Energy Conservation

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This is a vast topic, so here we're just going to introduce a few key concepts. The basic notion is that energy conservation is the cheapest power we can buy, or to use Amory Lovins' term, it generates "negawatts," negative demand on the power grid and fuel supply. A 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society concluded that energy efficiency (conservation) and renewables could contribute an average of about 1,200 million metric tons per year of carbon reductions by 2030, putting the US on a path to achieve the country's goals under the Kyoto Treaty. Energy efficiency could contribute 57% of the total, renewables 43%.48 For the building sector alone, the potential reduction is 200 million metric tons per year, about one-sixth of the total reductions needed in carbon dioxide emissions. That's how important building energy conservation technologies, designs and techniques are to our future.

What are some of the most important energy conservation measures that should be designed into our commercial and residential buildings? Here's a list of the more cost-effective measures.

• Better insulation of buildings and homes, including floor, window and ceiling insulation.

• Plugging the leaks, especially in homes, so that heated or cooled air doesn't escape before it's used.

• Better glazing, including double-pane, "low-e" coated glass for all buildings.

• More efficient air-conditioning systems, with higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings, along with radiant cooling systems.

• Waste-heat recovery systems from exhaust air.

• Natural ventilation and operable windows to allow nature to provide heating and cooling.

• Improved lighting technologies and greater use of daylighting and LEDs.

• Higher-efficiency boilers and radiant heating systems, including tank-less water heaters.

• Better methods to control moisture in buildings, to allow comfort with less cooling energy.

• Reducing losses of conditioned air with better duct sealing techniques.

• Ground-coupled heat pumps (geothermal heating systems) that reduce whole-building energy consumption by 30%.

• Rightsizing (downsizing) of HVAC systems so that they operate more efficiently.

• High-efficiency condensing boilers for water heating and tankless water heaters that supply hot water at point of use, only on demand, reducing losses through gas flues.

• Distributed energy systems that allow for far greater total energy-use efficiencies.

• Changes in building codes to require more stringent minimum energy-efficiency levels.

• Reducing the required size of building ventilation fans through a variety of techniques.

• Premium-efficiency motors with variable-speed drives to better match input energy with loads.

• Water conservation measures to reduce energy use for water heating.

• Carbon dioxide sensors to control ventilation levels based on occupancy avoid wasting energy.

• Occupancy sensors to turn off lights and HVAC systems when spaces are not in use.

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