MN Energy Smart
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More Efficient Air Conditioners are Bringing Higher Savings

Many companies that install new air conditioning units this year will enjoy higher energy efficiency and greater power savings. That’s because prices are coming down as demand for more efficient units rises, and also due to new efficiency requirements issued by the U.S. Department of Energy this year for air conditioners. The standard measure of energy efficiency for cooling is known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. This ratio is calculated by measuring the amount of cooling output (in BTUs) used in a typical cooling season and dividing that number by the electrical energy input (in watt hours) during the same period. The higher a unit’s SEER rating, the more efficient it is. [more…]

Minnesota Cities Taking a Shine to Xcel’s Solar Rewards Community Program

City leaders in Cologne, Minnesota will soon be able to save approximately $44,000 a year on the town’s electric bill, and they are doing it with solar power. The city is the first in the state to commit to all-solar for its municipal electricity needs—but they probably won’t be the last. Many cities, including St. Cloud, and numerous businesses, including Fortune 500 company EcoLab, are preparing to expand the percentage of electricity they buy from solar-powered sources. Two factors appear to be driving a push to solar: a 30% federal tax subsidy for renewable energy projects is set to expire in 2016, and solar-sharing programs through Xcel Energy and other utility companies are offering energy [more…]

3 Questions to Ask an Energy Contractor

Onsite assessment visit from Energy Smart? Check. Energy Smart utility bill analysis? Check. Recommendations received from Energy Smart about energy-savings opportunities? Check. For most companies, the next step is soliciting bids from vendors and contractors, and screening for those with the necessary skills and experience to make their energy improvements a success. (Vendors are companies that provide the product for the upgrade, and contractors perform the upgrade work. Many businesses called “contractors” do both.) After helping hundreds of companies complete energy upgrades, Energy Smart recommends you ask potential vendors and contractors these three questions. How often do you do energy improvement projects? Ask contractors what percentage of their annual business comes from energy efficiency upgrades [more…]

Elevator Efficiency Going Up, Costs Down

Elevator Efficiency Going Up, Costs Down Elevators and escalators account for 2-5% of energy use in multi-story buildings, and can use as much as half the building’s energy output during peak hours. Today, more efficient technologies are helping commercial building owners reduce these energy costs by as much as 40%, according to a study released in January by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and conducted with the support of UTC Building & Industrial Systems. Improved elevator technology can also enhance the experience of visitors by shortening wait times and offering more comfortable temperature control. Saving energy during idle time Nearly all elevators are idle more than they are in motion, especially pump-driven hydraulic elevators typically [more…]

It’s Cool to be Energy Wise

It’s easy to ignore an HVAC system. It’s definitely top of mind when it conks out and leaves everyone sweltering. And we may do a deep dive on HVAC efficiency when we plan for construction, or choose to replace our system. But while it hums along and we’re comfortable…who cares? We should care, a lot. Buildings consume energy 24/7/365, so it really pays off to be as efficient as possible when heating and cooling a facility. Tune it up Replace filters, check pipe insulation, and check the controls. Not only will this save you money on heating and cooling, it helps extend the life of the system. Get control More energy efficient HVAC controllers are [more…]

Rise of the Sharing Economy

Proponents call it the sharing economy, and it is opening new vistas for business development and management. Driven by society’s increasing connectedness, businesses that want to thrive are creating new business models of sharing that use resources more efficiently and better engage consumers. “Collaborative consumption” is a platform for rapid innovation in how we buy and what we sell. Efficient use of resources Energy is just one area being leveraged for sharing. Solar Mosaic, for example, is a web-based marketplace that brings together organizations and individuals to create solar projects in their communities and use the energy generated, or sell it back to the grid. Afval Energie Bedrijf (AEB) of Amsterdam is collecting waste from [more…]

Energy Smart’s #1 Energy Tip

What’s the easiest, most transformative action a Minnesota company can take to reduce energy use? It’s contacting Energy Smart to schedule an onsite energy consultation. Consultations are free. When you invite us to your facility, our experts will identify potential strategies for reducing energy use. The staff member will record information (such as the number and type of lights or motors) so he or she can develop customized, in-depth recommendations for saving you money by cutting energy costs. Shortly afterward, you’ll receive a summary of your top energy-saving opportunities, suggested next steps, a list of the financial incentives that may be available to help pay for an upgrade, and other useful guidance. Customers tell us [more…]

Multifamily Buildings Cut Energy Costs, Gain Competitive Advantage

The least-efficient multifamily dwellings may be spending upwards of $165,000 in energy costs over the highest-efficiency buildings, according to a recent report issued by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “The multifamily sector remains an untapped opportunity for energy efficiency,” writes Lauren Ross, Senior Analyst at ACEEE. Two years ago, ACEEE launched its Multifamily Energy Savings Project, and estimated potential energy reductions in multifamily buildings at $3.4 billion in unrealized savings. The ACEEE project continues to track and report on opportunities and challenges in this sector. Also, Fannie Mae has now released the results of its Multifamily Energy and Water Research Study, the first nationally representative snapshot of multifamily energy and water use. [more…]

Finding the Right Financing for Your Energy Plan

What’s the biggest barrier to making an energy upgrade? For many businesses, it’s funding the project. Fortunately, Minnesota companies have options and financial incentives designed to make energy improvement projects more affordable. Your Project May Qualify for a MN Chamber Grant Minnesota businesses have access to a wide range of financing choices to help pay for energy efficiency investments. A new option making upgrades affordable for numerous Minnesota companies is the Business Environmental Sustainability Finance Program (BESFP) launched by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in July 2014. Grants are available for pre-qualified energy efficiency and waste management projects. The BESFP grant finances one third of the total project cost up to $4,000 for each pre-qualified [more…]

Understanding Conservation Value

Your organization’s energy efficiency and sustainability efforts can be more profitable when you actively measure results, study the data, and take action to do even more in the future. As we start a new year, we encourage you to learn about your company’s use of resources last year. How? Here are two good ways to measure conservation value.   By the numbers Utility bills will tell you a lot about your organization’s progress. We recommend an annual review of electricity, gas, water, and waste hauling expenses so you can measure the cost-benefit of conservation investments already made and look for potential new savings opportunities. Adding up last year’s savings can also provide guidance on the [more…]

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