Bringing energy efficiency to the people
On a recent Saturday morning in April, I found myself out bright and early at Pier 28 in the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I was there with my DNV GL colleagues, Brad Hoover and Jared Carpenter, and with around a dozen others from various organizations who had volunteered to spend our Saturday helping to renovate non-profit facilities, schools and repair the homes of low-income, disabled and elderly San Franciscans. The Association for Energy Services Professionals (AESP) organized this event. The volunteers met at the offices of Rebuilding Together, a non-profit that helps homeowners with upgrades, to get an overview of our tasks for the day, split up into teams, and get our site assignments.
Figure 1: Rebuilding Together volunteer crew (by last name, alphabetical). Jared Carpenter, Courtney Condon, Shannon Dorato, Patsy Dugger, Claire Fitzgerald, Chris Hammer, Brad Hoover, Stephanie Lopez, Stuart Moulder, Ade Rangel, Gomathi Sadhasivan, Sharon Talbott, John Talbott
Before the teams dispersed to their sites, we discussed what we would do once we were there. Our task was to visit three to four low income homes or non-profits each over the course of the morning to implement basic water and energy efficiency measures. We were to spend about 30 minutes to an hour at each site in consultation with the homeowner or business, to check their refrigerator and water heater temperatures, to install one to two faucet aerators, a water efficient showerhead, two LEDs, and a smart-strip. We also had water/energy saving tip sheets, shower timers, LED flashlights and a few other small items to share with residents.
The discussion included a safety message from my colleague, Brad Hoover. Brad serves as the Health Safety and Environment representative for DNV GL’s Policy Advisory and Research business line. He was great source of useful and relevant safety information for our volunteer crew. Here’s what I learned about ladder safety: 1) first inspect your ladder to ensure it’s in good condition and free of any structural defects (old splattered paint is fine), 2) if using an A-frame ladder, be sure to fully extend the legs and make sure the connecting arms are locked before scaling, 3) if placing the ladder near a door or in a high traffic area, have a spotter make sure nobody opens the door or accidentally bumps the ladder 3) always maintain three points of contact with the ladder when climbing (place any tools or equipment in a tool belt, backpack, or in the hands of someone else before climbing the ladder) 5) always keep your belt buckle inside the outer rungs of the ladder to ensure your center-of-gravity stays over the supporting legs of the ladder.
DNV GL invests heavily in underscoring the Safety First message. All meetings begin with a Safety moment and employees share safety tips that range from road safety and site safety when conducting energy efficiency audits to ergonomics for desk jockeys like myself. The organizers of the event that morning were very appreciative of the safety tips and once that was done, we were on our way to our first site in Potrero Hill.
Our first site was a hive of activity. In addition to the light energy efficiency measures we were there to implement, there was a larger renovation underway. We checked in with the other volunteers and then met with the homeowner who was a senior citizen who had been in this home for a few decades. We checked the faucets, showerheads, lights, water heater, and power strips and proceeded to change these, as needed. Embertec had donated smart power strips for this upgrade and we proceeded to swap out the old power strip with the new one. My colleague, Jared Carpenter, had a chat with the homeowner about his use of electronics and configured the connections to ensure that the use of phantom power was minimized on appliances that had the highest load. Interestingly, the smart power strip included a remote that enabled options for timed switch-offs for appliances with the click of a button. But we did not install that, as the homeowner seemed unsure about how that technology would work. We know from past research that the digital divide is a barrier for seniors in terms of their ability to access the full benefits of the smart grid. This was a case in point of the digital divide in action. Understanding the needs of the market segment you are trying to serve and tailoring your solutions accordingly is essential. In this case, this might be providing equipment that is less technologically advanced and less intimidating to customers to ensure that it is used.
I installed my first faucet aerator that day and was helpfully reminded that it is “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. The message seemed apt as we were wrapping up at our final site for the day – a child care center in Duboce Park, San Francisco! There was also much amusement about the “spanner” I used to install that faucet aerator. “Oh you mean a wrench?” my colleagues chuckled as they threw our gear in the boot…I mean trunk of our car! All in all it was a good day’s work, doing our bit to make San Francisco greener.
Figure 2: Is it a spanner or a wrench? L to R – Jared Carpenter, Gomathi Sadhasivan, Brad Hoover – DNV GL
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