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EDITOR'S LETTER: Energy winners, not whiners

According to the experts, the first step to making everyone a winner in the energy game is to track energy costs and monitor consumption. This way there's a starting point and a point of reference for future savings calculations. Significant savings may come from something as simple as correcting calculation errors from utility companies.

  • Join the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Buildings program which defines how to use energy more efficiently while maintaining or improving comfort levels for occupants. The program offers technical resources and advice at no charge.
  • Arrange an energy audit, a walk-through audit performed by a Certified Energy Manager, and a Professional Engineer. The outcome is an Energy Use Survey determining among other things, energy use, recommendations, savings potential, financing options and conclusions.
  • Consider the lighting in the facility. Replace incandescent lights with low mercury fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps. This increases efficiency and reduces heat the cooling system must dispose of. Traditionally T12 lights are often the norm. Two of these can be replaced with one energy efficient T8 lamp. Studies show the investment can pay for itself in a matter of months, and the color rendering and light output are improved.
  • Deploy occupancy sensors in key locations. Either ultrasonic or infrared sensors save by turning lights off automatically when no one is present. Suggested installation spots include storage rooms, break rooms and low traffic areas.
  • Use energy saving devices such as timers to cut down on energy use. Purchase computers that have the option of reverting to sleep mode when not in use.
  • Are skylights for you? Daylight is free, so using it can save money and energy. For an average grocery store in Southern California, there is a potential savings of 32 cents per sq. ft. or $16,000 a year in operating costs (based on a 1998 energy cost study), when designers incorporated skylights.
  • Convert electric heat to natural gas. Or, take a hybrid approach with an absorption chiller and an electric centrifugal chiller operating in series — allowing users to take advantage of off peak rates from electric and gas suppliers.
  • Profit from installation of economizers that allow air conditioners to use up to 100% outside air instead of return air when the outside temperature is below the desired inside temperature. Success of course, depends on the temperatures and humidity in your area of the world.
  • Ask about budget incentives and rebates. Some owners, managers and cities are beginning to see the sense of budget incentives. Significant moneys saved from energy reductions can be redirected toward such things as building improvements, better energy saving equipment and higher profits. According to the National Science Foundation, energy costs can often be reduced by 15% without affecting services provided.

With other great options available but not enough space to tout them all here, suffice it to say I'm convinced energy efficiencies stimulate economic development as local businesses increase their profits and lower their bills. This money from the savings stays in the local economy and circulates among the local merchants. Everybody wins.

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