Energy balance: debunk bogus product claims

One of the most powerful basic concepts for the energy manager to understand is that of the energy balance, i.e., that all the energy you put into a system comes out again as energy in one form or another. This fundamental principle enables you spot at least some of the dodgy offerings out there.

Take, for example, any product that claims to increase the efficiency of a heating boiler by improving heat transfer: if it does so, it can only do so by increasing the quantity of heat absorbed from the flame. This leaves less heat in the exhaust gas and so reduces the flue-gas temperature. If the treatment doesn’t reduce the exhaust temperature it hasn’t worked, and the extent of temperature reduction indicates how much improvement there has been.

Likewise with voltage reduction. Unless operating at reduced voltage somehow improves the energy-conversion efficiency* of the connected equipment, any saving in energy purchased (input) must be manifested as a reduction in output (light, mechanical effort or heat) from the equipment. Hence you can only save input energy if you can tolerate reduced output. You certainly cannot, as one product shamelessly claims, recover the saved energy and store it for use later.

*Electric motors do change efficiency with voltage. When trying to provide the same mechanical output at reduced voltage, the current in their windings has to increase to compensate, and because this increases the resistive heating effect, the result is a small increase in power consumed – not a reduction.