A PERSONAL NOTE:

THE RIGHT WAY TO DO ENERGY CONSERVATION

Improving energy efficiency may be the most profitable thing that you can do in the short term. How much you will actually benefit from this opportunity depends on how you approach it. Please take a few minutes to read the following suggestions about using the Energy Efficiency Manual and about your role in energy conservation. Invest a little time in learning how to use the Manual, and it will reward you with years of savings and achievement.

If you are involved in new construction — if you are an architect, an engineer, a construction manager, a contractor, or a code official — use the Energy Efficiency Manual as a design review guide. As you develop your design, continually check the Manual for efficiency features that you can exploit. Use it to find where the design wastes energy, and to find new ways of saving energy.

If you own, manage, or operate facilities — anything from a private home to an office complex or hospital or steel mill — use the Energy Efficiency Manual first to find all your opportunities for savings. Then, use it to prioritize your activities. Finally, let it guide you in accomplishing and preserving your improvements.

If you are a specialist in energy efficiency — if you are an energy consultant, a utility energy specialist, or an energy services provider — use the Energy Efficiency Manual in the same way, depending on whether you deal with new or existing facilities. You will find that it greatly improves the quality of your work and reduces the time you need to provide service of top quality to your clients.

If you are a student preparing to enter any of these important fields, or if you are a teacher, you will use the Energy Efficiency Manual in a different way. Start with the Reference Notes to learn fundamental principles. With each Reference Note, use the related Measures as examples of practical applications.

If your job or your vocation is to advocate efficiency — for example, if you are a government energy official or an environmental advocate — use the Energy Efficiency Manual to learn the real-world aspects of the conservation activities that interest you. Both governments and advocacy groups have played an invaluable role in promoting efficiency. At the same time, naive enthusiasm sets the stage for failures, which undermine public confidence in energy conservation and actually waste energy. The Energy Efficiency Manual will help you to promote resource conservation that produces credible results.

How to Use the Energy Efficiency Manual

The Energy Efficiency Manual is designed to be your primary tool for improving energy efficiency and reducing your utility costs. It is a comprehensive, step-by-step technical guide, and it also helps you manage your activities efficiently. Learning to use this tool proficiently will take only a few moments.

The core of the Energy Efficiency Manual consists of four hundred energy efficiency “Measures.” Each Measure is a specific energy efficiency improvement or cost saving activity. Each Measure gives you the information you need to plan the activity efficiently and accomplish it successfully.

All the Measures have a standard format. This includes special features, Ratings and a Selection Scorecard, that help you to quickly judge the value of each Measure for your applications. Other features, the Summary, Economics, and Traps & Tricks, give you the main features of each Measure. To become familiar with these features, refer to the key to the Measures, inside the front cover, as you browse through the Measures.

The Measures are grouped into Sections and Subsections. These correspond to types of energy systems (e.g., boilers, chillers, lighting) or to energy waste in specific components (e.g., air leakage through doors, solar heat gain through windows). This lets you quickly identify whole groups of Measures that may or may not apply to your facility. For example, if your boilers are fueled by natural gas, you can bypass the Subsection that deals with fuel oil systems. Use the Table of Contents to select the Sections and Subsections that apply to your facility.

First, find all your opportunities.

Resist the temptation to rush into energy conservation projects without considering all your opportunities first. You may be eager to get started after attending a seminar, or reading an article, or getting a sales pitch. Those are good ways to get an introduction to new concepts, but they are no substitute for knowing all your opportunities. If you grab at opportunities randomly, you will miss many good ones and waste money. In a facility of any size, there will be many things that you can do to reduce your utility costs. Every building and plant wastes energy in hundreds or thousands of places. Find them all.

There is no way to find the best opportunities first. It is like an Easter egg hunt. You can’t tell how big the prizes are until you have searched everywhere and found all the eggs. By the same token, don’t expect to find a “short list” of improvements that are best for your facility. Each building and plant wastes energy in different ways.

Your search for efficiency improvements will be time-consuming. (In existing facilities, this search is often called an “energy audit.”) Typically, it requires weeks or months. In a large, diverse facility, it may require more than a year. Demand the time to do it right.

A false concept that came out of the popular energy conservation movement of the 1970’s is the “walk-through” or “one-day” energy audit. According to this notion, whizzing through a facility reveals energy conservation opportunities by a mystical kind of inspiration. Reject this ouija board approach, even as a starting point. Quickie surveys fool you into believing that you know your options when you really don’t.

Budget your time as wisely as your money.

When you complete your list of potential efficiency improvements, your next job is to decide the most effective sequence for accomplishing them. You want to produce the greatest payoff in the shortest time. Be shrewd about managing your program’s two most important resources, money and personal capabilities.

