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The Sport of Energy Management

By June 24, 2019November 5th, 2021Energy Rant
energy management - Jeff's team

Last week I proved that energy management is too much work and hassle for the average schmo, unless…

That is the subject of this week’s post.

I am the youngest of four kids who lived on a farm, so walking or even riding a bike to Jimmy’s or John’s house was not a viable option. Play with the siblings? Pffft. We competed in everything from board and ancient-video games to table tennis. I was damn good at that, by the way.

We Want to Destroy You

We didn’t have soccer at all, but thankfully, one parent/organizer in a nearby town pulled us hayseeds into their little league, which I loved. But what we really lived for was basketball. The rivalries of our high school teams streamed down to us in junior high. We wanted to, and did, destroy the other teams in our tiny tournament. When the buzzer sounded, we ran into the locker room and went crazy.

What’s that? Oh, we forgot the trophy. We had to reappear to pick up that. Trophies didn’t mean anything to us. There was a “sportsmanship trophy.” Nobody wanted that because it was for the losers! If you want to know how it was, watch the original Bad News Bears. Rolling Stone called it the best baseball movie ever, and they lay out the reasons why here. I have to say; they nailed it better than I could have.

energy management - Jeff's team
Energy Management - Bad News Bears

It’s a Game, Man

What’s this all about? It’s a game, man. Most people, I would say, like games or competition. Maybe you’re a fan, a fantasy league player, play a sport, run marathons or tough mudders, or simply lift weights against yourself[1].

I have the ultimate game, in addition to a couple of those listed. My job is a game. It is a bit like being a player-coach as some folks were back in the day. There is reading, watching, learning, coaching, personalities, things we can’t control, risks, rewards, mitigation strategies, drafts, cuts, defense, offense, and hopefully more often than not, or at least enough – winning!

Where are the Gamers?

In my humble opinion, to harness lasting deep savings from any energy management program[2] in any sector – residential, commercial, or industrial – you need to find the heads in the crowd who love competition, and who will direct that love to their energy consumption. It could be that they de facto compete against others such as with residential, or they compete against themselves, which is more suitable for commercial and industrial energy users. This would be like adult basketball or softball (residential), cycling or running (commercial, industrial,) or maybe both. Some compete against themselves and against others at the same time; e.g., running or golf.

Coaches and Clocks

Gee, there are still other ways in which energy management compares to competition, namely sport. For maximum performance, people need a coach and direction.

I’m a serious runner, but not an insane runner. If I wanted to perform better, I could. I don’t know how much but I could certainly improve. I could improve my nutrition, strengthen what’s weak, stretch what’s tight, train with a proven schedule, and hire a coach to help with gait and all of the above. I do many of these things on my own, but I would guess what I miss more than anything is a coach. Why don’t you use a coach, Jeff? Two reasons: it’s a hassle and who is any good? This isn’t like finding a roofer or plumber. It’s like finding 1% of 1% of 1%. I suppose there is also a third reason – it’s not THAT important to me.

Let’s move on to tools, where again, there is a strikingly similar comparison between energy management and sport. Consider the fitness trackers like Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple Watch. I had one of those but gleefully tossed it in the garbage because it was a pain – another device to charge. I was chapped by the crumby battery life. I found it useful for foot turnover (steps per minute) when running but guess what – I opted for using only the technology I’ve been using for thirty years because that’s all that matters – Timex Ironman[3], time, distance, speed – the rest is frufra. For instance, the device won’t tell you you’re tired. You realize this when you can’t keep up to your target pace or rate.

However, a variety of doohickeys and challenges motivate a variety of people. A building manager may only want interval data to track energy consumption, watching power draw in real time and plotting it over time. This is the equivalent of a Timex Ironman. To get maximum performance, hire a coach and use more sophisticated tools like regression models to account for variances in conditions, like weather and production. Still others, especially homeowners, can benefit from the frufra of a dashboard, competition, and some sort of reward.

Here is the beauty of energy management versus fitness – it is easy to swap components for more efficient ones, and machines don’t fatigue like muscles. While I may be stuck with lousy genetics or construction, as with a building, at least the building can be ripped apart and upgraded successfully. This is not recommended for, say, better pelvic alignment. 

[1] Continuous improvement.

[2] Not just energy management systems, controls, and behavior, but equipment replacement and retrofit as well.

[3] Battery life: years

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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