The Energy Triangle


I attended a 3 Day Preservation, Sustainability and Energy Conference and Fair held last week in Wichita. Sponsored by Green Wichita .  It was interesting, I met a lot of neat people and got the inspiration for this blog entry.

I had one young lady, Nikki Gartner from Emporia, stop by our booth.  She is with Energy Innovators, a lighting firm.  They handle consolation, design and replacement of your lighting with new efficient and  practical solutions.  Later I stopped by her booth and visited some more.  She had on display an interesting diagram, which she called the Energy Triangle (link opens a PDF for you). She discussed the concept and her inspiration for the design, coming from the USDA Food Pyramid and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs .

These concepts also apply to Energy Consumption and plans to reduce the use through Conservation, Efficiency and addition of renewable energy sources to a property.

Conservation can be defined as ‘Changing the way People Work’.  Changing your habits! So energy measures such as turning the thermostat down one degree and putting on a sweater; or remembering to turn off lights are examples of conservation.

Efficiency can be defined as ‘Changing the way Things Work’.  The advantage to this is you don’t have to change habits of people or have them remember to do something. Energy measures such as adding insulation, installing an occupancy sensor to a light, or air sealing your home would be efficiency measures.

When you combine Conservation with Efficiency, you achieve a synergy that can drastically reduce the energy use of a building. This can be a home or it can be a commercial building.  These two approaches can, in a residential setting, decrease the energy usage by 30 – 50 percent each year. In a commercial building the dynamics are somewhat different from a residential building, the end result remains the same.  Obtain a significant decrease the energy consumption of the building.

The concept of Nikki’s Energy Triangle is helpful as people in their homes or at work, develop and implement various methods of reducing the cost of energy.  If you reduce the amount of energy used, you can reduce the cost in dollars.  The question most people have is: “what do I do first? Where do I get the biggest bang for my dollar?”  Conservation is the low cost, high motivation approach. Efficiency is a higher cost, lower motivation approach.  Like most good things on this earth, it takes some of both, not all of one or all of the other.

How do you answer the question “What do I do first? Where do I get the biggest bang for my dollar?” That starts with an assessment.  At home, some type of Home Energy Audit.  You can begin with a Self Audit, this one is from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.  You can then move to a full comprehensive Energy Audit. In the Wichita area Efficient Energy Savers – that is us – do those. If you are not in this area you can check here or here for a list of auditors in your area.  There are all types of Energy Audits with prices from Free to lots of dollars.  My friend Sean of Alabama Green Building Services wrote about the differences on Building Moxie’s Blog.

The report of the Energy Auditor will provide you with a prioritized list of things you can do. Implement them at your pace, all at once or as you can get to them.  Many times the issue is cost. The important thing is to do them in order for two reasons.

  • The low cost – high return items provide savings in Energy costs to pay for future improvements.
  • Some improvements need to be done prior to others for technical reasons. For example, sealing holes before you add insulation.

After you have achieved the best for your building that conservation and efficiency can offer in lowering energy usage, then you have a good usage to plan for renewables.

In the end, the journey you take along the road of saving energy will be yours; it may be similar to mine or very different.  What does not change is the basics.  Save some by changing how you work. Then save some more by changing how things work.  Finally think about adding some type of renewable energy source to your property.

I would be interested in hearing your comments and ideas about saving energy, so please comment. If you like the Energy Triangle give Nikki a Thanks in the comments.

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