Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Efficiently Inefficient

It is now the end of October and we have yet to start using the heating in the flat. It is newly built so half-decent insulation certainly has something to do with it, but the real reason lies in our living room, the warmest in the flat despite being the largest. Between a large TV, an Xbox 360 and a ceiling littered with halogen spotlights, these inefficient devices all produce a great deal of heat. Conventional wisdom now advises that one improve the efficiency of one’s abode by replacing all lighting with the energy efficient variety. This seems somewhat shortsighted.

It must be accepted at the outset that no device is entirely efficient. In the case of lightbulbs, most of the “wasted” energy is given off as heat, but this in turn reduces the heating required for the house, so cannot truly be considered wasted. If replaced with cooler bulbs the lighting would be more efficient but the heating requirements would increase and this process too is not 100% efficient, only in this case the wasted energy lacks any useful side effect. So counter-intuitively installing energy efficient lighting throughout a house would actually make the house less efficient. Of course this argument assumes it is the cooler part of the year when heating is required, but during the warmer seasons the increased daylight means less lighting is required anyway.

Discussing this with my dad, he mentioned another fallacy to the efficient bulbs everywhere approach. They are actually quite inefficient when switched on, and it is only once warmed up that they run efficiently. Thus they are only efficient when left on for a considerable period, and should not be used where they will be switched on and off repeatedly. So the use of one in our study makes sense, but it certainly would not to use one in the bathroom.

I am certainly not averse to environmental friendliness — I recycle as much as possible despite continuous complaints from my other half as the recyclables gather before I have a chance to dispose of them (amusingly since the Germans are known for being very pro-recycling to the point where, the story goes, they ended up pulping perfectly good new paper in order to meet the demand for recycled paper). However in some instances the bigger picture must be viewed as focusing too closely on individual elements can actually produce adverse results. Holistic friendliness is what we need.

4 Comments

  1. With regards to the “warming up” thing, I watched a Mythbusters episode where they tested this. Apparently they do use up more energy when they are switched on, but the amount they save means that unless you are using the light for less than 2 seconds, they save more energy than they waste on start up!

  2. Reading A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman recently was pretty interesting – quite a practically-minded book from a Guardian writer about living ethically – pretty readable – I read it in a few hours! How’s Portal?

  3. Also, one of my Physics teachers from Croydon college informed me that it would be more efficient to heat your home by filling freezers with water than to use radiators. And then you’ve also got ice to stick in your drink!

  4. Heheh, I like that idea. Also a great reason to drink more cocktails… :d

    Portal is fantastic — it’s brevity is the only real downside, though completion unlocks some new challenges which adds a little more. Generally it’s a real breath of fresh air: original gameplay, brilliantly scripted dialogue (I laughed out loud several times) and with a truly awesome closing song. Apparently it does tie into Episode 2 loosely at some point, but I still have Episode 1 to play through first.

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"Luck is the residue of design."

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