Looking Back at the First Year of Holmes & Watson Energy Blogs

  Holmes: If we could single out the most important thing that we have learned during the past year while researching and writing our Blogs, it has to be the total failure of the Energy “Profession” to keep pace with the times. By placing self-serving interests above those of Facility Owners and Managers, our “Profession” is continuing to enrich themselves by teaching and performing Energy Audits while claiming that they are the most essential step in every energy project. Watson: I was taught in engineering school that all valid science must be based on accurate data. But somehow the so-called “Energy Profession” has survived for 40 years based on almost no actual data at all. Doesn’t sound like a true science-based “Profession” to me! Holmes: The assumption that the best tool our “Profession” can offer is the Energy Audit, is ridiculous. The Energy Audit was developed on the heels of the Energy Crisis of the mid-70s just as personal computers and the Information Age were in their infancy. As far as we have been able to determine, there has never been a single scientific study that verifies the accuracy of Energy Audits. In fact, the ones we have seen have shown the opposite, the variability and inaccuracy of their findings. Read our Blog “Energy Audits are a Flawed Concept”. Yet years into the Information Age, instead of embracing and requiring the use of all of the new tools being developed on a daily basis, this “Profession” is continuing to use the same methods that I was taught in the mid-1970’s; methods that should have been abandoned years ago for their total...

Part Load Efficiency is the Key to Operating Complex Energy Systems at the Lowest Cost

  Watson: Holmes, your entire career has been spent tuning up existing energy systems in existing buildings. You have been able to consistently produce savings of 10%, 20% and more without Energy Audits, without Benchmarking and without Capital Improvements. Paybacks on the initial investment in the permanent instrumentation required to produce these savings have been weeks or months. What’s your secret? What problems have you found? What actions have been taken to correct them? How can others do the same in their facilities? Holmes: As we have discussed in many of our blogs, the best opportunities with the fastest paybacks always come from no-cost, low-cost changes that match the operation of the energy systems to the energy requirements of the facility. Improving the part-load efficiency of energy systems is the second biggest opportunity in all complex facilities. We always monitor the efficiency of energy use for all major systems. The common approach of installing sub-metering to measure only how much energy a piece of equipment is using misses this huge opportunity. Read the Rest of the Blog  ...

How to Achieve Your Sustainability Goals in 2015

   Watson: I have been thinking about Resolutions for 2015 Holmes. Since Sustainability is playing a bigger role every year with responsible companies, I thought maybe we could help them set their goals for the New Year. Holmes: Great idea Watson. What have you come up with? Watson: You know me Holmes. The first thing I always do is research to see what I can learn from others. I found that 3M’s Sustainability Goals for 2015 include the following: Read the Article Environmental Stewardship: Reduce Volatile Air Emissions 15% by 2015 from 2010 base year … Reduce Waste 10% by 2015 from 2010 base year … Improve Energy Efficiency 25% by 2015 from 2005 base year … Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 5% by 2011 from 2006 base year … Develop Water Conservation Plans When 3M is located in water scarce and stressed areas Holmes: Setting Goals is certainly important, but what really matters is achieving those goals. We have been implementing successful “Energy Conservation” projects for more than 35 years so we know what works and what doesn’t.  While most in the Energy Profession are and have always been focused on Energy Audits leading to Capital Projects, we have concentrated on improving the Energy Efficiency of existing energy systems in existing facilities and reducing the amount and cost of electricity, gas, water and all other utilities. A side benefit that wasn’t talked about in our early years has always been reducing emissions including Greenhouse Gases. Watson: And for most of those years, you have been teaching, making presentations and writing papers trying to share our methods with others. Can you summarize the most...

Why Hasn’t the Energy Efficiency Profession Updated Its Methods in 40 Years?

  Watson: All of our experience, research and many of our Blogs have provided evidence that the Energy Efficiency Profession is continuing to use antiquated methods that haven’t changed in 40 years. As a recent engineering graduate anxious to embrace all of the latest technology, the biggest question in my mind is Why? Why is this profession still using temporary instrumentation, Energy Audits and Benchmarking to produce mountains of reports to justify Capital Projects? Why hasn’t it updated its methods to take advantage of the latest developments in information technology as all other professions have? Holmes: We have talked about a number of possible reasons, the most probable being that those methods have resulted in a huge industry including many jobs, government and utility programs, expensive training and certification programs, vendors of lights and other capital equipment and much more. There are a lot of people and companies making a lot of money from perpetuating those antiquated methods. Watson: All we have ever promoted is installing permanent instrumentation and applying basic management and engineering problem-solving techniques to the resulting data; things I learned in my freshman year of Engineering School. By providing the owner with the information, analytics and training they need to operate their existing energy systems more efficiently, they can reduce their energy costs by 10%, 20% and more without the need for audits, benchmarking and capital projects. How could anyone who wants to do what’s best for the owner be opposed to that? Holmes: There are a lot of people working in all types of facilities who understand and apply these techniques to everything in their facility...

How Long Will it Take for Big Data & Analytics to Revolutionize the Energy Efficiency Profession?

  Even though the Energy Efficiency Profession, Government and Utility programs have refused to embrace sound scientific methods based on permanent instrumentation, outside influences will force them into the Information Age. Watson: I have frequently criticized your profession Holmes for refusing to keep pace with the times. For continuing to use antiquated methods that haven’t changed in 40 years; methods that benefit the practitioners more than the facility owners. As a young pup fresh out of engineering school I am continually amazed and disappointed that in 2014, the Information Age, the Energy Efficiency Profession is still mired in the Estimation Age. But I have been doing some research and it appears to me that things are finally starting to change. Holmes: I think you’re right Watson; I have been sensing the same thing. Why don’t you share with our readers some of the things you have uncovered? Read the Blog...

There’s A Ghost in the Chilled Water System

  Holmes: Did I ever tell you about finding a ghost in a chilled water system Watson? Watson: Come on Holmes. I may be a young pup and not as smart as some humans, but I know there is no such thing as a ghost. Holmes: Let me tell you what happened before you make up your mind. We were working in a shopping mall that took up a few city blocks in the middle of the downtown in a Midwestern city. The mall had a complex central plant with two centrifugal chillers, a large steam boiler, pumps, dual duct air handling units, a cooling tower, etc. Watson: I am assuming you installed a monitoring system and began to make changes to match the operation of the energy systems to the needs of the stores and common areas in the mall. Holmes: Right. The mall was open 7 days a weeks from 9 AM to 10 PM so the first thing we did was to insure that the energy systems only ran as required to maintain each of the spaces at the required temperatures when they were occupied. During much of the spring, early summer and fall, when the outdoor temperature and humidty were low, we used the fresh air intake dampers on the air handling units to bring in 100% outdoor air to cool the mall. This allowed the chillers to come on later, run at lower loads during the day and shut off earlier in the evening. The chilled water and tower water pumps were controlled to run when the chillers were on and be off when...