Have you ever wondered about the streetlights in your neighbourhood, where your energy actually comes from or how charging your phone actually works?
Bringing the energy facts a little closer to home, here are some surprising details about items we see and use every day.
It all starts with electricity.
When you’re streaming your favourite shows and surfing the web from the comfort of your lounge, you can thank the scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The CSIRO is credited with inventing the wi-fi technology we all use today—right here in Australia.
Your wi-fi, radio and microwave are all powered by electromagnetic energy. Although this isn’t electrical energy, these devices convert your electricity to electromagnetic energy to function.
The same (but different) happens with the battery in your phone or laptop. When you charge your mobile phone, the electricity is converted to chemical energy (charging your battery), then converted back to electrical energy (as needed) to power your phone.
Lighting up our city.
Along every public pathway, road and suburban street, city-powered lights illuminate the way for our safety, security and convenience. In the ACT alone, there are roughly 80,000 streetlights and footpath lights1. Currently, lighting accounts for one quarter of all public electricity usage in the ACT2.
One by one, these streetlights are being upgraded from Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) (an outdated lighting technology) to energy-efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Around the world 23 times.
The power you have flowing through your home, is bought, sold and distributed through the National Electricity Market (also known as the NEM). The NEM is made up of five physically connected regions across the east coast of Australia—Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and us, NSW and ACT (counted as one region). From Port Douglas in Queensland to Port Lincoln in South Australia, the distance is more than 5,000 km, including over 40,000 km of high voltage transmission lines3. This makes the NEM one of the longest interconnected power systems in the world.
If you linked the NEM, the Darwin-Katherine Electricity Network (Northern Territory), the South West Interconnected System and the North West Interconnected System (Western Australia) together, it would be about 918,000 kms long, which could circle the equator 23 times4.
First place goes to…
There’s no denying the capital region’s hot summers and cold winters. If we were to break down your electricity bill, over half of it would probably be attributed to one thing: heating and cooling. The average ACT household’s energy bill is spread like this:
- 62%: heating and cooling
- 16%: water heating
- 15%: electrical appliances
- 4%: lighting
- 3% cooking.
In comparison, heating and cooling only make up around 40% of the average Australia-wide electricity bill5.
The low down on lumens.
If you’ve tried to buy lightbulbs recently, you’ll see that they’re now measured in lumens, rather than watts. So, why is that?
Modern lighting technology, like LEDs, use significantly less energy than their halogen and fluorescent predecessors—and they last much longer. When comparing a halogen bulb to an LED, an LED will last 5–10 times longer, and consume just one-fifth of the energy6. With all of that aside, they also are able to produce the same amount of light, using much less electricity, which is why it no longer makes sense to measure them by watts.
A lumen, which is one unit of ‘luminous flux’, is simply a way to measure the total output of light. Higher the lumens = brighter the bulb.
If these energy tidbits sparked your curiosity, more electrifying facts are at your fingertips.
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