The Avoidable Waste “Star Spot” awards

Have you ever spotted some completely avoidable energy waste? Your story could win £50 for a charity of your choice.

There is an award available every month. Follow one of the entry-form links below to send a brief account of your avoidable-waste incident, and we will follow up for more detail if we need it.

What makes for a ‘star spot’? First and foremost it has to be something that was wasting energy needlessly, but was easy to put right. It helps if it is a situation that makes people think “something like that could have happened to me”. If it is funny, even better. It doesn’t matter whether it was something obvious that anybody could have noticed, or something hidden that came to light through good management: the important thing is that people can learn a lesson from it.

Just a few guidelines:

  • Deadlines are midnight on the 15th of the month.
  • Your story should be about something that you witnessed first hand.
  • Stories are published anonymously and the place where the incident happened will not be identified.
  • We reserve the right to publish stories whether or not they win an award.
  • We reserve the right not to make any award if there are no worthy entries, in which case the prize will be added to the fund for the following month.

Use this entry form for your submission

Some examples

Here are some examples to give you a feel for the sort of story we are looking for:

  • October 2022: the winning entrant told how they had prepared for a factory energy survey by inspecting half-hourly meter data, and had noticed a 60kW additional early-morning load from May. This was traced to some chilled water pumps which were found to have been set to run continuously. They had been set like that to counteract overheating in some of the offices. As a strategy, however, it did not work because the chillers were held off on low outside-air temperature. The pumps were actually heating the “chilled” water to 30°C, effectively turning the cooling coils in the air handling unit into heaters. To make matters worse the variable-speed drive on the AHU extract fan had failed, so excess heat was not being removed from the space. The solution was cheap: set up a control strategy that inhibited the chilled-water pumps when the chillers were held off, and fix the VSD so that the ventilation worked. October’s guest judge Yassen Roussef summarised his reasons for picking this entry:

“A significant amount of energy wastage was identified by the review of half-hourly data, prior to the site visit. Effective site review, resulting in resolution and a substantial amount of energy and carbon savings”

  • September: an energy surveyor queried the need for a portable air-conditioning unit in a school classroom. On investigation, it turned out that the main heating isolation valve was jammed open. Because the boiler plant was running to provide central stored hot water, this had the effect of heating the entire school through the summer.
  • July: the circulating pump on a solar water heating installation was pumping the wrong way. As a result, water heated by the electric top-up heater was dumping heat through the solar panels.
  • June: the dust filters on a factory air extract were periodically cleared by pulses of compressed air. Unfortunately the hose feeding one of the filter units had come loose upstream of the control valve, and was continuously discharging compressed air.
  • May: an entire headquarters building was found to have its HVAC services operating  seven days a week in case one of its board members wanted to come in at the weekend, which in two years they had never done. Substantial no-cost savings were achieved by setting the controls back to 5-day-a-week operation.
  • April: in the winning example an energy consultant noticed a sticker on a heating-system control panel instructing people to leave both the duty and standby pumps running continuously. This had been the practice for three years, and the reason was that during pump changeovers there was a short period of no flow which caused the boilers to lock out. The problem was eliminated by amending the changeover controls so that outgoing duty pumps did not stop until the standby pumps had started.
  • March: the award was for a case where an office block’s heating boilers were running all summer, causing complaints from tenants and making the building’s cooling system run flat out. The fault was traced to a dislodged mechanical linkage on the valve controlling flow to the heating circuit.
  • February: the winning entry was for a large boilerhouse which had been stripped out and made over to storage. It had electric heating, but nobody had throught to close off the large holes which the boiler flues used to go through. The solution: block up the holes. Judge Vicki Limbrick, Energy Manager of RNLI, commented: It shows how easy it is to forget something quite simple at the end of what would have been some complex work and the importance of considering leaky building elements in reducing energy usage.  Definitely a concern for us at the RNLI with some very old and infrequently used buildings and spaces and a simple fix for some of those cold spots in older spaces.”
  • January’s award went to a reader who had seen a portable air-conditioning unit in a school classroom, the need for which was traced to a faulty control valve that was keeping the heating system live all year.
  • November 2021’s award concerned a walk-in cold store that had been constructed in the lobby area of a building with underfloor heating so that the refrigeration was fighting the heating (note that frozen-food stores do need floor heating to prevent hazardous conditions, but this should be carefully controlled to 3-5°C, which was not the case here).
  • October 2021’s award went to a case where chilled water dispensers were installed on multiple floors of an office blocks. The entrant had to intervene when it was noted that office users were filling electric kettles with the chilled water.
  • September’s winning story was very simple: two buildings where computer servers had been installed in plant rooms, with air-conditioning to counteract overheating caused by inadequate insulation of the heating plant.
  • August’s award concerned automatic lighting controls in a three-storey office block. They had been set to turn lights off after five minutes of inactivity. At the insistence of the occupants this was increased to an hour, which meant that all the lights ended up running all day. Worse still, because there was an hourly security patrol overnight, they stayed on all night as well. Our entrant was able to prove this from automatic submeter readings, which incidentally also showed that the security guard had missed one patrol. The problem was resolved by implementing more reasonable settings — especially overnight.
  • The award for July  went to an energy assessor working for a housing association. One of their tenants had constructed a conservatory without permission and to compound the felony had built it around the outdoor unit of its air-source heat-pump installation.
  • The winner for June was actually about water. Automatic flush controls on a new suite of toilets were so sensitive that the toilets flushed if the cubicle door was opened or the lid was raised, and flushed continuously if the seat was left up overnight, using 1,600 litres an hour.
  • The winning story for May was an office building that was only heated outside working hours because the time control had been incorrectly set.

Use this entry form for your submission