Cultivate Your Energy Savings

Published on Friday, 24 January 2014 09:39:55    Written by Marc
I have an apple tree in front of the house. Most people would probably have planted it in the back, but I was thinking that in the spring when they bloom, it would have been a shame to hide it in the back. In addition, if I was going to eat apples in the fall, what better way to grab an apple on the way to the office in the morning than if the tree is in the front, next to the car. Pick an apple in the tree, put in your bag or pocket and on we go.

Cultivate your savingsTherefore, every fall, when the apples are getting good to eat, I have to decide at what point is the best time to grab an apple from the tree. After hushing the many squirrels that seem to get always there before me in the morning, hauling apples in the back of the yard with apples in their mouth, I used to be tempted to get the apple that was the highest on the tree. My logic was that the top apples, getting more sun should be by far the best. Often, I would dirty myself, scratch my face, make a nick in one of my cotton shirts from a branch, or manage to make 10 apples fall for nothing, which I would then bring to the office, from guilt of wasting food and try to eat them all or give them to others at the office. Of course many would go to waste in the end anyway as there was no way I was able to eat every apple the tree produces, unless I made apples my only diet and even at that.

Therefore, after a while, I started to pick those that looked good but that were much more accessible and without getting my shirt ripped, my face scratched, breaking a branch or getting dirty. Do you know what? These apples tasted pretty darn good. Actually, I honestly cannot say that they tasted any different from the other apples that always seemed to look improved higher up. I found out that I could usually find a few apples that were about the same size as the top ones with a fraction of the effort that I used to put into the process. In addition, I saved time, when not only considering the times I had to go back inside the house to change shirts, but I also saved money in shirt repair and wash.

Now, on the weekends, when my wife and I want to make apple juice, I put on my older clothes that I use to work around the house, grab a ladder, and take the time to pick carefully the apples from the top, leaving those at the bottom for eating during the week. The result is that during those weeks during fall; I get to eat fresh apples each day.

I found out that this simple recipe often applies to finding energy savings in buildings. Instead of trying to catch that top hanging fruit all the time, starting by reaching out to lower and more accessible hanging fruits will bring pretty darn good results, at a fraction of the cost and time. Some energy saving measures are so easy to implement that they could be called fruit on the ground since they require no investment, only some small change in habits. For example measures such as closing equipment or lights at night when not used.

In addition, when you have more time to plan for complex energy saving measures that require capital investment, you can always come back with your ladder to pick the top apples. In the meantime, you will have been eating fresh apples each day, or in energy terms, saving money from energy each day, without tearing your shirt.

Therefore, if your goal is to reduce your energy consumption in your buildings, you could start out by finding your low hanging fruit (and fruit on the ground) for energy saving. These often come from items such as:

  1. Lighting retrofits (replacement of lights by energy efficient ones)
  2. Timers and schedules (adding timers to equipment that do not need to work all the time, revising the operation schedules of some equipment)
  3. Interlocks (stopping one equipment when another one is not working, for example stopping an exhaust fan when its related equipment is not operating)
  4. Compressed air leaks (fixing the leaks in the compressed air network)
  5. Going over your operation habits to see if you can manually stop some equipment when not needed

The examples above are only a few of the numerous low cost energy saving solutions you can often implement in buildings, depending on the type of building of course. These measures often provide good payback and their cost are relatively low. These measures will also bring you immediate benefit.

In parallel to these measures, you could conduct a more detailed audit of your building to find other potential sources of energy saving, such as:

  1. Equipment replacement (cooling, heating, ventilation equipment) by more efficient equipment
  2. Motor replacement (by more efficient motors)
  3. Automation (installing automation systems to control your building systems and to do standard energy saving measures such as load shedding, load rolling, demand limiting…etc.)
  4. Improving the building envelope (for example by adding insulation, replacing windows)

These examples require a capital investment and the energy savings may be complex to calculate. Because of this, there are higher on the tree than the low hanging fruit. However, these measures can provide great returns on investment if done well.

Bottom line, there are numerous energy saving measures that you can implement in most buildings. If you are starting out, you may not necessarily need to begin with large capital investments. Sometimes starting out with the easier measures, your low hanging fruit can provide you with immediate energy savings that in turn could help you getting the ball rolling for doing larger energy saving measures, which do require some capital investment. Over time, you will be able to develop your own method for finding energy savings and implementing the measures required to achieve your goals.