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Correct term: thermal power & electrical power

  1. Jul 21, 2010 #1
    Dear all,

    This question might sound trivial but for weeks I am unsure about the correct answer:

    1. Given there is a radiator. The radiator's performance is stated in [Watt].
    2. Given there is a nuclear plant. The plant's performance is also stated in [Watt].

    Is it correct English to call the first "Thermal Power Output" and the second "Electrical Power Output"?

    Thank you very much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2010 #2
    Yes, or you can just say 'Power Output'.
  4. Jul 22, 2010 #3
    Thanks a lot!!!
  5. Jul 22, 2010 #4
    I'm not sure, but I think a radiator (at least an electric one) might be rated in the power it takes in, but not necessarily puts out...although I'm also not sure what the difference is.
  6. Jul 22, 2010 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    For an electric radiator the output us equal to the input.
  7. Jul 22, 2010 #6


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Gold Member

    The point you make is interesting and sometimes confusing in (heated) debates about energy production.

    Thermodynamics learns that if you want to convert heat into work (or electricity), you can only do this with a certain maximal efficiency. For "normal" working temperatures, this is about one third. (for high temperatures, this can be up to some 50% or even somewhat more).

    So if you have a thermal machine (boiler + steam turbine say), you will need 3 times more thermal energy than you can hope to produce electrical energy.

    A nuclear power plant of 1 GW electric will produce something like 3 GW thermal energy. (same for a coal plant).

    However, if you want just heat, you do not have to pay that price: heat is heat. A stove can be almost 100% efficient (there are some losses through the chimney though).
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