Welcome to save@work - helping offices to save energy and cut carbon.

The Hungarian partner, GreenDependent Institute, compiled an "office energy saving quiz" for the Energy Teams and other employees of the competing buildings, and announced it as the third save@work challenge. Since everybody likes quizzes, we were sure that it will be a success... and we were right!

The challenge consisted of two parts: first, the members Blog 12 photo1of each Energy Team had to fill in one quiz together, then the Energy Teams had to encourage their own colleagues to do the same – this time individually, possibly creating a little event around it. While for the first part the focus was on how many answers the Energy Teams got right, in the second part the organisers did not check how well the quizzes were filled in (we left this task to the Energy Teams) but instead we put the emphasis on the creativeness and successfulness of the promotion activity within the buildings. The two parts of the challenge had different deadlines, we provided the Energy Teams with the correct answers only after they had submitted their quizzes. The challenge was running for two months, giving everybody ample time to prepare. Moreover, the Christmas Holidays were also within this timeframe, so if the Energy Teams wanted to, with the help of the quiz they could make their office Christmas celebration a little greener.

The questions were mostly based on the information provided in the energy saving tips, the Strategic Handbook or the Green Clicks tool, so in a way the quiz also contributed to promoting these materials one more time. The Energy Teams did so well that we couldn't help but give all of those a prize who filled the quiz in. Without an exception they reached at least 85%!

Blog 12 photo2In regards to publicising the quiz among colleagues, the building who received the first prize organised a Christmas celebration, where they drank the Fairtrade tea they won for the second save@work challenge. The employees baked some cakes to supplement it and lit candles they had made themselves earlier. As the Energy Team pointed out in their report about the event, since almost everybody attended the celebration, the energy consumption of the building reduced significantly for that day. At the end, 94 % of the employees filled in the quiz.

Other buildings chose to promote the office energy saving quiz online, via e-mails or sharing a link to the electronic version of the quiz they created. All buildings marked the completed quizzes they received and handed out presents, such as the save@work mugs, to the best performing employees. Rewarding the efforts of the participating buildings, the organisers presented them with coupons which they can spend on energy saving equipment.

 

Written by: GreenDependent Institute, Hungary

Guest blog from Dave Bailey, a member of the Save@Work energy team at Telford Land Registry.


We had a question submitted to us recently about our asking staff to turn off monitors not only when you leave work, but also when you are only leaving your desk for a few minutes. Monitors these days are pretty energy efficient, so how much difference does it really make, and is it worth all the effort we’ve put into going on about it all the time? Well, we did the maths and we’ve come to the following conclusion (drumroll please):

No, it isn’t really…if you’re only talking about 1 monitor. Here’s the basic breakdown of what we found:

On standby (when the power light glows orange) our Dell monitors’ power usage is just an impressive 1 watt (according to CNET). Energy usage is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). 1 kWh is equal to the amount of energy you would use if you kept a 1000 watt appliance running for 1 hour. To give a rough idea, here are some approximate examples of how quickly other appliances use 1 kWh:

  • A full dishwasher or washing machine cycle
  • 3 hours of watching a plasma TV
  • 1-2 days on a laptop
  • Boiling 10 kettles
  • 1 hour of ironing
  • Keeping a fridge-freezer on for about 3 hours

1 of our monitors would need to be on standby for 1000 hours (about 41.5 days) to use 1 kWh of energy. Not much by itself, but we don’t use just 1 monitor. 2 monitors on standby would eat through that in 500 hours. 4 monitors in 250 hours. Telford office currently uses about 490 monitors. If they were all left on standby they would use 1 kWh of energy in about 2 hours. Stepping away from your desk and leaving your monitors on for 3 minutes here, 10 minutes there, a 1 hour meeting elsewhere will continue to pile on the energy use.

Telford is quite small as Land Registry offices go – about 4500 people are employed by Land Registry, which equates to approximately 9000 monitors. This many monitors left on standby hits the 1 kWh mark in under 7 minutes. Land Registry is quite small as far as offices in the UK go – imagine how quickly the energy usage shoots up UK-wide? And again, what about monitors the world over, many of which would not be as energy efficient as our Dell monitors?

This underpins the entire point of the message coming from the save@work competition – small changes to energy usage habits can have large positive impacts. Turning our monitors off while we’re not looking at them isn’t going to make an appreciable difference to the competition figures, but that’s not really the point. The point is the more of us that adopt these practices, the bigger the difference we make. What’s more, these habits can be adopted at home as well – the average cost of electricity in the UK is between 11 and 14 pence per kWh – not much when you’re talking 1 or 2, but the more conscious you are of where you can save (switching off monitors or plug sockets) the more these small savings mount up over time.

