The Behavioral Component of Energy Efficiency


By Schekinov Alexey Victorovich (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons


File this under: little things add up.  A recent study by the Energy Savings Trust of the United Kingdom found that people of Britain waste over $100 million (£68 million) a year by overfilling their kettles when making tea.  The report: At Home with Water points out the residential water energy nexus — that savings from water conservation accrue not just from reduced supply costs, but from reduced energy costs as well.  The other major point that is worth focusing on is that energy efficiency is not just a technology problem; it includes a behavioral component as well.

Stated another way, reduced energy consumption comes from two main areas:

Efficiency which is a function of technology New, more efficient kettle
Conservation which is a function of Operation & Maintenance practices (i.e., behavior) Only heating as much water as needed

Savings from conservation are not trivial.  The Energy Star for Buildings website states that implementation of O&M best practices can lead to energy savings of 5-20% per year.  Savings can accrue from things such as set point adjustments for cooling or heating systems (an operational savings).   For example, if you only need to heat something to 100 degrees, your set point should not be 140 degrees.  Savings also accrue from proper maintenance activities such as ensuring that scaling does not reduce the efficiency of cooling towers.  An energy assessment is an excellent way to identify energy reduction activities that fall into both the efficiency and conservation categories.  Improved O&M practices typically get identified as low or no cost options as part of an energy assessment.

The challenge with these types of savings is that though they are typically inexpensive to implement, they require an ongoing commitment to maintain.  Ensuring O&M practices are part of existing management systems such as Six Sigma or Lean can help to ensure that the savings will last.  An alternative would be to adopt a formal energy management system, such as ISO 50001.

One thought on “The Behavioral Component of Energy Efficiency

  1. […] an earlier blog post (The Behavioral Component of Energy Efficiency) I explained that reducing energy use comes from two main […]

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