You might not even realise it, but you use energy all day every day, and not just for electricity either…
Transport, gadgets, heating, lighting and food; what do they have in common you ask? Well, they would all be hard to live without for starters. No more smartphone?! What a nightmare! But apart from that, these things all use energy!There are four main areas that we divide energy use into: domestic, transport, industry and services. Within all of these areas, heating and electricity play major roles.
When “domestic” is used when talking about energy, it simply means the energy used at home, and this usually means heating and electricity for lighting, appliances and gadgets.
(You might think family cars could be included in domestic energy use, but transport has a category all on its own, as it uses so much energy!)
We use energy to heat and cool our homes, food and water. It makes up an enormous 85% of all energy used at home! The other 15% is used for electricity.
We use more heat in our homes than we do in industry, transport or services; heat used in households makes up over half of all energy used for heating in the UK!
We like to heat our homes so much, that the temperature where we feel cosiest has been increasing year after year. At the minute, 18 degrees is the average temperature we like to keep our homes.
The amount of heat we use at home can also depend on a few other factors, such as
- weather – we use more heat in the winter and less in the summer
- efficiency – good insulation saves heat from being lost through walls and windows
- price – when there is a lot of gas available, but we don’t need as much of it, prices will tend to be lower than we when do need it, or when there isn’t as much available, when prices will go up
Gas is the most common primary energy source we use in our homes. It is used in boilers for space heating in 84% of homes, and it also makes up 61% of household cooker hobs in the UK; electricity is used more than gas in ovens, though, making up nearly 70% of household ovens in the UK.
How many gadgets can you use at once? Listening to music on your smartphone, while checking Facebook on a tablet, with the TV on in the background?… If you’re guilty of this, then you’re not alone.
As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives and prices for the newest gadgets drop, we buy and use more electricity and energy. And that’s not just what we can see! The internet stores a huuuuge amount of data, and search functions like Google need a lot of power to let you look up as many cat videos as you like.
Gadgets can use a large amount of energy, even when they’re not in use. It differs across different types of household appliances depending on its setting, these things use: ‘on and active’, ‘on but inactive’, ‘standby’ and ‘off but connected to the mains’. TVs, kettles, game consoles, fridges and many more all use power at varying levels.
Transport is the sector that uses most of our energy in the UK. Because of this, oil is the world’s biggest source of energy, as well as the UK’s. This is down to its importance as the fuel that keeps us moving.
However, like many primary energy sources, oil is more useful to us when it’s changed into another form of energy, or secondary energy.
Both oil and biomass go through transformation processes to change into more useful energy sources. For example, oil is heated at different temperatures to produce different types of fuel like petroleum and diesel. These are known as petroleum products. Biomass can be liquefied to produce biofuel
Product life cycle is the life or journey a product has; from collecting the raw materials needed to make it, to disposing of it when it’s no longer useful, working or needed.
For example, the energy used for making a car starts with the energy used in extracting the raw materials needed to start building the car, then in the iron and steel phase when the car is being made, to fuel used to move the car and then finally, once the car is no longer useful, energy is used to turn the car into scrap metal
The clothes you wear, the toiletries you use, and the paper you print your homework on are all made using energy. Nearly every product we rely on takes energy to produce. And this is where the industrial sector’s energy use comes into play.
Energy is used at every stage of the of the product life cycle.
Iron and steel require the greatest amount of energy, followed by the chemicals sector, food and drink and finally the paper, printing and publishing sector.
This final stage of the product life cycle introduces the importance of recycling. It can often take less energy to produce new items from recycled materials, rather than starting from the very beginning of the product life cycle again. For example, recycled aluminium e.g. a fizzy juice can, uses only 5% of the energy needed to extract new aluminium.
As most energy used in Industry is from the heating of materials, gas is the most used energy source in this sector. But the heating used in industry is different from the type of heat we use at home.
While heating at home is used mostly for heating rooms and water, heating in industry is also used in a different way; high and low temperature processes.
- High temperature processes include the use of very hot furnaces and kilns
- Low temperature processes could be: separation of chemicals (distillation) into different parts to use for a variety of products, baking and separating methods in food and drink, and dyeing materials in the textiles industry.
We rely on energy for food and farming too, but around a third of the food we produce is lost or wasted, and with it about 38% of energy used in food systems.
It is also used to supply us with clear, fresh drinking water and to remove and treat waste water before returning it safely to the environment.
Services can include the following; catering & hotels, health & education services, wholesale & retail trade, offices and public administration.
When looking at energy in the service industry, it’s similar to domestic energy use; heating and electricity are the main uses, but the service industry use around a third of energy used domestically.
Schools and other education services use the most heat out of all the service industries. Do you ever feel too hot or cold at school?!
However, education does not use the most electricity. The retail services win this round! Again, like the domestic sector, gas is the most used energy source for heating purposes.
This is how we use energy today. But just imagine the changes energy could go through in your lifetime, with new technology and new behaviours. Our energy future is up for grabs!
Why not think about the energy you use every day. Is there anything that has surprised you that will make you think the next time you use it? Will you make any changes to help save energy?