What it comes down to is this: if it is powering a standby light, then it is using power, regardless of how little, and if it is not, then it is not, which is saving energy, cutting carbon and reducing costs.

 

Monitor

Energy savings do not always come from using less.

We thought we’d share some experiences from our own offices to see if you may be able to make similar savings!

A couple of years ago, Severn Wye Energy Agency installed equipment that will actually increase electricity consumption, but results in reduced waste, cost and carbon emissions.

It was decided to look at the overall impact of the paper hand towels that were used at our Highnam office in terms of waste, cost and carbon. The first two were relatively easy to calculate. The hand towels cost £330 to £380 to purchase a year and create around 50 bags of physical waste.

The carbon impact was more difficult to calculate with the estimates ranging from a single hand towel being equivalent to 6 to 15.5 grams of CO2. It was decided to be conservative and assume one paper hand towel was equivalent to 5g (this also makes calculations easier!) This resulted in an annual CO2 from the hand towels calculated to be around 180kg per year.

Picture1

There are many types of hand dryer out there and after some research it was decided to install two Blow Motion White Cyclones. The decisions for this choice were:

  • The built in drip tray.
  • Purchase cost.
  • The high speed, but relative low energy consumption per use.
  • Low standby energy use.
  • Up to 8 decibels quieter than other similar models.

Local electricians B.J Cowles completed the install in a few hours one Friday morning and the units have now been working for over a year now. It hasn’t been all plain sailing and not everyone at the office was an immediate hand dryer convert. The main issue being the sound of the new units – while quieter than other models - it can be a bit of an issue for some, but making sure that all doors are closed greatly reduces the effect. As for the savings, well we now have achieved financial savings of £315 to £375 per year giving a return on investment of around 2 years, alongside 50 fewer bags of waste leaving the site and an annual saving of over 140kg of CO2!

 

 -          Case study by Matt Williams (Senior Business Energy Advisor) for our Link to Energy installer network (www.linktoenergy.org.uk)

With a rise in the number of cars on the road in the UK alongside the depletion of fossil fuels, we’re going to have to start thinking outside the box of how to power our vehicles. We trawled the web to find some of the more eccentric fuel options out there – some of which are already available!

1 Chip fat

Most diesel cars on our roads can be powered by chip fat without the need for it to be converted. The fuel is cheaper than diesel, performs similarly and produces less CO2 emissions. There are a number of companies in the UK which run their cars on vegetable oils including bus companies, car rental companies and many garages now also stock the fuel.

2 Chocolate

Sweet success was made by scientists at the University of Warwick who created a Formula 3 race car which runs on biodiesel derived from chocolate waste. The project head, James Meredith, quoted “anything with fat can be turned into diesel, and that’s what we’ve managed to do”. Their fuel came from the Cadbury’s chocolate plant in Birmingham. Nothing better than a Ferrari running on chocolate!

3 Alligators

Alligators, and other crocodilians, are farmed mainly for food and their skins, leaving a lot of reptile blubber to go to waste. In Louisiana alone alligator farming is a $70 million industry! A study at the University of Louisiana suggested converting the discarded alligator fat into fuel by re-acting it with methanol at high temperatures to produce biofuel. Researchers claim this process could be done within minutes – a marketable proposal.

FOTF Alligator

[Photo credit: Carmen Quesy]

4 Pooh

Combustible methane can be made out of pretty much any waste product. In 1974, Harold Bate, a Devonshire chicken farmer and inventor, famously used chicken and pig manure to power his 1953 Hillman. Following on from this, the UK’s first bus powered by human wastebegan running last year and AMEC, a Canadian company, have even built a plant in Quebec to process dirty nappies into a source of fuel. What’s great about this option is that there is never going to be a shortage!

