7 Ways to Reduce Energy Cost

By Jon Miller Published on February 13th, 2009

Earlier this week Ron Pereira wrote about 7 ways to reduce costs at the Lean Six Sigma Academy blog. He ht a nerve and kicked up quite storm of more than a dozen comments when he suggested that frequent flyer miles be saved by the company and redeemed to reduce business travel cost. Let’s see if we can offend anyone’s sense of entitlement by suggestion 7 ways to reduce energy cost.

  1. Lighten up your fleet.
  2. A logistics company we visited in Japan had removed 500kg of unnecessary weight from their light trucks that were making local deliveries. This included spare tire, chains, tools and replacing the steel fuel tank with one made of polymer. What have you got adding weight in your car, truck or delivery vehicle that doesn’t need to be there? Extra points if you said “most of the vehicle chassis, body and undercarriage of your non-hybrid non-small car.”

  3. Unplug anything that glows.
  4. Turn off all of the lights and walk around your factory, office or home. You will be surprised at the number of small glowing lights. Clock radio. DVD player. Stereo. Sleeping laptop. Practically anything plugged in draws energy to keep it in standby mode twenty four hours per day seven days per week. I’ve see cases where departments cut their energy bill in half by unplugging these things. Charging your phone, laptop or batteries overnight? Bad idea, if you want to save energy cost.

  5. Replace lighting.
  6. There are 20 fluorescent tube lights overhead as I write this. I am the last one here. All I need are 2. But I can’t turn off the other 18. How many warehouses and factories have dozens of lights overhead illuminating a dozen feet of empty air, only to have inadequate lighting in the immediate work surface? Turn off a few big lights way up in the ceiling and light the spots that need it, closer to point of use. And use some of those new energy efficient light bulbs. And turn them off when you’re not in the room.

  7. Listen for leaks.
  8. Air doesn’t move through a vents or pneumatic tubes by itself. Fans and compressors draw energy to move air from one place to another. Airflow is important, but leaks are waste. The sound of computer fans in an empty office, heaters blowing air into unoccupied meeting rooms, or leaky pipes and tubes for pneumatic tools: these are the sounds of leaks in your wallet. Listening also reveals hear humming sounds that indicate something is drawing power. Find and question whether these need to be on. Silence is not just golden, it’s gold.

  9. Read from paper, not LCD.
  10. Paperless may be a great idea and someday in the distant future we may save the trees by publishing directly to solar powered Kindle devices organically grown in vats powered by algae-based renewable energy. Until then, go pick up the newspaper, magazine or books that already have consumed raw materials and energy during the printing and distribution process, and read them. Turn off and unplug the computer since much of what you read on the internet is still inferior to humanity’s wealth of the printed word. If you have a habit of reading the news online during lunch, try ink on paper instead of electrons on a LCD and save some energy.

  11. Cool down the water.
  12. I sometimes run the hot water full blast in the bathrooms of companies I visit to see if it’s scalding hot. You would be surprised how often it is. People unconsciously adjust to this by turning on hot and cold together to wash their hands at “just right” temperatures. More people should be bothered by things like this. Why not just turn down the thermostat by a few degrees, save money on energy? How many of us work in places where we really need warm water and soap to clean our hands?

  13. Get used to the weather. Summers are hot. Winters are cold. Turn off the AC and turn on the fan. Wear more layers and move about if you are cold in the office. There are few things more jarring than walking from a hot factory into a freezing office in summer, or from a cool shop floor to a hot and stuffy office in winter. But this is what passes for normal in much of the U.S. And Chinese corner shops are like meat lockers in the summer time, blasting icy air onto the street through open doors, fueling demand fore more coal powered energy.

It’s cold in my office year round, and I complain about this constantly. But if it was warm and stuffy I would still complain. If it was just right I’d still complain about the smell, because once you have the kaizen mind you are sensitive to small%

  1. Harish

    February 14, 2009 - 9:05 am

    Hi Jon,
    Interesting post. 🙂
    A few years back, I was in charge of ISO 14001 registration for a company and I had to go through most of the steps you mentioned here. I would like to expand on #2, since that is an area most of us neglect. The phenomenon called phantom energy where electric appliances drain energy even when they are off or in hibernation can act as a significant source of energy wastage as you mentioned.
    Our first step was to start with computer monitors and then computer itself.

  2. Robert Adsett

    February 15, 2009 - 6:45 pm

    A few comments on the water temperature.
    First energy savings. I wouldn’t expect mixing hot temperature water with low temperature water to be more wasteful than heating the water up to the desired temperature in bulk. The same energy is required in either case. Hot water sitting in uninsulated lines will lose heat faster if it’s hotter, that might be an argument for better insulation rather than lower temperature.
    A bigger issue is safety. Water above 60C is a scalding risk, water below 50C is a risk for bacteria contamination. The recommendation appears to be to store hot water above 60C and deliver it below 50C.
    Maybe point of use heaters are the optimum solution?
    In the meantime it looks like we get to choose between risks.
    For your reference the Canada Safety Council has some discussion on this. http://www.safety-council.org/info/home/hotwater.html

  3. Jon Miller

    February 15, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    That’s a good point Robert. One of my neighbors mentioned an infrared (?) spot heater attached to the faucet, shower head etc. It heats cool water before it comes out, so they don’t need to store hot water. Sounds pretty fantastic, just in time hot water.

  4. whatever

    July 16, 2009 - 11:06 am

    Okay, Greenius – did you really just write that you run the water full blast at corporations just to see what the temp is? Geez. Green conscious clearly does not equal functional intelligence (i.e., common sense).

  5. Jon Miller

    July 16, 2009 - 5:35 pm

    You read it right w/e, I test the water temperature, though these days it’s mostly unconsciously before washing hands. It’s not as though I crank the faucet all the way to see how hot I can make the water. In my experience many hotels, airport restrooms, and company restrooms have the water set to max temp the moment you turn it on. That was my point. Restaurants, not so much… makes one wonder.

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