Skip to main content

No Pain? No pain.

By November 28, 2011November 9th, 2021Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant

This will blow your mind.  How many large power plants (500 MW) does it take to cook the thanksgiving turkey across the nation – just the ones cooked with electricity?  Answer is provided below.  Guess.  Don’t be a loser.  Guess.

I’ve seen perhaps 100 ads for dust collecting contraptions that everyone including the buyers know will end up under the bed, in the closet, or basement, and finally onto the garage sale to somebody else who will decycle it.  These include the things like the Ab Buster 5000 (just made it up), junk you sit on, junk you rock on, junk you push/pull, slip/slide, squeeze or shake.  They get body builders that spend 5 hours a day in the gym pumping real iron, doing real body building, to demonstrate the use of this crap with a voiceover of something like, “You will notice results in 5 days with just 15 minutes a day”, which is technically true.  In 5 days the sedentary person’s gut, arms, or legs will be burning of lactic acid.  The reality of course is, the schmo that buys this stuff is thinking they may look like the dudes and babes on TV if they buy the dust collector.  I suppose that every once in a blue moon the stuff is actually used.

I’m more in favor of Rocky Balboa type training – simple stuff, like pulling a log through waste deep snow in Siberia.  I run and the only weather or conditions not fit for running are those that might kill me or give me permanent brain damage.  That would be limited to excessive heat.  Everything else varies from great (minus -30F or 35F wind and rain in the dark or above 85F) to perfect (everything between 0F and 85F).  There’s very rarely a legitimate excuse for not running.  Real influenza, 103F body temperature, and barely being able to sit up in bed qualifies.  I was there four years ago.  There are practically no equipment requirements.  Most requirements are provided by the state: that is roads, sidewalks, and when necessary bike trails (BORING).  The roads are always open.

You really only need one pair but a couple of these are for ice and snow and the rest have varying degrees of mileage so I can bleed a thousand miles per pair by rotating new, old, new, old.

Compare this to the gym.  And speaking of BORING, OMG, I was in Scottsdale at the Hotel Valley Ho a couple weeks ago; a fantastic 1950s retro hotel with a beautiful pool, patio area with immaculate greenery.  As I was on my way out the door at O’Darkthirty to run, I noticed a row of treadmills on the second floor indoors overlooking the outdoor pool area.  They were in use at least, but I was thinking what is wrong with those people?  Why would you run in place staring at CNN with an iPod ruining your eardrums next to a stinky guy, in stale, stagnant air?  I’d rather run laps in a Wal-Mart parking lot – or the Hotel parking lot, Interstate 5 in Southern California, or the tarmac at JFK in the rain.  In this particular case, it was just above 50F and perfect outside, plenty of sidewalks and not much traffic.

Maybe people need an excuse (gym) to “work out”.  I don’t get this.  Treadmills are stupid (see above).  Free weights cost not much compared to a few months of gym membership.  Stationary biking can be had for a decent $100 doohickey attachment and a $50 tire for the bike you already have (no one does stationary biking unless they bike for real).  There is nothing more brain damaging than riding a stationary bike.  If you want to live forever, ride a stationary bike because an hour seems like 8 hours, like reverse dog years.  Note THIS stuff is not dust collection material.  Only obsessive hard core people use this stuff – triathletes, for example use it in Wisconsin winters.  Nobody on TV sells stuff that actually works and gets used.  No BS here.

In “Oh Behave” and “Biscuit Discipline” I attempted to make a point that information to save energy or to be healthy alone is not enough.  Energy efficiency requires somebody, preferably multiple bodies if not all bodies being involved with constant favorable behavior to sustain savings over time.  Both EE and fitness require persistence and activity over time.  Grapefruit diets?  Not so much.

Long term health and EE have this in common.  Neither include simply buying your way to success.  Ready?

Switching gears just a little, last week I came across this pyramid for energy efficiency in homes, which I thought was pretty cool.  (Although as I type that, I’m thinking, wait a minute, the USDA food pyramids were complete flops, unless one rationalizes it was successful with the “created or saved” sort of government metric.)  It seems its creator has prioritized things very well for a residence.  It has renewable energy with the highest complexity and investment and I would add poor return on investment.

This spurred me to generate one of these for commercial buildings.  The pyramid base – the best stuff – the raw vegetables, fiber, and omega 3 of energy efficiency is retrocommissioning, operations, maintenance, and discipline to stay with it.  At the top: seven layer chocolate cake with chocolate drizzle and whipped cream – renewable energy.  By the way, it takes just over 100 large power plants to cook the TG bird I mentioned above!

Payback ranges and percent of total facility savings potential are guessed for each category of measure.  They are all wrong, so let’s just get that out of the way now.  Misguided applications of practically any technology can have 200 year simple paybacks.  Results can be all over the place and depend on many things possibly the greatest of which is, what is there now and how it is being used prior to implementation.  The years noted of course represent a range of typical simple paybacks for the technology.  The percentages represent the portion of TOTAL facility energy consumption the technology can achieve.  Note for renewables I have a high of 100%, representing most likely a wind turbine.  This can be done as Spirit Lake Schools (Iowa) had done many years ago.  They were generating wind energy long before wind turbines sprouted like chia heads in the surrounding areas.

The chart is for commercial facilities only; NOT industrial and manufacturing facilities.

*Building envelope measures can have fast paybacks if the existing condition is terrible.  For example, no roof or attic insulation – and in the case of flat roofs, the roof is pealed off anyway for replacement.


Some folks are proposing a switch to using lumens as the metric for selecting light bulbs for purchase at your favorite home improvement store.  This would be in lieu of incandescent wattages or equivalents thereof.  Uh huh.  Around 1980 the US was going to be the last country on the globe to convert to metric units.  You know – base 10 everything with common sense conversions like a milliliter equals a cubic centimeter.  Fuggedaboutit!  Not gonna happen.  Funny thing is, by mid-engineering-school career, every engineer clamors to use metric only.  Six months out of school they are polluted by old timers who like incomprehensible units like mass in units of grains – and so the insanity lingers perpetually.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

More posts by Jeff Ihnen

Leave a Reply