5 Beers and Spirits

The ends of beer and other alcohol can be processed to create ethanol, a competent fuel for motor vehicles. Ethanol is used to power all of the cars involved in the Indy Racing League. Whiskey distilleries in Scotland have also been recognised for producing the “next generation biofuel”, acknowledged as a starting point for a possible fuel revolution using waste from malt and the residue left after distillation to create bio-butanol. Furthermore, alcohol can be used to power turbines. Turbines can run on anything that burns, and during the period of Chrysler’s turbine motor cars, the president of Mexico tested this theory by running one of the cars on Tequila! [Source: Special Interest Autos]

FOTF Beer

 [Photo credit: Gemma Amor]

6 Onions

Who knew it was possible to power cars off onion juice? Fermenting onions create methane gas which can be used to create electricity to charge electric cars. Even better is that there is little waste from this process as any remaining pulp from the crops can be turned into cattle feed. [Source: Eco4TheWorld]

7 Cows

As many are aware, cows emit an astonishing amount of methane; as a direct consequence of being fed grains rather than their natural diet of grass, a single cow can produce 250-500 litres of methane daily! United Nations reports claim that the livestock industry is accountable for 18% of global warming emissions. Imagine if all that methane could be converted to energy or fuel, holy cow!

FOTF Cow

[Photo credit: JelleS]

8 Algae

Although algae fuel development is still in its early stages, there has been heavy global investment in research, from both government and private sources, with scientists claiming that it is a truly viable renewable energy source. Algae can be used to create biofuels by mixing the oil harvested from algae cellswith other chemicals. The end result is a biodiesel. Good news is algae can also be easily grown in a tank and is far superior to corn (a competitive fuel source option) in terms of fuel production and it doesn’t threaten our food supply. [Source: Keune]

Energy Mythbusting 1Do chargers use energy when plugged in but not connected to the device? Can Clingfilm really help keep heat in on your windows? We’ve set out to bust some of the most common energy myths lurking on the World Wide Web.

 

Myth – When devices are turned off they are off

Fact – Despite turning an appliance off, many continue to consume power, sometimes up to 20% of the energy they use when they’re on! We call this ‘standby power’. A surprising number of electricals cannot be switched off completely without unplugging them. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical household wastes around £30 a year leaving devices plugged in or on standby. Be wary of the transformer, they are shockers for using energy when the appliance is no longer on. If you want to turn it off, turn it off at the socket!

 

Myth – Chargers only use energy when plugged into the device

Fact – Many chargers will still be drawing power even if not plugged into a device - a good way to test this is to feel the temperature of the charger, if it is warm than it is using energy. British Gas claims that branded chargers are normally more efficient than unbranded; however we would always recommend unplugging these when not being used.

 

Myth – Using a room heater saves money

Fact – Potentially but only if done right! In many parts of the world the cost of electricity is much greater than the cost of gas, the most common heating fuel in the UK, sometimes even up to 10 times more! Therefore, using an electric heater will cost significantly more than running a central heating system on mains gas. Despite this, if you have a large building with only 1 boiler and you only need to use a small part of the building, a space heater may be more economical if used for a short period of time. Usually, however, we’d recommend using your central heating system but adjusting the temperature valves (TRVs) on your radiators, turning them down in the rooms which aren’t in use.

 

Myth – Adjusting the thermostat will make the building heat up / cool down quicker

Fact – Thermostats are simply temperature regulators which tell the system to turn off once the room reaches the desired temperature. Altering this will only change the temperature at which the heating switches on and off, and does not speed up the process. To save energy, use a programmable thermostat, this can give you the ability to set certain temperatures for certain times of the day.

 

Energy Mythbusting 2

 

Myth – Leaving a ceiling fan on whilst you’re not in the room will keep it cool

Fact – In comparison to air conditioning, fans work by recirculating air, creating an air flow. It is the breeze from this which makes us feel cool; fans don’t actually alter the air temperature. Therefore, the room temperature will not be any cooler from leaving a fan on. You can save energy however by using a room fan over air conditioning when someone is in the room.

 

Myth – Leaving lights and electronics running uses less energy than switching them on and off throughout the day, and also helps appliances to last longer

Fact – Several years ago, this would have been true but through better design, this is not the case. Computers and other electricals are less prone to damage from energy surges and use less energy when powering up than they used to. The small surge of power created when some devices are turned on is greatly less than energy used by running devices when not needed, so if you can turn a device off, that is much better.

 

Myth – Putting Clingfilm on windows will help keep heat in

Fact – this actually works! It is based on the idea that an extra layer on your windows will trap air which can help stop heat escaping. The Energy Saving Trust states that any transparent, airtight material will do the job as a second layer of glazing, however cling-film should ideally only be used in the short-term as is unlikely to last. It is better to use a specialist secondary glazing film, which you can buy from most DIY stores, but you are unlikely to see much difference if used on a double glazed window compared to a single glazed.

 

Heard any more floating around? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll set out to find if there are facts behind the myth!

 

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