Bonus Efficiency the Non-Profit Way


When you’re a non-profit organization you have to be resourceful and make decisions that maximize your operating budget. Some of those decisions are obvious. Some take discovery. This is an example of how a not-so-obvious choice helps the Greater Twin Cities United Way make the most of their operating budget.

Meet Gary Pederson. Gary joined the Greater Twin Cities United Way in 2008 as Director of Donor Services. However, he quickly realized the 68,000 sq ft facility was in need of a few energy efficiency upgrades. Although not part of Gary’s immediate responsibilities, he took the initiative to get the energy efficiency ball rolling.

Gary started by replacing out-dated light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs. Once that was wrapped up, Gary decided to bump the project up another level. So he reached out to a local engineering firm.

Soon after a consultation with the firm, both the air conditioner and air handler (both of which were installed in the 60s) were replaced with energy efficient units. Now this is where you may expect the story to end and the savings to begin, but it doesn’t.

You see, the engineers suggested installing variable frequency drives (VFD) on the wall fans of the newly installed air handler – an upgrade to the upgrade. Although the device sounds like something you’d see in Ghostbusters, it’s not. A VFD is a small device used to help control the speed and torque of air conditioning units by varying motor input frequency and voltage (I know, it’s a mouthful). VFDs are used in commercial and industrial settings where the climate of a large space needs to be controlled. And with 68,000 sq ft of space, you could say the Greater Twin Cities United Way qualified.

Two 15 horsepower VFD drives and 32,665 kWh less energy later, Gary Pederson can proudly say, “Not only do we have more control over the system, but since the upgrades we’ve been under budget on electric usage.” As far as money saved, the addition of the two VFDs is projected to save the Greater Twin Cities United Way $3,200 annually. That combined with the $2,500 in Xcel Energy rebates, creates a payback window of less than 17 months.

So as you can see a not-so-obvious, small energy efficiency upgrade can be a big bonus. And you don’t have to be a non-profit to get on board with that.

Article appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. [19:16:58] EKONMFQ: Energy Efficient, Within 1 DAY, in Existing Buildings

    Many of the new building these days are equipped with an Energy Management System (EMS) to withstand government energy efficient laws. By controlling and monitoring air condition and lights it is ensured buildings are run at most optimum condition with minimum waste of energy resulting in lower electric bills.

    There is however a problem with older buildings that to do not have these EMS system. These buildings, which are the majority of buildings worldwide, suffer from high wastage of energy due to air condition and lights left power on over night or sometimes even over the holidays. It is very common to drive at night, during late hours, over schools and office buildings and see many lights are left power on. This energy waste phenomenon results in larger electric bills for the owner and increase value of carbon emission, polluting the environment.

    Companies like Honeywell, Schneider Electric, Johnson Control and EkonControl came with new wireless building management systems that can be installed in existing building in a very short time by simply replacing the old thermostat (and light switches) with a new network thermostat to communicate wirelessly with control system that can control and monitor the whole building in a very efficient way. Using these EMS systems ensures the building’s owner large saving on electric bill within very short period of installation so return on investment is very quick.

    The amount of savings is mainly depends on how often the employees at the building forget to power off the air condition. In schools, for example, it is well known problem that lights and air condition are left power on overnight so in this case the savings will be over 50% reduction on the electric bills. In cases where employees are more ‘civilized’ (they power off the air condition and lights 100% of the times the room is left unoccupied), the power savings will be around 5% mainly because the system can lock the thermostat on optimum set points ensuring the compressor work less time and hence reduce energy.

    This kind of EMS/BMS system is most relevant for commercial buildings such as Schools, Hospitals, Large Cooperate Offices, Museums, Government Offices, etc. where there are over 30 thermostats and light switches spread over few floors where it is more difficult to control manually.

    Since most of these new systems are plug & play, it can be installed by any professional electrician or by the building maintenance.

    The software of the building management system is already embedded inside the master controller so user only needs to give each module (thermostat or light switch) an address and give each unit a name on the graphical user interface in the same manner of adding a name in smart phones.

    Most of these EMS/BMS systems have schedule weekly times in which user can setup group of air condition and lights to go on or off at particular times.

    Moreover, user can create working groups to activate few air conditions and light loads to a certain pre define condition by 1 press of a button.

    In few of these systems it is even possible to lock group of thermostats on a certain optimum set point so it cannot be changed manually, keeping the set point at energy save conditions.

    Utility payers expect to see reduced electric bill from the time the system start running.

    Author: Ofer Glezer,

    CEO of EkonControl.