Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 07.28.08
Just Outside Washington


So, how do we save on energy costs?

Here is the problem: George Bush and Company took Iraq's oil off the world market just at the time that demand was rising. (Law: when demand rises and supply does not, prices do.)

To make matters worse, they introduced a lot of uncertainty into the market. (Law: uncertainty in market equals risk and risk equals rising prices.) So, what is the solution for the US of A? As I mentioned in Energy I, replace oil use with electricity.

There are many ways to do this on the user end other than the photovoltaic panels discussed in Energy I. For most homes, heating/cooling is the biggest energy user and, of course, this depends on climate. One approach would be to heat and cool homes with efficient geothermal heat pumps. These are different from the old heat pumps that used ambient air as their source.

Geothermal heat pumps have pipes with a heat exchange fluid in the ground under the frost line where the temperature is near a constant temperature. The Geothermals are about sixty percent more efficient when heating and about twenty-five percent more efficient when cooling that ambient air units. This is off-the-shelf technology but more expensive to buy.

Heating hot water is the second-largest home energy user. The standard hot water heater that keeps a big tank of water hot all the time can be replaced with an instant heater that only heats the water when it is turned on and being used.

The electric instant heaters use thirty percent less electricity to heat sixty-four gallons of water per day.

For gas heaters, the savings are greater. Lighting is generally the number three energy user. By this time everyone knows about compact florescent bulbs and that they produce fifty to one hundred lumens per watt compared to fifteen for incandescent bulbs.

The really big item is our daily commute.

We use twenty-one million barrels of oil per day (BPD) in the US and forty-four percent of that goes into cars and trucks as gasoline. An additional 2.5 million BPD goes to highway diesel use.

According to US Department of Transportation, seventy-five percent of commuters drive to work alone, and seventy-five percent of the commuters in the forty-nine metropolitan areas travel thirty-nine minutes or less, one way.

At an average speed of thirty MPH that is a round trip of only thirty-nine miles round trip. This is well within the range of an all-electric, charge-overnight car. GM's EV1 got 55-75 miles per charge using lead/acid batteries.

A total of 1117 of these cars were produced and leased to customers in California. Honda and Toyota also provided electric cars in California. GM is working on the Volt and you can buy a Tesla for delivery in twelve months ($109,000, 0 to 60 in 3.9, and 220 miles on a charge).

Check it out at

The key question, however, is Where do we get the electricity? I say we use every means that we have:

  • Conservation - More insulation in the attic, etc (we just put the 3M film on the windows)

  • Solar - The federal tax credit expired last year and was only for $2000 and a 3000 Watt system is about $20,000 - are we really serious about this?

  • Wind - New systems are being installed in many places, except near Cape Cod, etc.

  • Nuclear - Now we are talking big generators and big dollars and lots of protests but no air emissions and no green house gases.

  • Garbage - My favorite. We are running about 223 million tons a year around the country in trucks burning diesel and then burying it in the ground with bulldozers that also burn diesel and the landfills have emissions also. Waste to energy power plants burning that would produce 90 million MWhr of electricity or enough to power eight million homes.