Friday, August 31, 2012

Information Can Change Behavior - An Energy Use Story

I keep the information tracking system in my Volkswagen TDI set to average MPG. When I get a little heavy on the accelerator (which happens from time to time), my mileage reflects my driving. When it drops below 40 MPG, I change my behavior because that threshold (for some reason) is important to me.

We recently started the install of our energy monitoring system for our office building at 502 Rigsbee. As of today, we can track the total energy generated by the PV system and the building’s total energy use. Our plan is to have full circuit-by-circuit monitoring in place in the coming weeks. The energy geek in all of us can check it out at:

I’ve been on a rampage about how and when we use energy ever since we started to see this information. Why is our building using so much power at night when we have moderate and comfortable evenings with outside temperatures lower than the settings on our thermostats? What else is using power besides our HVAC system? Look at that spike in energy use during our grand opening party! A few hundred people really heat up the place. Why is that computer monitor on when not in use? Are our motion sensors working correctly and shutting off our lights when we forget to turn them off? How much power does our UV rainwater filter use? Yes, I can drive myself a little crazy with this stuff, but the information allows us to take care of three major items. One, we can assure the systems we have installed are functioning properly as designed and installed. Two, we can address those items and see direct results. Three, we can modify behavior to assure we are using the facility to assure the greatest efficiency.

When you have data, all these things come to the forefront. When our building is using more energy at night than I think it should, I use the information and investigate. If you know where the waste is, you can change the right things. Without the information, energy guzzlers just keep quietly guzzling often with little real benefit.

Although we are not yet showing the power generated by the wind turbines and we are not yet seeing individual circuit use, we have enough information to start changing behavior and tweaking systems. With the monitoring system fully functional, we can continue to tune our habits and systems for maximum benefit and minimal energy use.

Information changes behavior for the better.

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