Energy Efficiency by Walking Around (EEbWA)

Lately as I have been traveling I have been stunned by how often people fail to take the most simple of energy efficiency steps.  Here are a few vignettes.

  1. When I am in Indianapolis, I often eat at MLC cafeterias with my Dad and brother Paul.  They offer home cooking in a simple and low cost format.  The restaurant has about 200 – 65 Watt incandescent light bulbs in teh ceiling.  These bulbs y my estimation are probably on at least from 9 am to 10 pm, maybe longer.  And if the restaurant is open 360 days per year then these bulbs alone consume 360 days x 13 hours/day x 200 bulbs x 65 watts/1000 watts/KW = 60,840 KW-hrs per year.  But wait, the restaurant probably has to air condition about 8 months per year and so this figure really is about 3x that because the bulbs add substantially to the heat load of the building.  So let’s say they cost about more like 200,000 KW-hrs per year.  At $0.12 per KW-hr, this costs the restaurant $24,000 per year per restaurant.   If the restaurant switched to an equivalent CF style (one that is in a down or spot light configuration) the power would drop to 20 watts per bulb but the heat load would also drop so the total power used per year would be less more than 90% or more like 20,000 KW-hrs per year.  Moreover the CF bulbs would likely last 4x longer so you would save not only on power but on service and materials as well.  I wrote the company but received no reply.
  2. In a similar situation, the condominium complex where my Dad lives also found that they had about the same number of bulbs inside to make hallways and open spaces safe and well lit and they replaced all bulbs with CF and the savings was $1,500 per month.  It cost $6000 to make the switch so payback was in just 4 months!  And because they have a small staff the fact that the bulb changes are now so much further apart really helps them out too.
  3. The Tiburon Peninsula Club, which has both swimming pools and tennis courts renovated their club extensively about 1-2 years ago.  They have a waiting list of over 2 years for people wanting to join.  The new pool facilities resulted in 3 separate large pools each about 25 meters long; all pools are open year round.  Tiburon is one of the better places for solar energy in the USA – Tiburon receives about 80% of the solar power of even the best deserts in the USA.  Solar heating of swimming pools is very mature technology at this point. But did a club that has a waiting list and and only wealthy members use solar heating for any of the pools … NOPE.  they went with natural gas fired heaters for all of their pools?  How can we go forward if this type of thinking pervades even the people who can afford to be leaders and who would actually see a payback of probably less than 3-4 years.  I wonder just how many tons of CO2 per year are produced just to heat those pools??
  4. At a high end day spa in Napa, we found that most of the lighting was done using more artistic fixtures and lighting bulbs that were not commonly found in CF type lights.  All of the lighting was incandescent.  But was that really the only solution?  This spa was fully owned and operated by women.  They did not like at all having to get out tall ladders to replace bulbs that were burning out several per week.  The solution eventually will be to switch them over to LED based lighting.  In this case the lifetime of the bulbs will be 50,000 to 100,000 hours so they will last MUCH longer than what is there now and as this technology matures it will provide the same lighting levels but at only 20% of the costs.

So I am asking each of you.  Try walking around and see who is trying to be conscious of their energy usage.  You can see it pretty quickly.  If you find someone shop, restaurant or business that seems to be really doing well, ask how far they have tried to go green.  And then let me know.

I am working with churches in Indiana, California and hopefully other places too to start a grass roots movement to get those in our midst who have not really risen to the challenge.  What will it take for us to start saving in ways that actually fully pay for themselves even at today’s low energy prices?  Let’s find out!

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Investing, StartUp Ideas

  1. John Herbert says:

    Not only in the US, we have similar opportunities here in Asia, your right just walking around it is easy to spot energy efficiency improvements that lower energy bills and lower environmental impact. In fact my blog is entirely focused on this very subject, although for Asia.

  2. Mr. Levinson,
    Fantastic blog, thank you. We live in Dallas, TX where cooling is a MAJOR issue. We just changed out 6x MR16 halogen bulbs in the kitchen overhead in our condo with LED MR16 bulbs. What a huge difference already. The temperature in the kitchen with the lights on is almost 10 degrees fahrenheit lower than the halogens. It cost $300 to replace the bulbs, but the reduction in electricity usage from 210 watts to 30 watts plus the heat reduction, should payoff in less than one year.

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