October is National Energy Awareness Month

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So, take a break and I’ll share some fascinating things about it. Wood and fire were the predominant heat source well into the 17th and 18th centuries, when people began turning to coal as an additional heating course.

Why coal? Well, partly because the trees were cut down for wood! Gone! Photovoltaic – energy from the sun was harnessed in 1859, and the first hydroelectric plants went into operation in Ohio in 1893. Electric cars were invented in the late 18th century and in 1942 Enrico Fermi designed and built the first nuclear fission reactor. Thomas Edison created large “dynamos,”or generators at a plant on Pearl Street in New York City in 1882, which could light 1,200 light bulbs.

His voltage was all direct voltage – meaning it went one way and was limited to 250 volts, so it couldn’t go too far. Edison’s protegee Nikolas Tesla also worked at the Machine Works, but struck out on his own in 1885. He also found a better way to make electricity travel longer – it has 400 volts and was called an alternating current.

Picture of dynamo from Edison National Historic Site

Needless to say, Edison was not too happy and a War of the Currents developed between him and Tesla. Tesla basically won and much of the infrastructure you still see is by his design.

Gas was a different animal and first used by the British for lighting houses and streets. Philadelphia was the first entity to build a gas distribution system in 1936. Today, the top natural gas producing states are Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, producing about 50 percent of U.S. natural gas.

So, at this time of year, as the days get shorter, and it’s brisk in the morning, it’s time to ensure there’s no leaks or underperforming appliances using gas. Remember, natural gas has no smell, but the chemical mercaptan is added to it, which stinks like rotten eggs or sulfur. If you smell it - get out of your house immediately and call 911. Also when you have a digging project, remember to contact 811 before digging begins to have your utility lines marked. Stay safe!


Photo Source: Edison National Historic Site.