In many parts of the country, energy efficiency programs are not delivering energy savings as promised. There are several factors that may explain this, and I'm sure we can debate most of them, but there is one factor that is not debatable-buildings do not use energy; people do. Energy efficiency is what we as energy professionals do to a building-we insulate, air seal, install Energy Star-rated appliances and high-efficiency heating systems, and so on. The most difficult part of our work is not so much energy efficiency as it is energy conservation.
The Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) in Philadelphia, where I work as a training director, is a regional leader in energy efficiency retrofits for existing residential properties. In its 35-year history, ECA has weatherized close to 44,000 homes and saved close to $275 million for low-income families in Pennsylvania and Delaware. We've learned a few things over the years about the importance of the people we serve.
Energy conservation is the responsibility of the occupant. In order to improve energy savings as promised, we must be able to marry energy efficiency technology with energy conservation measures. Say for example that we install a programmable thermostat, but the occupants don't fully understand how it works or their role in operating the device. The occupants are sleeping on the second floor in the winter, and it gets too hot at night. By habit, they will open a window. The work we did to make the building energy efficient is for naught; the occupants are now heating the neighborhood outside. For sure they will complain that all the work we did really didn't save a lot of energy and money. Hence the need for occupant education.Continue reading in the BPA eJournal