66147 Electricity, Natural Gas, & Energy Efficiency FAQ2024-04-23T13:23:45+00:00

Electricity, Natural Gas, & Energy Efficiency FAQ

Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Or why natural gas flames are blue? Or whether garbage could someday be a source of energy? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions.

I once saw a pair of shoes hanging from a power line. Why didn’t the shoes get burned up by the electricity in the line?2024-04-23T21:21:36+00:00

Shoes hanging on a power line don’t get burned for the same reason that birds standing on a power line don’t get shocked: they don’t give electricity a path to the ground, so electricity stays in the line and does not go through them. But if the shoes were to touch a power line and a power pole at the same time, they would provide a path to the ground and would get blasted with electric current. It wouldn’t be pretty!

By the way, if you ever see someone throwing shoes up onto a line, tell them to stop! The shoes can damage the power line, or someone trying to get the shoes down could be seriously shocked or even killed.

Who discovered natural gas?2024-04-23T21:23:08+00:00

The ancient Chinese were the first to discover underground deposits of natural gas. In 600 BC, Confucius wrote of wells 100 feet deep yielding water and natural gas along the Tibetan borer. The Chinese piped the gas to where it was needed through long, hollow bamboo stalks.

Why does the flame on my stove burners look blue, but the flame of a campfire is yellow?2024-04-23T21:23:19+00:00

A natural gas flame burns hotter than a campfire. In general, cooler flames appear yellow, orange, or red, while hotter flames look blue or white. (Flecks of orange in your gas flames are OK, but if the flame is yellow, large, and flickering, the appliance may need a safety adjustment by a qualified repair person.)

Do electric eels really create electricity?2024-04-23T12:48:59+00:00

Yes! An electric eel uses chemicals in its body to manufacture electricity. A large electric eel can produce a charge of up to 650 volts, which is more than five times the shocking power of a household outlet.

Why didn’t Ben Franklin get electrocuted when he tied a metal key to a kite string and flew the kite in a thunderstorm?2024-04-23T21:23:39+00:00

Ben Franklin probably did not do his famous kite experiment the way it is usually portrayed. (Franklin never wrote about it himself, and the only description we have of it was written by another scholar, Joseph Priestley, 15 years later.) Franklin believed lightning was a flow of electricity taking place in nature. He knew of electricity’s dangers, and would probably not have risked being struck by lightning by flying his kite during a storm. It is more likely that Franklin flew his kite before the storm occurred, and that his famous key gave off an electric spark by drawing small electrical charges from the air.

How much energy is in a bolt of lightning?2024-04-23T21:23:54+00:00

One lightning strike can carry between 100 million and 1 billion volts—as much electricity as 2.5 million car batteries.

When a circuit is open, do electrons go backwards, or do they just stop?2024-04-23T21:24:05+00:00

Neither! In the wires of an electrical circuit, the electrons are always jiggling around. When a circuit is closed to run an appliance or a light bulb, the electrons jiggle a lot and travel through the wire. When the circuit is open, all the electrons just jiggle where they are—kind of like running in place.

I have heard that landfills can be a source of energy. How does that work?2024-04-23T12:52:49+00:00

Just like manure, other types of organic waste emit methane as they decompose—or rot—in the landfill. Landfills can collect and treat the methane, and then sell it as a commercial fuel, or they can burn it to generate steam and electricity. Today, there are more than 620 gas energy landfill projects operating in the United States.

(Source: EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, Sept. 2018)

What’s the difference between global warming and the greenhouse effect?2024-04-23T21:24:32+00:00

The greenhouse effect is created because certain gases sent into our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, allow radiation from the sun to pass through the earth’s atmosphere, but prevent a portion of the infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally; without it our planet’s temperatures would be about 60 degrees cooler! Life as we know it simply would not exist without the natural greenhouse effect. However, many scientists believe global warming is happening because the greenhouse effect has become intensified by human activities: These activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) add more carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere and accelerate the earth’s natural warming process.

What kind of a difference does it really make to replace a regular light bulb with an energy-saving one?2024-04-23T21:24:42+00:00

Replacing your five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ENERGY STAR certified lights can save $70 a year in energy costs.

(Source: Energy Star)

Are more homes heated by natural gas or electricity?2024-04-23T12:56:42+00:00

More homes in the U.S. are heated by natural gas than by electricity.

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