The human factor in energy efficiency

| by Christian Gilbert
The human factor in energy efficiency

At PowerWise Systems, our customers are interesting. They have the latest heating systems, super-insulated walls, and some of the best high-performance buildings. Plus, they have great feedback based on their observations of monitored buildings. One customer, green architectural firm Onion Flats, brought a unique story to our attention.

They built 3 apartments in Philadelphia. Each apartment had the same appliances, HVAC, layout, square footage, etc. Plus, each apartment had the same monitoring technology installed: circuit-level electricity monitoring, relative humidity sensors, VOC sensors, and temperature sensors.

Electricity MetersPeople moved into the apartments, fall turned to winter, and one of Onion Flats’ engineers, Ron Celentano, sifted through the monitored data. Even though each apartment was identical, the electricity use and the home comfort conditions were completely different! One had low overall electricity use, but ran the heating system the expected amount. The other had significantly higher overall electricity use, but the heat wasn’t on nearly as much. The characteristics of energy use showed that they were not using space heaters, so what was happening?

After scratching his head and contemplating his years of engineering experience, he figured out what was going on. In one unit, Ron could see people were cooking more (based on higher electricity use for the stove), and likely having people over for dinner parties. These factors increased the temperature within the apartment, and decreased the need for the heating system to run.

So, while builders, developers, and homeowners can have the most energy efficient buildings and HVAC systems, the human factor can play the biggest role in energy use. 

Topics: Appliances, Building Green, Energy Audits, Geothermal Heating & Cooling, Heating & Cooling, Indoor Air Quality, Lighting, Proud Green Home at Serenbe, Solar Power, Sustainable Products, Ventilation, Water Heaters

Companies: PowerWise Systems

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