Energy expert reveals simple, low/no-cost energy habits to save millions
March 13, 2014
ANSBACH, Germany (March 13, 2014) -- It's the type of problem that goes unnoticed every day: an air conditioning unit blasting cool air only feet away from a propped-open door, a bedroom window left open next to a maxed-out heater, and powerful halide lights illuminating an unused maintenance bay for the entire day.
Despite the millions of dollars of energy-saving enhancements rolled into the billions of dollars of Military Construction Program work the Army has completed in the last five to six years across its inventory, old habits have undermined these technological leaps.
"Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent and our energy performance has not improved," said Lyman Parkhurst, a Sain Engineering Associates inspector who regularly visits Army installations as part of Installation Management Command's annual Energy and Awareness Conservation Assessments. "We may be better heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, and have better lighting, but we're using it all more than we need or the designers intended for it to be consumed."
On Parkhurst's list of garrison walkthroughs in January and February was U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach. As at other installations, Parkhurst found things USAG Ansbach is doing well and things it could be doing better. While some of the issues he brought up during his briefing here only apply to the Directorate of Public Works such as long-term lighting upgrades and control setting changes, a significant portion of the problems he addressed are correctable through changes community members can make.
Fortunately for the Soldiers, family members and civilians who live and work here, Parkhurst stressed that many solutions are low or no cost. Moreover, "the biggest low/no cost items are the simplest issues," he said.
Regulating the heat properly in a facility, keeping windows closed and turning off lights were all major no-cost solutions he discussed at his briefing. These issues apply not only at houses and offices, but also at military spaces like hangars and maintenance bays.
"The hangar doors left open only a few inches is the same as leaving a couple of personnel doors open," Parkhurst said. "The barracks and shops have a number of doors propped open with a rock or trash can or sign."
All of those open doors, he added, add thousands of dollars in heating costs to each building -- not to mention that rocks or other objects used to prop open doors often cause damage. That might mean having to replace the entire door at a cost of several thousand more dollars.
"It's more than conserving energy; it's causing damage that we simply don't have the money to repair," he said.
"We put computer control systems in place to control the heat and ventilation, and in some cases the lights," Parkhurst said. "So, we can monitor and control maybe 30 to 50 percent of the total energy use, but over the years that has meant an investment at most garrisons of $4 million to $5 million just to install and takes a handful of people to operate. We could always add more automatic controls to the lights and radiators and faucets, but is it necessary to add automatic faucets at $400 instead of changing our behavior to simply turn off the water and not waste it?"
Parkhurst offered plenty of good practices, but said it boils down to behavior control.
"Behavior has such a huge impact, and the cost can be zero," he said.
To illustrate his point, Parkhurst brought up a story a local national told him during a trip to another garrison. The local national had rented out a duplex for years to an assortment of tenants. About half of the time an older German couple rented the space. The other half, a succession of military renters occupied it, from couples to small families. The difference in energy consumption was eye-opening.
"Through years of utility data and tenants he said the Americans used three to five times the amount of heat and five to 10 times as much water," Parkhurst recalled. "Identical units and equipment -- just different people."
When it comes to energy conservation, it turns out USAG Ansbach is doing many things well.
In general, Parkhurst said USAG Ansbach's temperature regulation is the best area.
Improvements since the last assessment include the installation of radiant heating panels in hangars 1, 4 and 5 at Katterbach Airfield, and at the hangars and maintenance shops at Storck Barracks. New LED streetlights at Katterbach and Bleidorn are also a big plus, in addition to improvements to control systems and the installation of photovoltaic panels at Storck.
"But, putting in new equipment is costly, and the results could honestly be better," Parkhurst said. "Because radiant heating is quiet, some of the bay doors were left open and people were not aware the heat was on and going out the doors. The better insulation in the housing helps keep the houses warmer, but now many are over-heated and not meeting the energy-savings targets; i.e. delivering the cost savings to justify the added expense in constructing them better."
Parkhurst provided a list of items the USAG Ansbach community can improve on with little or no cost.
Setting thermostatic radiator valves appropriately was one of those big, no-cost, simple solutions. For example, generally in the winter users should set the valve at 3 in offices, 2 in hallways and 1 on the entry radiator, he said. A 5 will often overheat a space and, "when it's combined with an open window, then we are sending dollars flying out that window."
Also, keeping windows closed is important to remember, he said, except for the short periods of time each day users vent their homes. Venting should be one or two hours a day, not 24/7.
"That and shutting off lights that are not needed," he added, "either because there's plenty of natural light or it's during lunch break or the area is unoccupied."
Hangars and maintenance bays also have a big role to play.
"With the large metal halide lights that take 10 to 15 minutes to warm up, people tend to enter the bays in the morning and turn all the lights on and leave them on until everyone leaves for the day. But, some buildings had half or more of the bays unoccupied and also most had good natural lighting from plenty of windows. If the bay is unoccupied but it's dark outside, then only turn on a portion of the lights.
"If there are going to be more aircraft or vehicles moved into the bay," Parkhurst added, "turn on the additional lights, go connect the tug to the aircraft and move it into the bay. By the time you need the light it will be on. Even better, label the light switches as to which portions of the bay they light: east, west, Bay 1, Bay 2, etc."
CHANGING COSTLY HABITS
"The assessment was an excellent look in the mirror for us a garrison," said Kevin Griess, deputy garrison commander, who was at the Jan. 31 briefing. "It is always beneficial to have a highly qualified and experienced third-party subject-matter expert such as this to conduct a thorough review of our garrison. The assessment provided valuable insight to some positive improvements that we can make as a garrison and a community."
The numbers Parkhurst shared with USAG Ansbach leaders during his briefing told a story of increasing prices and unchanging habits -- something Griess wants to turn around.
Since 2007, USAG Ansbach's facility energy consumption has remained relatively stable at roughly 325,000 MBTUs per year (for reference, one MBTU in this context equals one million British thermal units, and one BTU is equal to the amount of heat energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit). In fiscal 2007, that cost the garrison almost $10,000,000. In fiscal 2013, that price went up to nearly $16,000,000.
"It all comes down to consumption," said Griess, who stressed that changing consumption patterns gives an "immediate and measurable" reduction in costs -- and is easy to do.
"I say easy because it is easy to close a door, to close a window, turn off the lights, etc.," Griess said. "It is not so easy to change our habits, and that is what we must do as a community. Reducing energy consumption brings direct dollars right back to the garrison; dollars that can be used for other projects that benefit Soldiers and their Families."
Unfortunately for the goal of better energy consumption, too many people have yet to come around to Griess' and Parkhurst's attitude of conservation through behavior control.
"We really do tend to think, well there's so much money and waste in DoD or the Army that this won't make a difference, that putting this rock in the door is no big deal, that leaving this hangar full of lights on all night is not that important," Parkhurst said.
"The reality is that the energy bills have to be paid," Parkhurst continued, "and maybe that means we cut a few staff positions, which means the door is not repaired, along with that broken window, and then there's water damage inside, and that causes mold, which means mold remediation, which is costly, and now we have to make some other cuts or forego some repairs. We know what that does to helicopters, or vehicles, or your own car or house."
To learn more about energy conservation solutions for everyone, visit http://energy.gov.