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Energy Management: Why Measure Energy Use? Part 3

Energy Management: Why Measure Energy Use? Part 3

Studies show that behavior changes once we have been empowered. Being able to track energy usage is a key step in managing our energy costs. The third installation of a twelve part series on energy conservation in church facilities.

There is a friend of mine who takes his family camping numerous times a year.  They do it so much that they invested in a travel trailer.  He was telling me this one specific campsite did not have a water hook up, and the only way to get water for his trailer was a faucet a half mile away.  For some reason, of which I do not fully understand, he could not take his truck to pick up the water.  As a result he walked two-10 gallon jugs (on wheels) down this hill in order to fill up the water. The bad news is he had to walk the "full" 10-gallon jugs up hill to the trailer.

I forgot to mention that they went camping in Texas in July.  Suffice to say there was allot of sweat, numerous breaks, and an exhausted individual at the end of the journey.  After he got to the trailer he lifted the heavy containers and emptied them into the trailer, which took some time and effort.  When all was said and done he walked into the air-conditioned trailer and found his wife and his daughter brushing their teeth, however they had all the water faucets (not low flow) on full throttle wasting the water that he had just mightily carried up the hill.  In a panic his first response was "STOP!!!!  TURN THAT OFF!!!  THAT IS MY WATER!"  It worked  They turned off the water.  They had no idea what he went through to provide water for the family.  They had no idea how much water was in the tank, they assumed there was an unlimited supply.  It was not until he shared the story that they understood.

When we get our utility bills most of us do not pay much attention.  We just pay it and go about our day.  We do not change the way we use energy and it shows at the end of every month.  However studies show that behavior changes once we have been empowered.  For example, when we drive our cars we read our gas gauge.  When we are on empty we fill up.  Our actions are dependent on that gas gauge.  In college my gas gauge did not work, and of course I had no money to fix it.  I ran out of gas at least ten times, because I had no idea what was in the tank. 

The same can be said about measuring and understanding our energy use (Water, Gas, Oil, Electricity and Propane).  Studies show that those who measure and verify their utility costs use 15 percent less energy than those who do not measure.  There are a number of ways we can measure and monitor our energy use.

  1. We can invest in smart meters.
  2. I am a big believer in smart meters. They have the ability to save energy by empowering the end user.  Smart meters give the end user a live read (actually 15 minute delay) and allow the user to change the way they operate and behave based on energy peaks.  I can write a separate article on this, but point being they work.  There was a school district that invested over $1 million to equip their schools with smart meters, the project paid for itself in under a year. 
  3. Benchmark energy use .
  4. Put simply, bench marking is the process of comparing your energy performance to something similar. "Something similar" might be internal, like performance at the same time last year. Or it might be external, like performance compared to similar facilities elsewhere. Any easy way (funded through tax money) to benchmark your utility use is with a program called Portfolio Manager (PM). PM is an online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Look across the street.
  6. Many utility companies now send historic energy use for the past 12 months, and grade your use in comparison to neighbors.  These simple steps invite healthy competition and promote efficiency. Understanding and measuring energy use empowers the end user to make smart decisions.  There are numerous programs, technologies and services available today that can help.  We encourage churches, seminaries, homeowners and more to stay proactive and know where your energy use is going.  Turn the temperature down or up by a few degrees (can save 1.5% on the HVAC portion of your utilities for every degree changed), turn HVAC off or in set back mode when you leave, turn off lights, invest in plug load adapter and if you ever buy a travel trailer remember to keep the water off.

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