The Energy Efficiency Manual helps you make the best use of both these resources. The Ratings in each Measure suggest its overall priority, taking into account the economics of the Measure, the difficulty of accomplishing it, and the degree of risk. To refine your ranking, the Selection Scorecard, just below the title, rates these factors individually. At the end of each Measure, the Economics gives you general estimates of the potential savings, the cost, and the rate of return.

Recognize that your time is a more precious resource than the money needed to make the improvements. Energy efficiency is a profit maker. So, you could borrow money to fund any project that you know will pay off. The skills and effort of the people involved are the real limiting factors. Traps & Tricks, located right after Economics, alert you to aspects of the Measure that will challenge the people involved.

Give priority to the Measures, or groups of Measures, that will produce the largest savings, even though they may not pay off most quickly. Don’t divert your time to minor activities while there are more important things to be done. On the other hand, if you see that you can accomplish a Measure quickly and reliably, go ahead and do it. Don’t waste time analyzing small improvements in detail.

Try to accomplish groups of related Measures together. For example, make all the control improvements to your air handling systems as a single activity. This avoids duplication of effort, saves money in contracting, and produces a better overall system. The Energy Efficiency Manual is organized to make this easy for you.

Most important, don’t get in over your head at the beginning with a large project that demands all your attention. If a Measure seems overwhelming, defer it until you have more time to study it. Don’t start any Measure until you are ready to complete it successfully.

Don’t expect instant gratification.

The desire for quick and effortless results has ruined more energy conservation projects than any other cause. Rushing into a project blindly is unprofessional. You would not want your surgeon to rush through your operation just to prove how quickly he can do it.

You have heard expressions like “no-cost energy conservation measure,” “pick the low fruit,” and so forth, to describe retrofit projects that are supposed to be “easy” or “simple.” These notions are illusions that lure you into being too hasty. Every opportunity for saving energy requires significant effort, if it is going to work and to endure.

Your willingness to invest the needed effort and time is what guarantees the success of your projects. The Energy Efficiency Manual will show you how to make your improvements as quickly and easily as possible.

Rely on proven equipment and methods.

Energy conservation is not a license to use the owner as a guinea pig. In most cases, rely on conventional equipment and methods. Contrary to popular opinion, energy efficiency does not require exotic technology. That’s good news. The bad news is that fads in energy conservation have strong appeal, distracting people from proven profit makers. The only good reason to do energy conservation is to produce predictable, certain savings.

Everyone is fascinated by innovation. Innovation drives progress. But, the price of innovation is a big chance of failure. Most owners can’t afford that risk. Leave unproven equipment and methods to those who develop new products and have a laboratory budget.

On the other hand, if you are in a position to work at the frontiers of energy efficiency, the Energy Efficiency Manual will help you survive as a pioneer. You will find many Measures at the leading edge of energy efficiency (and a few that are just on the outer fringe). These too can be profitable if you give them the attention they need. Riskier Measures have a Rating of “C” or “D”, and their Traps & Tricks warn you of the dangers of unexplored territory.

Why is there so much stress on reliability?

The Energy Efficiency Manual devotes a lot of attention to the details that make the difference between a reliable system and one that is riddled with problems. This emphasis on avoiding pitfalls and dealing with tricky factors is intended to alert you, not to frighten you. Energy conservation is still a new subject. The blunt truth is that many energy conservation projects have failed, almost always because people ignored vital issues at the outset. These issues are often simple. For example, a common cause of energy waste is failing to mark controls so that people know how to use them.

Only successful projects pay off. We want you to contribute to the successes, not to the failures. The Measures spell out the issues that you need to consider. It’s like driving around potholes. Keep your eyes open and don’t rush.

Why all the explanations?

A large part of the Energy Efficiency Manual is devoted to explaining how things work. There are several important reasons for this. If you understand the principles, you are much less likely to make mistakes. Knowing the principles also enables you to keep up with changes in technology. And, knowing what you are doing at a basic level turns the work into fun.

The “theory” is located in two places. Each Measure offers the basic information that you need, and if necessary, it suggests where to get more information. Often, a Measure will refer you to one or more Reference Notes. Each Reference Note is a self-contained explanation of a specific topic.

Don’t let mere words get in your way.

Each area of design, construction, and facility operation has a separate vocabulary. Architects have one set of jargon, mechanical engineers have another, electrical contractors still another, and so forth. Don’t let this deter you from making efficiency improvements in each of these areas. The principles are important, not knowing particular words.

The Energy Efficiency Manual keeps the language as simple as possible. For example, we say “lamp” or “light fixture” instead of “luminaire.” We say “window” or “skylight” instead of “fenestration.” To help you communicate with specialists who may be fussy about language, the Manual explains specialized terms in the places where you need to know them.

Fortunately, each area has only a few specialized terms that are important. If you find a word that is unfamiliar, the Index will steer you to a concise, practical explanation.

You don’t need much math, but be comfortable with numbers.

You will probably be happy to see that the Energy Efficiency Manual uses little mathematics. There are only a few simple formulas, and you need only arithmetic to use them.

