Saving Energy

Why It Matters

Soooooooo Much

I started my career in alternative energy and energy conservation, during the first Arab Oil Embargo.   


Back then there was no sustainable architecture, green buildings, deep energy retrofits, superinsulation, certainly no cost effective solar power - either wind generators or photovoltaics.  Ground source heat pumps were cutting edge, and not very practical yet.  How much insulation was a guess, and now proven to be a moving target.


Energy saving wasn’t just the low hanging fruit, it was the only component of green building design with feasible pay back periods we could present to clients.


Luckily, there were lots of ways to save energy: more efficient lighting, double glazing – and thermally broken windows were high tech solutions, replacing HVAC equipment and motors were always energy savers, and of course, telling clients how much insulation they needed to add were a no – brainers.


Even luckier, these now ancient, venerable, and proven lynch pins of sustainability are still what we need to do to most of our building stock. 

20% of our housing stock is not insulated at all and housing accounts for over half of building energy use.  50% of our commercial (and public) buildings are not much better, uninsulated and holding on to inefficient HVAC systems.    Click Here for the gory details. 


Without a doubt, if all the energy conservation initiatives with 10 yr or less pay backs were enacted by large building owners, commercial and residential, US energy consumption and carbon production would be cut 10%.  All without changing occupant behavior, HVAC temperatures, or lighting levels.  All increasing building owners cash flow and profitability.


Energy also is a GREAT proxy for many other sustainable goals and green issues.  Pollution, environmental destruction, species decline, human rights abuses, equality, environmental quality, quality of life, and of course, CARBON and other greenhouse gases all march in lockstep with energy use.  You can do a lot worse than just substituting ENERGY for any of the above issues, and by saving energy, harvesting solar energy, KNOW you are doing well while doing good. 

This is why you will always see me concentrating on energy savings first, then the simplest solar energy collection, before spending a dollar on other green and sustainable initiatives, such as eco - flooring, organic paint, superinsulating via deep energy retrofits or other projects that go beyond a 5 year payback and even photovoltaic and solar hot water systems with returns much beyond 5 years. 


Further Information at:

  • A great power point presentation, on UK building, especially housing, but it drills home how unlikely any country will meet their energy goals short of a sea change in how we address the EXISTING building stock.  Oddly, the UK also has about 80% of their housing stock built before 1980   Click Here to run the UK presentation. 
  • If you think this is just an problem in the English side of the western world, think again, Click Here to run the Euro Zone presentation on the ENTIRE Euro Zone.
  • For How much insulation to install, (Click Here) , where I don't just tell you to do the calcs, I just tell you how much insulatoin to install.


In progress

All green building and sustainable architecture must provide realistic pay back times, optimum life cycle costs, or maximum return on investment, the new catch phrase in the business.  Even the best intentioned air sealing, insulating retrofit, deep energy retrofit – especially at the cost of gutting a sturdy old house (and old for saving energy is anything built before 1980 Click Here for house age by state), ground source heat pump installations, solar hot water, and solar photovoltaic system can go awry, leaving you waiting decades to see any savings.

Which isn’t to say everything you do needs extensive and expensive study and modeling.

Insulating and air sealing (reducing infiltration) are inexpensive, and provide such significant savings that with the building energy benchmark, heating oil, at $4.00 a gallon, increasing 10% a year (for over a decade, despite the recession), insulating can in a literally in a few years become the star performer in your investment portfolio, with double digit returns regardless of the economy!

Reality Check:  If saving energy is such a no brainer, why don’t big building owners do it?  Greed.  Back in the early days of energy conservation life cycle costing was the be all and end all to prove to building owners that they’d be better off “investing” in conservation.  It was a fatally flawed concept.  It assumed building owners thought long term, as long as their buildings might last.  Instead, ANY expense was measured against   the immediate growth of their investment portfolios.  No political agenda, it’s just the truth.  Still is.  The new buzz word in energy finance is “return on investment”, to prove to owners investing in their own buildings is just like investing in hedge funds.  This too is fated to failure.  Hedge funds return high double digit returns YEARLY.  This is what big building owners, developers and buildings use a benchmark return.  You might prove a 10% return on investment and wonder why the owner balks.  It’s because a hedge fund, stealing him blind, still returns 25% a year and every million he can ram into that investment account will give him back $250,000 a year, to ram back into the account, to make more, and more, and more.  Which is why we need laws FORCING people to do the right thing.  Human nature is not altruistic, humans are individually inherently greedy.  Don’t feel bad, it is just how we are.  Luckily, we have brains, we can communicate, we live in groups, collectively, and…. collectively, we want what is best for all.


Sustainability Pays 
Upfront where it hurts
the most, your energy bills.
To see my savings from
my work to date
50% energy reduction
To find out why
Energy Conservation
can be a hard sell.

Insulation - 
Retrofitting Insulation
Everything you never wanted to hear about retrofitting insulation
How Much Insulation do you need?
Quick answers to your insulating questions
Easy Energy
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Catskills Eco

Test Bed 

An Ongoing Deep Energy Retrofit Case Study

Location: NYS
Catskill Mountains
Upstate New York

Micro Climate: Extreme

-7000 Heating DD
-limited sun 
-deep in narrow valley.


Energy Conservation
Low Temperature Solar Thermal


Energy Update:

30% Reduction 2011-2012 

Soooo last year
50% Reduction

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