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Hey, Hey, Hey, Buggy Whip Bites the Dust

By September 11, 2017November 6th, 2021Energy Rant

A couple weeks ago in Driving Ms. Free Rider Daisy, I wrote about free-riding new construction and lighting programs – that to make a difference we need a change in outdated rules for energy efficiency programs. One reader responded, “Good points that have been around since the word negawatt. Any program ideas, besides stop paying for LEDs, that helps us obtain negawatts beyond the free rider ones?” It is your lucky day.

Another Buggy Whip to Walk the Plank

You can spend a fortune on personal trainers, dieticians, doctors, and a personal chef to lose weight. Or you can spend less than you are spending now and lose weight. The latter option is more likely to stick for a long time.

How do you spend less? Healthy foods can and should be less expensive than fat-sourcing foods. Like efficiency, you just need to know where the energy consumption is and where it isn’t. For example, a friend told me she wants to go on my beer gut diet. Why? Because I might seem to drink a lot of beer but struggle to find jeans that don’t fall off my hips, even on

Secret: It’s not the beer. It’s the food. In Toronto, for example, they post calories on at least some local restaurant menus. One I noticed had a 1,570 calorie burger. That is normal for an 8 oz burger with cheese and bacon, dudes! A Sam Adams Boston Lager weighs in at a svelte 175 calories.

Did you Say, Costs Less?

In the world of energy efficiency, we have outdated sacred cows of a far gone era. The sacred cow of the day is that if it costs less, we cannot provide an incentive. Again, I refer to new construction. Smart design does not require extra cost, necessarily. It just requires a smart mind. Why would you punish a smart mind for saving first cost AND energy costs at the same time? This crushes innovation and rewards stupidity.

Again, I’ll use my house as an example. With my ductless mini-split system with variable speed and capacity everything, AND four zones of temperature control, I have incredible efficiency at a very competitive, if not lower cost, than a conventional kludge with ugly ductwork running everywhere. I have a bundle of refrigeration pipe, power, and condensate drains (plastic tube) that run up the exterior wall in a downspout (exactly like my gutter downspouts).

A conventional system would require hacking holes through the floor to run expensive ductwork upstairs. What do you do with that? Box it in? Leave exposed shiny ductwork running up the corner of my dining room? I don’t know. That is why I told the seller, no, no, no. I’ll take care of the HVAC. Thank you!

A Brave Disciple

I came upon this post; Building Energy Efficiency Has Stalled – Here’s How to Spark Progress. Getting buildings to function properly and efficiently, like using cooling upstairs in the summer and heating downstairs in the winter, as a simple example, would save almost 30% across the board, according to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. I buy that estimate, hook line and sinker.

Smart Brain #1

What are the simple ingredients? A couple smart brains.

One smart brain to plow through the building observing control strategies and waste occurring in just about everything that uses energy. This person can identify and quantify impacts from changing computer algorithms that keep the building comfortable. My 22 years of experience tells me half the 30% can be achieved by this person.

Smart Brain #2

The second smart brain required includes a vigilant facility manager. The vigilant facility manager collaborates with the first person to understand everything identified for implementation. Step one is buy in, setting the ego aside, and wanting to improve.

Step two is behavior and maintenance of savings measures. No fully automated control system will beat a rabid energy freak roaming the building looking for simple ways to save energy. The fully automated approach to this would be too expensive, unwieldy to the program, and prone to malfunction because of too many sensors and actuators. The energy freak trains staff to be mini energy freaks – using any temperature and lighting controls available to minimize energy use. Make it a game even!

Step three is maintenance – including roaming the building, opening panels and doors, and looking for things like stuck dampers, valves, clogged filters, stuff that isn’t off when it should be, variable frequency drives pegged at 60 Hz, and so on. No program is going to do this for the energy consumer. However, the program should reward impacts compared to baseline energy use for these great things customers can do for themselves.

Energy Information Systems

How to quantify behavioral and patrolling impacts? Energy information system deployment is the way to go. Energy information systems monitor energy consumption at key points in a facility, the main of which is at the service entrance to the facility. The system is calibrated to key variables that affect energy consumption; e.g., weather. Unlike climate change models, these models can be calibrated very precisely because the science is much less complex. Even so, the complexity is daunting, requiring a professional to do it right.

The calibrated model serves as the baseline. It is tested looking back at interval data for many months/years. It is demonstrably valid. After smart minds 1 and 2 are set loose, the energy consumption starts falling, as shown by the model that determines what would happen without smart minds 1 and 2.


Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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