September 17, 2013

September 17th: Audits and Airwaves

I can hardly believe this is my third week of posts and my first music reference. Oh well.

Today changed gear completely. Got in at 9, spent an hour spreadsheeting as usual, before heading over to the housing department with t'other intern (t'intern? Not that he speaks like this) for our new set of tasks.

Spent the morning doing more data analysis to get a background overview of the buildings we would later audit, and research into all sorts of things. Found sustainable alternatives to tin foil ready meal trays for the elderly, looked at modern thermostats, and discovered Airwave technology which is pretty nifty. I almost said cool, that would have been a terrible pun.

Nest explain it well at http://nest.com/blog/2012/06/15/meet-airwave/, but in simple terms if you stop powering a cooling coil, it stays warm for a while and continues having an effect for a while. When you implement technology that takes account of this as it tries to reach your desired temperature, you can save 30% on energy spent cooling, and I'm guessing a similar thing happens for heating.

The Nest tech is inspiring in general, with its sensors that detect signs of life, and logic that works out how confident it is that you're not at home so it can stop heating/cooling...then predict when you'll be back and resume appropriately. It'll be coming to the UK soon, which is exciting.

The analysis we did was for two buildings under PCC control. They're identical in build (well, mirror images) and serve the same purpose, but one had 50% higher gas use, and the other 20% higher electricity. We also knew that one had LED lighting, among other bits of information. We visited them this afternoon for casual audits to try and figure out the discrepancies and only got more confused.

1. The building that had 50% higher gas use had its heaters off, mostly. Either magic gas fairies are involved or we'll likely find them all on if we visit again. The windows were all open, which might have had an effect.

2. We'd seen a decrease in electricity use in early 2012, and use at a constant level since then...but LED lighting was put in this year, so we haven't got a clue where the 2012 savings came from, or where the LED savings went!

On t'other hand, we did get talking to some residents of the homes on various topics, giving us lots of insight into their needs. The only rooms we found without LED lighting in the building that featured it were the lounge areas where residents were reading. Well, trying to read. They were quite vocal about the lighting that was still there (compact fluorescents) being inadequate, and wanted it upgraded to LED as well. I had assumed for some reason that the apparent "glare" of cool-temperature LED lighting would be disliked by older eyes, but they were all for it. They also seemed less reliant on heating than we thought (though still more than younger people), with the warmer house residents more than happy with the temperature, and the colder house residents also happy.

It really hammered home the fact that you need to talk to people and find out their needs. Assumptions are all well and good for estimates, but you can't beat talking to someone to find out what they want and how they'll use it!


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