Monday, January 12, 2009

Tom and the electric radiator

There was a running joke a few weeks back on Twitter about units for energy measurement, and my friend Tom Raftery ended up with one named after himself. Or at least, that's the way I heard it. In honor of that scientific achievement, I spent a little time trying to display how many Toms our space heaters use.

The cells:

I have 2 electric radiators, the kind you buy in a department store, with 2 switches each - one for the 600 watt element, and one for the 900 watt element. Turn them both on and they're spinning the electric meter at 1,500 watts. That's, like, one hundred compact fluorescent bulbs lit up like, well, a Christmas tree.

Theoretically, our heat pump is more efficient than these units, but it heats the whole house, and the radiators are set in bedrooms with under 10% of the whole house volume each. As long as the door stays shut, they allow me to keep the house between 63 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I've pushed it to 62 at night, and would go lower if not for domestic tranquility.

The cycle column estimates how long the radiator uses electricity each day. If we remember to turn them off, the number is closer to 10%. There is a thermostat that makes the unit click on and off, along with a dial going from LOW to HIGH, so I'll often turn off one switch and dial it down, particularly if someone sets the thing to 11.

The Toms values I calculated are what we would be generating if we were on fossil fuel electric source. However, ours are really zero; see:

Thanks Tom!

It would be nice if someone checked my math. The answer is still 0 though.

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