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How is energy used in everyday life?

In 2020 the UK consumed 287.58 terawatt-hours of energy. That’s the equivalent energy of boiling a kettle 24 billion times. So what types of energy do we use every day and how do we use them?

Electrical energy

Streaming TV is an example of electrical energy. Electrical energy is caused by moving electric charges called electrons. Electrons carry more electrical energy the faster they move. 

Whether you are catching up on Love Island or watching the Olympics, streaming television online through your tv, computer or tablet uses around 190 watts of energy. On average in the UK we watch 22.5 hours of television a week. That’s a lot of moving electrons. 

Other examples of electrical energy being used every day are; mobile phones, lights, washing machines, and microwaves. This type of energy accounts for 46% of the UK’s energy usage. 

Mechanical energy

Mechanical energy is the energy of an object due to its motion or position. The energy is stored in the object and the more energy the more movement. When thinking about mechanical energy it’s common to think of things like cars and, machines and while these are examples of mechanical energy they aren’t the example that is used most in our daily lives.

One of the most common and most important forms of mechanical energy is breathing. Every time we breathe we generate energy. This is roughly 0.83 watts of energy from just breathing in and out.  

Other examples of mechanical energy include; riding a bike, driving a car, sharpening a pencil, and exercising. 

Sound energy

Sound energy is the movement of vibrations through matter. It is produced when a force causes an object or substance to vibrate. What produces more sound energy? The sound of an ambulance or your friend whispering in your ear? The answer is the ambulance. The louder you hear something the more sound energy being produced. 

Some examples of sound energy in our everyday lives are; the ringing of a doorbell, playing music, an airplane taking off and waves crashing on the beach. 

Thermal energy

Thermal energy is also known as heat energy. Thermal energy is produced when a rise in temperature causes atoms and molecules to move faster and collide with each other. The largest example of thermal energy is when the sun heats up the earth. In one hour of heating up the earth, the sun uses more energy than the whole world consumes in a year. 

Some other examples of thermal energy are; heating systems, fire, bathtubs, and of course your own body. 

Chemical energy

Have you ever put a packet of mentos into a bottle of coke to watch it explode? That’s a prime example of chemical energy in action. Chemical energy is stored in the bonds of chemical compounds. Chemical energy may be released during a chemical reaction such as putting mentos in coke and causing an explosion. One of the most common examples of chemical energy is food. As we digest our food the bonds between the atoms loosen causing a chemical reaction. The energy produced from this reaction keeps us warm, helps us move, and allows us to grow. 

Some examples of other chemical energy we use every day are; airbags, heating packs, wood, and batteries. 

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