchip. A tiny light source is illuminated and a heat sink absorbs any heat produced. Depending on how frequently it’s used, an LED bulb can last 10 to 20 years. LEDs are used in everything from individual bulbs to instrument panels, electronics, and indicators on your air conditioning unit
The first solar selenium cells converted less than 1% of light into electricity (by comparison, today’s solar modules have conversion rates of about 21.5%). Photovoltaic technologies were being developed as early as the 1860s to provide an alternative in case coal supplies ran thin. The first rooftop photovoltaic solar array was installed in 1884 in New York City. But solar power systems weren’t widely commercially available until the mid-1990s amid rising concerns over global warming and oil and gas supplies.
Solar power has been harnessed in many forms over the years, including concentrated systems that produce steam out of solar thermal energy to run a turbine. Photovoltaic systems, those that use solar panels, convert sunlight directly to power. Fully transparent photovoltaic glass is one of the latest innovations in this area. A transparent solar collector can absorb photons from sunlight and convert them into electrons, which produces electricity.
Earlier materials blocked a lot of visible light. Photovoltaic cells in a traditional sense can’t be perfectly clear, but a transparent luminescent solar concentrator can. In effect, they absorb non-visible ultraviolet and infrared light, emit a different type of infrared light, and direct it to a solar cell that converts it into electricity. The material has the potential for use in all types of windows and mobile device screens.
Renewable energy continues to gain ground in various forms. It can be used to power anything that electricity does, including heating and cooling systems. In fact, some of these rely on renewable sources to heat or cool homes, such as heat pumps. Here are a couple of renewable sources that might be contributing to your electrical supply:
- Wind Turbines: As a wind turbine’s blades spin, it powers an electric generator, converting kinetic energy into electricity. No fossil fuels are used and no greenhouse gases or radioactive/toxic waste is produced. Electricity is generated by magnets that move past a stator; AC electricity is produced, which is then converted to DC electricity to charge batteries that store energy or feed it into an inverter for use in the grid. Wind turbines are most practical in undeveloped areas with suitable average wind speeds.
- Tidal Power: Tidal power is a predictable power source that has been limited by high costs and low availability, but is being explored on a large scale in Scotland and South Korea. At the MayGen array in Scotland, underwater turbines are driven by water flowing between the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea; the first phase is expected to power about 2,600 homes. Its electricity-generating potential, environmental impact, and interaction with marine mammals is currently being studied.
The world’s largest operating tidal power station is now at Sihwa Lake in South Korea, where seawater is circulated to improve water quality following decades of contamination. It uses ten water turbine generators. The facility produces enough output for the domestic power needs of a city of 500,000 residents.
Contact Ideal Temp
Regardless of how your heating and cooling system is powered, we provide the HVAC maintenance, installation, and repair you need, when you need it. We are committed to quality work and personalized customer service. Repairs and HVAC inspections for all types of heating/cooling systems, including ductless mini splits, are provided by highly trained contractors. Whether you need an HVAC technician for AC installation, an indoor air quality assessment, or real estate inspections, you can count on Ideal Temp. Call us today at 816-209-0960 to schedule a visit or learn more about our HVAC services.