Category Archives: How to waste energy

Keeping the lights on (regardless)

Is this a record? I photographed this outside light as an example of bad practice at Newent Community School in 1986 when I was Gloucestershire’s energy manager. I go past it every week on my way to the sports hall and in 30 years it has never been off during daylight hours. They’ve replaced the doors, windows and roof, and some trees have grown up between it and their new eco lab, whose roof-mounted wind turbine is just sufficient (on those rare occasions that it can be seen turning) to power the light above the door on the neighbouring science block:

2016-01-30 15.18.49Let’s be realistic: unnecessary lighting doesn’t waste much electricity. But unfortunately it is the most visible indicator of one’s commitment. It’s no good feeding children piffle about sustainability if you demonstrate a disregard for proper management of energy.





How to waste energy No. 9: energy audits

For the keen energy waster faced with demands to have an energy audit, it is vital to employ an incompetent assessor — one who can be expected to follow these principles:

1. Just turn up at site with a clipboard and start counting light fittings.

2. Never analyse historical data to identify anomalies that you could productively focus on during site visits.

3. Base your report on a previous one for a different client. A good trick is to use ‘find and replace’ to change the name in the body of the text, but overlook where it appears in headers and footers.

4. Always make at least ten recommendations, even if there is only one substantial worthwhile measure.

5. Always include recommendations for LED lighting and voltage reduction.

6. Over-estimate the savings expected from each recommendation.

7. Ignore any possibility of interactions between recommended measures.

8. Never obtain actual installation costs. Reverse-engineer them: take the annual savings and multiply by an assumed payback period.

Of course as a client, the keen energy waster has their own part to play in making the audit a futile exercise. Here are some tips:

1. Do not let anybody in the organization know about the audit visit.

2. Render all relevant data and drawings inaccessible.

3. When you receive the report, ignore it.

How to waste energy No. 8: road transport

Transport in all its forms provides excellent opportunities to waste energy. Here are a few related to car, van and truck use:

1. Never arrange a telephone call or video conference if you can drive to a meeting instead. Driving long hours shows you are working hard.

2. Never share a car journey.

3. Make sure drivers have not got clear directions to their destinations, so that they get lost.

4. Use oversized goods vehicles whenever possible, and avoid consolidating loads to improve load factor.

5. Do not plan freight movements. For example if back-loads are available, it is better to send out empty vehicles to fetch them.

6. Never optimize multi-drop delivery routes.

7. Never give drivers training. Encourage them to accelerate hard, drive too fast in too low a gear, brake harshly, and idle their engines for long periods.

8. Fit the wrong kinds of tyres and run them at the wrong pressures.

9. Neglect maintenance of tracking and brakes: as well as wasting fuel you can spend extra on tyres and brake parts.

10. Do not monitor mileages, loadings or fuel purchases.

How to waste energy No. 7: meter reading

A big part of wasting energy is not knowing how much you use, when, where or for what. Most keen energy wasters rely on their energy suppliers not read their meters for them, but here are some top tips for those who want to be proactively bad:

1. Make it difficult to get access, for example by installing meters at height, or leaving the keys to the meter room with an obnoxious jobsworth.

2. Try to have meters installed in positions where you cannot see their dials.

3. Never have a reliable check-reading taken by somebody who knows what they are doing.

4. Do not create a meter schedule; if you have one, don’t keep it up to date.

5. Do not try to find out what each meter serves.

6. If in doubt about units of measurement or scale multiplier factors, make whatever assumptions you like.

7. When a meter is swapped out, dispose of the old one without noting its final reading.

8. Do not train anybody to read meters.

9. Do not appoint stand-ins to cover for sickness or holiday absence.

10. Allow meter readers to be lax about when they take readings, and let them record the date they were supposed to take the readings rather than the actual date and time.

11. Allow meter readers to include or ignore decimal fractions as they feel inclined, if possible being inconsistent between visits to the same meter.

12. Rely on paper returns, and lose them.

Link: Energy management training


How to waste energy No. 6: air conditioning

The hot weather brings with it demands for air conditioning, and with that comes a whole raft of excellent ways for organizations to waste energy. Here are my top ten hot tips:

1. Don’t argue when people ask for rooms to be cooled to 20C rather than the more sensible 27C. Every degree reduction in set-point adds 10-15% to the electricity used for cooling, and you may even hit the jackpot of some people turning on electric heaters as well.

