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View Diary: "Winter Deep Freeze Will Cause Breakdown of German Electric Grid" (245 comments)

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  •  It's a bad idea no matter what (7+ / 0-)

    Electric resistance heating is an inefficient use of energy no matter what the energy source is. State of the art natural-gas furnaces have efficiencies over 95%. Transmission losses alone for electricity are about 30%, so that much input is wasted by the time the first kW gets to your house. Even a good wood stove is more efficient than electric heat.

    Electricity can be a better heat source when you use it to run an efficient heat pump, but those don't work well in all climates and they are more expensive than dumb old electric baseboard heaters.

    In an ideal world this is what would happen:

    1. Customers in regions with lots of hydro power would convert to more efficient heating equipment and/or fuels and stop wasting power on resistance heat.

    2. That renewable hydro power could then be sold to the grid, where it can displace the worst of the worst - power from burning coal.

    3. Once you have wrung the coal out of the system, you can circle back to the problem that even though natural gas is an efficient heating fuel, it's still a fossil fuel and you need a renewable substitute for it.

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 05:48:18 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Right, but a key advantage (12+ / 0-)

      of the heat pumps (which also serve as air conditioners, running in reverse) is that they are already renewable-ready. Even the most efficient gas heating (as in my house) would have to be completely replaced to avoid CO2 emissions. In this fairly cold climate, my nuclear engineer neighbor says that he has substantially reduced costs with a heat pump system, although on really cold days they have to switch to gas.

      Michael Weissman UID 197542

      by docmidwest on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 07:55:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  actually heat pumps work well in most any climate (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rl en france, kyril, Lawrence, Joe Bob

      in North America or Europe, even way up in Scandinavia. You can even run a heat pump using a lake just above freezing.

      •  That really depends (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        freshwater dan

        Conventional heat pumps do not work well when you have temps under 40F for extended periods. They still work, but the backup heat for a typical unit is an electric resistance coil...which can dramatically increase your energy costs when it's running.

        There are low temp optimized heat pumps, but the lower bound of their normal operating range is about 15F. Unless you’re talking north of the Arctic Circle, northern European and Scandinavian climates are actually pretty mild compared to the extremes you can see in the Upper Midwest in the US. If you have days on end with lows below 0F you won’t get enough heat out of the heat pump to meet your demand. That means you need a backup fuel source and equipment. In practice, it’s usually not going to be economical to install an air source heat pump if it won’t meet peak demand and you need to install a backup/supplemental system.

        Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

        by Joe Bob on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 09:13:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  What's really inefficient is to heat unused rooms (0+ / 0-)

      At least with baseboards or radiant wall heaters in each room it's easy to heat just the areas that are in use. With any central heating system, most people heat the whole house - upstairs, downstairs, bedrooms during the day, living areas during the night. For gas central heating, that negates a lot of the better fuel efficiency.

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