Even so, energy efficiency is all about numbers. In most cases, you are not doing something that is fundamentally new. Instead, you are doing something better. To judge whether the improvement is worth the cost, you have to be able estimate the benefit in terms of numbers. If you are not comfortable doing the math, of if you need a calculation that requires specialized knowledge, get a specialist to make the calculations for you.

Recognize that energy savings are uncertain to some extent. They are subject to conditions that you cannot predict, including future energy costs, operating schedules, weather, and human behavior. Make your estimates of savings for a reasonable range of conditions.

Keep your facility efficient for its entire life.

When energy conservation became a public issue during the 1970’s, it was promoted by many well-intentioned people who lacked experience in keeping things working. Energy conservation was treated as a magic pill that would cure the disease of energy waste once and for all. In reality, energy waste is a degenerative condition that keeps trying to return.

Maintaining efficiency is like maintaining your physical fitness. You have to keep it up. Design your efficiency improvements to survive as long as the facility. Each Measure that requires maintenance tells you how to keep it profitable.

Let all your information sources work for you.

Capable professionals depend primarily on a few well-worn references. But, they also know how to get information from other sources quickly. Whether you are a professional or not, the Energy Efficiency Manual is your primary reference for energy efficiency. However, no single book can tell you everything you need to know. To do battle with energy waste, assemble an armory of information that is appropriate for the level of improvements that you plan to make.

You will see that the Energy Efficiency Manual is not cluttered with formulas and tables. When you need detailed engineering data, get it from the appropriate reference books. Fortunately, you need only a few of these. If you are involved at a professional level with heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, or designing a building’s skin, you should have the four-volume ASHRAE Handbook on your shelf. For electric lighting, the prime reference source is the IESNA Handbook.

Many books are available on specialized aspects of energy conservation, such as solar energy, cogeneration, and residential insulation. Don’t hesitate to get another book to expand your knowledge about a subject. There is no better bargain. A good book costs almost nothing in comparison with your utility expenses, and it protects your most valuable assets, which are your time and your professional reputation. Once you decide to use a particular type of equipment, study the catalogs and equipment manuals of different manufacturers. These are a treasure of important details, and they are your most current source of information. But, beware. The big weakness of manufacturers’ literature is a selective rendition of the truth. Knowing potential problems beforehand is critical to success, but manufacturers tend to omit or minimize this vital information.

Talk to others.

Two heads are better than one. Seek other people’s opinions before you get involved with unfamiliar equipment or procedures. You can get practical advice from books, trade magazines, professional organizations, consultants, colleagues, and vendors. Talk to facility operators for their opinions about how well something really works.

As you do this, take everything with a grain of salt. People’s perceptions are distorted by wishful thinking, embarrassment about disappointing outcomes, and inability to measure actual performance. I have listened to experienced plant operators brag about big efficiency improvements that they were convinced they had achieved with gadgets that were purely bogus.

Don’t try to do everything yourself.

If you have a big facility, you will not live long enough to make it efficient by yourself. If you try, energy and money will bleed away while valuable efficiency improvements wait to be made.

Spread the work effectively. In a big facility, your main job is to decide which Measures to accomplish, and to make sure that they get done correctly. Use engineers, architects, contractors, specialized consultants, along with the facility staff. As your program gains momentum, you will have your hands full making sure that others do their work correctly.

Many Measures straddle the boundaries of the established design and construction disciplines. For example, successful daylighting requires close coordination between the architect, the lighting designer, the electrical engineer, and the mechanical engineer. You have to bring all these people together and require them to address all the issues that are critical for success. This is not always easy. Select your people for their willingness to listen and learn.

Seize the opportunity!

The most important point is to get started. At every moment, motors and fans are running, lights are turned on, boilers are burning fuel, and other equipment is consuming energy. Some of this energy is being wasted, and it is probably more expensive than you realize. Remember that cost savings are pure profit. You would have to sell a lot more of your product or service to make as much profit as you can from energy efficiency. Start tapping this resource.

On an industry-wide basis, the efficiency of your facilities will increasingly determine whether your organization can continue to survive and compete. On a global scale, improving efficiency is the most satisfactory way for civilization to adapt to declining energy resources and to minimize harm to the environment.

Enjoy yourself.

At this point, you may feel that you got into more than you bargained for. Don’t worry. Energy conservation is a bigger challenge than most people expect, but the Energy Efficiency Manual breaks it down into easy steps. Set a comfortable pace, and stick with it. Your energy savings will soon show up on your utility bills, and those saving will continue to grow and accumulate.

Your energy efficiency program can be the most interesting and rewarding part of your career. It will give you an opportunity to become involved in every aspect of your industry. There is probably no other way that you can have as much fun while doing something of fundamental importance.

Donald Wulfinghoff
Wheaton, Maryland, USA

© D. R. Wulfinghoff 2000. All rights reserved.
Return to Look Inside the Book