2. Encourage people to leave the windows open with the air-conditioning on. This allows warm air in and expensively-cooled air out, more or less guaranteeing that the air conditioning will have to run flat out without reaching the desired internal temperature.

3. If it is not possible to leave the windows or doors open, minimise the recirculation of ventilation air.

4. Do not take advantage of lower overnight outdoor temperatures to pre-cool occupied spaces.

5. Encourage people to leave idle electrical items running, to increase the heat gains. Desk fans are an excellent example for those who can appreciate the irony: by creating air movement they make the occupants feel more comfortable, while continuously heating the air a little.

6. Believe your IT department and equipment suppliers when they say their kit needs to be housed at 16C (the idea that it might be designed to operate in tropical climates is ridiculous).

7. In computer rooms have the equipment racks all in the same space, so that their warm extract air mixes with the chilled air needed for intakes. Under no circumstances partition the space to separate cold and warm air.

8. If possible, house people and equipment racks in the same space as if they needed and/or could tolerate the same conditions.

9. Do not shield windows from direct sunlight.

10. Always use artificial cooling when increasing the ambient fresh air supply would do the job equally well.

Energy management training

How to waste energy No. 5: motivation and awareness

People are your greatest asset in the battle against energy efficiency. Here are my top tips for disengaging your workforce:

1. Focus on trivial behaviours like leaving phone chargers plugged in.

2. Position climate change as a key consideration in order to maximise time-wasting and unproductive debate. Remember also that a message of fear will paralyse rather than stimulate action.

3. Over-promise with slogans like “together we can save the planet”.

4. Give away branded mugs, coasters and other merchandise to enrage anyone bothered by waste of resources.

5. Do not canvass people for their opinions or ideas: remember the best instrument of communication is a megaphone.

6. If you do an opinion survey, use on-line techniques to be certain of reaching only those with computer access.

7. Use multiple-choice questions to be sure of missing responses you did not expect (obvious missing options also infuriate and alienate people).

8. Mount a high-profile launch event before you are ready with follow-on activities.

9. Appoint energy champions and leave them to sink or swim.

10. Be slow responding to staff suggestions.

11. If a suggestion does win an award, do not implement it.

12. Give individual cash awards: they can be wonderfully divisive if they are perceived as having gone to an undeserving winner.

13. If payouts are a share of savings, be ready to reduce the share for really successful ideas.

14. Don’t forget everybody loves to be awarded a T-shirt with an energy-saving slogan on it.

15. Have a poster campaign.

Link: Energy management training

How to waste energy No. 4: compressed air

1. Use compressed air for dusting off overalls, sweeping the yard and other cleaning duties. This not only wastes energy but blows debris into people’s eyes.

2. If you have individual applications that require a higher pressure, run the entire system to satisfy them rather than fitting local boosters.

3. Set overall system pressure as high as you can (check that the safety valves are lifting frequently). As a rule of thumb, every 2 psi increase in operating pressure requires an additional 1% energy.

4. For low-grade duties such as tank agitation, use clean dried compressed air at high pressure rather than fitting local blowers.

5. Locate air inlets in the hottest place possible – remember every 6C increase in temperature adds 1% to the electricity consumption.

6. Never clean your air filters and avoid fitting low-loss types.

7. Make sure you do not dry the air.

8. Allow all your compressors to run in parallel, sharing the load however small.

9. Do not shut the system down if the premises are closed at night; but if you do, empty the air receiver at the end of the day so that it needs to be repressurised in the morning.

10. Leave air-receiver drain cocks cracked open.

11. Bypass the air receiver so that the compressors have difficulty matching the load and need to start and stop frequently. This is a marvellously inefficient mode of operation, and abrupt swings in pressure will also help to maximise the number of leaking joints and fittings.

12. Maximise pressure drops in the distribution system by undersizing all pipework.

13. Ignore leaks: fixing one probably causes another to appear somewhere else. If you have a routine for tagging and repairing leaks, do not repair any that people find. As well as wasting energy this will discourage people from reporting air loss.

