Saving Money

Energy Champions: Making a Difference

Outfitting aeration tanks with fine pore diffusers is one way to achieve significant energy savings

Outfitting aeration tanks with fine pore diffusers is one way to achieve significant energy savings

by Lori Reynolds

As part of the EPA mid-Atlantic Energy Team, I talk with water and wastewater treatment plant operators across the region and they’ve shared with me this eye-opening fact: energy is a facility’s largest controllable budget item. Since energy accounts for about one-third of the operating budget for drinking water and wastewater systems, it’s a logical place to look for savings. I’ve also learned that operators have a good understanding of where the energy is being used in the facility and have great ideas for cost-saving equipment or process changes.

How can those energy-saving ideas make it from concept into practice? One approach is enlisting an “energy champion” for these facilities that are on the front lines of protecting public health and the environment. Having someone who can work directly with operators and speaks the language of the municipal decision makers can provide the key to saving energy (and money!) at these facilities.

If a community is looking to save money or reduce its carbon footprint, water utility energy efficiency is a great way to jump start those efforts. EPA has resources and success stories – including an energy management guidebook – that are valuable references.

The work of an energy champion usually begins by reviewing the energy bill with the operator, and determining what simple operational changes could save money right away. For example, staggering the start-up of motors and equipment to reduce the demand charge or filling storage tanks at night to avoid peak rates.

Energy champions also play a critical role in documenting savings, which can help a facility gain support for additional energy efficiency projects. We all know that sometimes you have to spend a little money now to save a lot of money in the long run. That’s where those savings from the early operational changes come in handy: as those savings accrue, they can be reinvested in capital projects to further reduce energy use. Bigger projects, like installation of energy efficient pumps and motors often have a longer payback period, but have the potential to reap the rewards of even bigger savings.

The decision by a water or wastewater treatment plant to invest time and money in energy savings is a commitment to lower utility bills. An energy champion who can work with operators, decision makers, and municipal engineers can make a real difference for a community by turning a huge energy consumer into one that uses “net zero” energy.

 

About the author: Lori Reynolds works in the Region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure. To sustain the investment, Lori and others in the office promote energy and water conservation and proactive operation and maintenance planning to extend the useful life of infrastructure assets.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fall into Fall Energy Savings

Fall leaves

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

It’s hard to believe but summer has come to a close, and fall is officially here. While summer is my favorite time of year, fall runs a close second. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the weather is usually just about perfect, with mild temperatures that are great for wearing just a light jacket to keep the evening chill away. But, that evening chill also means that many of us start to crank up the heat, as we try to keep our homes nice and comfortable. As you head into fall, these simple tips can help you keep those high energy bills at bay.

1.)    Use ENERGY STAR Certified Lighting: The sun is going down earlier and earlier these days, and that means spending a lot more time with the lights on. Have you changed out all of your lights to ENERGY STAR certified models yet? Using ENERGY STAR certified lighting means that you are using 75 percent less energy than with incandescent bulbs. Making the switch not only means that you are saving $40-$135 in annual energy bills, but your bulbs will last 10-25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

2.)    Seal and Insulate Your Home: Sealing and insulating the “envelope” or “shell” of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors — is often the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on their total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating. Check out ENERGY STAR’s website to find out more.

3.)    Use a Programmable Thermostat: Using a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest ways to save energy this fall. All you have to do is set the correct temperature based on how your home is being used at different points in the day, and let the thermostat do the rest. Setting the device correctly is the most important piece to the puzzle, so use the information on ENERGY STAR’s website and start saving up to $180 per year.

4.)    Use a Power Strip: The end of summer means that the kids will once again be back in the house, watching TV and playing video games. You can make sure that they don’t leave the all of the electronics on day and night by using a power strip. With just one click they can turn everything off at once, helping the entire family to keep those energy bills down.

5.)    Keep Drapes Open: This may be the easiest energy-saving tip of all. Keep the drapes/shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your home. Just don’t forget to close the drapes/shades at sundown to prevent heat loss in the evening.

So, what is your favorite fall energy-saving tip? Leave it in a comment to this post and help other fans of the ENERGY STAR Current save energy, save money and protect the climate this fall.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. Pumpkin-flavored lattes, warm boots and leather jackets are just a few of the things that she loves about fall. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Have Some Common “Cents”

Click for info on Region 3's WaterSenseLetting warm water run from a faucet for five minutes is equivalent to running a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours. What’s more, a five minute shower can use as much as ten gallons of water! This may sound surprising, yet it illustrates the overwhelming necessity and benefits of water efficiency. Many Americans know about the importance of saving water and saving energy, but few know the direct connection between saving both.

Launched in 2006, WaterSense, a voluntary partnership and labeling program sponsored by the EPA, set out to reduce municipal water use across the country by advocating water efficient products and practices. Products that have earned the WaterSense label are certified by an independent third party to be at least 20% more efficient than similar products in the marketplace. WaterSense labeled products are a simple way for consumers to identify products that save water without sacrificing performance or quality.  Consumer or manufacturer, municipality or private water system, WaterSense aims to:

• Decrease indoor and outdoor non-agricultural water use through more efficient products, services, and practices;
• Help consumers make water-efficient choices, including differentiating between products and services in the marketplace while ensuring product performance;
• Promote simple daily activities that reduce water use;
• Encourage innovation in manufacturing; and
• Develop rigorous certification criteria that ensure product testing, efficiency, and performance.Just think. By implementing a few small changes to your daily routine, you are not only saving water and money – you are preserving water supplies for generations to come.

Local water utilities have been very supportive in the development of the WaterSense program.  Utilities are encouraged to partner with WaterSense and use the program as part of their local water efficiency and conservation efforts. EPA Region 3 welcomes new partners to the WaterSense program including manufacturers, retailers and distributors, local and state governments, utilities, water districts, trade associations, nonprofits, certified irrigation professionals, professional certifying organizations, licensed certification providers, and builders.

Do you have any WaterSense labeled products? Use this product search to find more. Have you recognized strong support for the cause in your area and want to learn more? Contact Ramon Albizu, Region 3 WaterSense Liaison, albizu.ramon@epa.gov or Alysa Suero, suero.alysa@epa.gov . Visit here to get more information about WaterSense in the Mid-Atlantic region

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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