Archive for energy efficiency

Go Green, Make Green – The World Sees (again) That Environmentalism is Good for Business

We’re all familiar with the idea that resource efficiency is good for business.  A little over a week ago, Business Week published “10 Ways to Cut Business Costs” (with a nod to Jennifer Kaplan). My little miserly heart beats quickly seeing that #1 is “Reduce energy use” and pay less for utilities. Corollary to that, check your energy bill to be sure they added the right number of zeros.

Green jobs are good for the economy. Green jobs maven Van Jones  joined the Obama Administration Council on Environmental Quality this last week, no doubt to ensure that good, green collar jobs are a priority for the next few years.

Moreover, green companies survive better. Last month, management consulting firm A. T. Kearney found that green companies outperformed others by 15% (with a nod to Olga Orda’s post).

Not only are green companies more resilient, they’re more profitable. With the fading economy, Paul Smith (and others) sees the opportunity for ecopreneurs to make money by chasing consumer demand for green products and services.


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Energy Audit Tips

I want to share some tips for energy auditing after a week of training at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This particular collection of tips is mine, but gleaned from expert presentations by great auditors who have done many more audits than I have.

Energy Auditor (from

Energy Auditor (from

Top Ten Tips for Energy Auditing

1. Come in to the energy audit saying, “I am here to make you more comfortable.” You will meet with resistance. Reassure your client. Discomfort is expensive, and it means that facilities managers get yelled at. Our predecessors in the energy efficiency field did a crappy job and proposed energy conservation measures that saved energy by making things dim and cold. Economically, it’s not worth utility bill savings if you make an employee less productive. 

2. Listen. Ask your client what problems they want you to look at. Ask them about their challenges and their ideas for improvements. Get information from any source you can. Don’t be hostile towards your client/facilities manager, but do report any lighting burnouts or maintenance problems like dirt or dust in your report. Never underestimate the role that human operators play in setting or re-setting equipment. Understand first, then make recommendations. (i.e. Make sure it makes sense to recommend a variable frequency drive before recommending it.)

3. Don’t promise anything unrealistic. Take the conservative estimate for any cost savings. Don’t bend numbers to convince a decision-maker to take action. Think about how much money your client has for upgrades (thousands? none?) and how many years of payback they are required to achieve (3 year payback or less? 5 year? 15 year?). You can use the line, “I want your savings to be more than this, but…” Think about making recommendations that simplify maintenance – there is no reason a building should have 15 different kinds of light bulbs.

4. Think about interactions. A lighting upgrade will impact the heat a little bit. Buildings operate and interact in sometimes mysterious ways. Keep in mind what the building was originally designed for. There may be weird holdovers from your building’s days as a 1970s hotel (i.e. “So that explains the package terminal air conditioners in every office!”).

5. Think about seasonal changes and daily operations. Normalizing for weather helps explain part of your heating and cooling story. Graph a year’s worth of utility bills to get a picture. Record a day’s energy use with a pulse monitor to see if something weird is happening (i.e. “Why is the air conditioning system being turned on at 4 a.m. when nobody arrives until 8?“). Keep custodial activities in mind (lights on all night?). Keep utility demand charges in mind (rates go up during peak hours or seasons) when proposing recommendations. 

6. Bring tools to help you measure now. Bring tools to help you remember later. Use a digital camera if you can. Take pictures of nameplates. Take pictures of equipment. This will help you remember the building when you are pulling together your report. Ask for a building schematic, or copy an evacuation plan map from the wall. Ask for a year’s worth of utility bills ahead of time. “Discriminators” tell you whether a ballast is electronic or magnetic. A “Watts Up” tool tells you how many Watts/hour a plug is drawing. You can order tools from the Davis catalogue. A mirror helps save your neck when you are performing a lighting audit. Bring a cell phone in case you get locked in somewhere. Tally counters are available at Target or Staples.

7. If you notice an OSHA or hazardous waste or fire code violation, you are liable and are legally obligated to report it. Familiarize yourself with these basic codes.

8. Energy efficient upgrades will increase the real estate value. Buildings sell better when they cost less to light, heat and cool.

9. Write your report for the building owner, who surely lives in California and will spend a grand total of 5 minutes reading your recommendations (if that). Use executive summaries, initial costs, and dollar savings. Include everything. If the lighting is already efficient, write that the lighting is already efficient and you have no recommendations at this time. Address building envelope, lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and equipment/plug load/process equipment.

10. Benchmark against other buildings. Use 2005 ASHRAE Handbook Ch. 35 to compare energy intensity (kBTU/square foot/year) or Energy Star. Measure or estimate square footage to get this benchmark.

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Welcome to the New Easier Being Green!

Welcome to the new home of Easier Being Green!

During the last few days, I’ve been at the Clean Energy Resource Teams Conference in St. Cloud, Minn. I ran into a few fellow college alumni who work for Kidwind, a group that creates lesson plans and trains teachers to teach about wind.

From the website:
Michael Arquin began the Kidwind Project when he was a 6th grade science teacher in California. Unhappy with the high price and poor quality of commercial products available for teaching wind energy science, he set out to develop his own.

Just a quick post to say hello, and welcome to the new site!

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Eco Sighting: Lifetime Saint Paul

So my gym is in a recycled building – in a few floors of what used to be the downtown University Club.

One of the quirks of this setup is that we gymgoers sweat through our aerobic workouts in an old ballroom beneath chandeliers serious enough to make even the Phantom of the Opera nervous.

There are 16 chandeliers, each with 20 candelabra bulbs.

Everyone is familiar with candelabra bulbs:

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Well today in the University Club lobby, I noticed that the everyday incandescent candelabra bulbs had been replaced by – gasp! – energy efficient CFL candelabra bulbs!

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Whoever is retrofitting the building hasn’t made it into their tenant’s aerobic ballroom yet, but I have high hopes.

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Downsview Park "Trail of Lights" (Toronto)

From November 28 until the end of 2008, Toronto’s Downsview Park will host Canada’s largest walk-through holiday light show. Stretching 2 kilometers, “Trail of Lights” is powered by LEDs – over 400,000 of them.

It runs from 5 – 10 p.m. and costs $10-12 (more on certain holidays).

Check out this cut from the brochure, or visit this daily dose of imagery picture taken by Sam Javanrouh.

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The Stars Weigh In

Two things:

1. A delightful quote from Carl Pope.

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“Efficiency is the steak,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Renewables are the sizzle.”

from “Efficiency, Not Just Alternatives, Is Promoted as an Energy Saver.” The New York Times. Matthew L. Wald, May 29, 2007.

2. The Gilmore Girls (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) weigh in on global warming.

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Green Wii

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The National Resources Defense Council released a report yesterday finding that video game consoles use a significant amount of energy, costing up to $134 per year if not shut off when not in use.

The Wii is far and away the most energy efficient model, says this article from Yahoo!. The console uses between $3-$10 per year in energy (depending on habits of turning the console off if not in use).

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