14. When specifying new equipment, give preference to models that continuously vent air. Use air tools if electric equivalents are just as good.

15. Look for opportunities to use compressed air inappropriately. Dusting off overalls may not waste enough; try using it for cooling motor bearings that are running hot, or to cool people working in hot locations.

16. Do not recover free heat from compressor exhausts if it is possible to use heat from a boiler system (or better still, electric heaters) instead.

Link: Energy management training

How to waste energy No. 3: lighting

1. If your light fittings are the type with translucent diffusers, fill them with dead flies.

2. Avoid replacing tungsten-filament light bulbs with compact fluorescent equivalents. Although it is now illegal to sell most general lighting service (GLS) filament lamps, one can still buy “rough service” equivalents which have the great advantage of being even less energy-efficient.

3. Keep your external lighting on 24 hours a day. This encourages a culture of not caring about leaving things running when idle, and will help waste many times more energy than is used in the lights alone.

4. Also keep your internal lights on continuously, not least because doing so will increase the demand for air conditioning.

5. Provide excessive light levels in working areas and try to ensure that corridors and stairwells are even brighter (this removes one of the vital cues that prompt people to turn lights off when they leave empty rooms).

6. Be careless when specifying automatic lighting controls. Choose the wrong sensor technology, so as to maximise nuisance switching. This has a dual benefit – it encourages people to override the control, and it also antagonises them so they won’t cooperate with other energy-saving initiatives.

7. In shared workplaces, paint over any labels identifying which switch controls which zone.

8. Choose automatic lighting controls with remote control handsets that cannot be understood without training. Then lose the instructions and the remotes.

Link: Energy management training

How to waste energy No. 2: automatic control of buildings

1. Set your frost-protection thermostat at too high a temperature.

2. Override your time control to run the plant continuously.

3. Set heating controls for maximum air temperature. The aim should be to make it so hot that occupants are forced to keep the doors and windows open, increasing the heat loss.

4. Alternatively, place a baked-potato oven under the space temperature sensor. This will hold the heating off and encourage people to bring in electric heaters.

5. If you have adaptive optimum-start control, set the timings as if it were a conventional time-switch (i.e. with start of occupancy at the same time you would previously have asked the plant to start up).

6. Also if you have adaptive optimum-start control, set a target temperature above the daytime control setpoint. The control will add more and more preheat every day because it never achieves the target temperature.

7. If you have air conditioning, set it to cool to a lower temperature than your heating, so that the two systems run simultaneously providing perfect comfort at infinite cost.

8. If you have humidity control, set it for the narrowest range conceivable. This will ensure you are nearly always either humidifying or dehumidifying.

9. Remove or jam the linkages on valve and damper actuators.

10. Do not commission your building energy management system; do not document the control philosophy or agreed settings; and as a backstop, lose the operating manuals.

Link: Energy management training

How to waste energy No. 1: motor-driven equipment

1. When a motor fails, have it rewound, as this will reduce its efficiency.

2. If you need to replace a motor, use the cheapest and least efficient unit available (preferably oversized). Efficiency standards of new motors are being continuously improved, so you may need to shop on eBay.

3. Shift motors slightly on their mounting plates so that any drives and couplings are misaligned.

4. Ensure that drive-belts are slack. On multi-belt drives it can help to remove some belts. If possible, use the wrong kind of belt for the pulleys fitted.

5. Change pulley ratios to drive fans and pumps at higher speed: on centrifugal fans and pumps, a 20% speed increase adds over 70% to the load.

6. Neglect lubrication of bearings and gearboxes.

7. Allow equipment to run continuously, whether it is needed or not. This has the added advantage of accelerating wear and tear, and reducing your power factor.

8. When the driven equipment is decommissioned, at least leave its motor behind, energised and running.

9. In dirty environments, do not clean any debris off motor cooling air inlets. The extra resistance to air flow will increase mechanical losses in the motor and, as a bonus, accelerate its failure by causing it to overheat.

10. In situations where the mechanical output of a fixed-speed motor is controlled and regulated, run the motor below its rated voltage in order to increase the motor current and associated copper losses.

Link: Energy management training