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How ENERGY STAR Approval Pays You in Brand Loyalty

Energy efficiency creates brand value. For more than 20 years, American consumers have invested in energy efficiency when shopping for appliances and other electronics. Look around your building and you’ll see the blue ENERGY STAR logo on everything from computers to refrigerators to HVAC systems—quite possibly on the screen in front of you. Now business owners and managers can receive ENERGY STAR certification for their buildings as well as their products. Organizations that earn the blue logo can show customers, employees, vendors and communities that their brand stands for sustainability, and that they have modernized facilities to meet high energy efficiency standards. Market trends indicate customers expect businesses to show they care. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks [more…]

Filament LEDs: Vintage Look, Modern Efficiency

What’s old is new again with filament LED bulbs and fixtures. Because of their superior energy efficiency, LEDs have become more popular, and commercial lighting designers are upping their design game to compete for increased sales. To meet demand, manufacturers are creating filament LED bulbs that provide a vintage feel—more Thomas Edison than Star Trek. Face it: There’s something warm and no stalgic ab out filament bulbs. This early style of lighting was disappearing. People were fed up with energy-guzzling incandescent bulbs, but many were not satisfied with the atmospherics of rose-tinted CFLs and blue-tinted LEDs. Now, filament LEDs are bringing warmth back to restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies, and other commercial interiors. An older building, such [more…]

Luscious LED Luminaires

Saving energy is still the big motivator for most companies switching to LEDs, but if you won’t do it for the cha-ching, do it for the chic. The world’s top designers are lighting up interiors with gorgeous new LED lamps. Here are a few standouts from the 2015 Red Dot Awards. Barrisol – Lovegrove Manta LED Lamp Evoking flowing oceans and billowing clouds, the organic design of these lights is experiential. The LEDs are integrated into the filigree aluminum frame covered with a stretched translucent membrane. Designed by Ross Lovegrove, and manufactured by Barrisol Normalu SAS.   Luce Verde Slim LED Wall and Pendant Luminaire Talk about mood lighting. Invite your customers to relax in [more…]

Energy Efficiency FAQs

Q: Are there rebates or other incentives available for energy efficiency projects? A: Yes! There are incentives for which your organization may qualify when you complete energy-saving upgrades. You may have already be aware of rebates offered through your utility providers, but you may not realize there are also grants and financing programs to make upgrading more affordable. Federal tax credits may also apply to certain efficiency improvements. See Energy Smart’s Financial Incentives and Rebate Finder pages for details. Q: How do I know which energy efficiency improvements are best for my business? A: Each organization’s energy use and efficiency needs are different, and Energy Smart will guide you in creating an energy plan tailored [more…]

Case Studies Demonstrate Value of Energy Efficiency Retrofits

In 2013, the University of Minnesota began a retrofit of its Biological Sciences laboratory building to boost its energy efficiency, reduce operating costs, and increase occupant comfort. Data now available demonstrates the remarkable return on investment resulting from this project. A case study published recently by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) details how the efficiency upgrades yielded a 46 percent reduction in energy use in the laboratory building, and a $242,000 reduction in annual utility costs. According to the report in Valuing Energy Efficiency, the project was completed for $450,000, and “the annual return on investment was approximately 60 percent, which equates to a 596 percent total return on investment when considering the assumed [more…]

Focus on Restaurants: Stop Losing Money on Ventilation

For many restaurants the biggest energy hog is the kitchen ventilation system. Older, low-efficiency models run continuously during operating hours, guzzling electricity and gas, while also venting air that the restaurant owner has already paid to be cooled or heated. Ouch. There has to be a better solution. Meet the next generation in high-efficiency venting: demand controlled kitchen ventilation (DCKV) systems. DCKV systems provide automatic, continuous monitoring of cooking activity, and adjust the kitchen vents to run only as needed. DCKVs use temperature, optical, and infrared sensors to determine when to increase or decrease fan speeds. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, using DCKV, energy use can be cut 70 to 90 percent during off-peak [more…]

MN Report: $1 Returns $4 When Invested in Conservation

A new report concludes that Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) is successfully boosting the state’s economy, creating jobs, and protecting the environment. The independent analysis, released by the Minnesota Commerce Department, found that the program produces a significant ROI: every dollar invested in energy efficiency through CIP generates $4.00 to $4.30 in energy savings, environmental benefits, and new economic activity. Through CIP grantees like Minnesota Energy Smart, utilities offer business customers rebates for high-efficiency boilers, chillers and rooftop units; lighting and lighting control systems; and motors. They also provide design assistance for energy-efficient buildings, and technical assistance to reduce the energy intensity of manufacturing processes. Residential customers receive benefits such as energy audits and incentives [more…]

Better Together: Heat and Power

The economies of scale are attracting more and more large companies and government agencies to pursue combined heat and power (CHP) projects. Also known as cogeneration, CHP saves money on energy and reduces environmental impact. CHP recaptures heat from electricity generation that would otherwise be wasted, and uses it to warm buildings, power machines, generate steam, and for other uses. Many noteworthy CHP projects are already happening here in the Midwest, and Minnesota is emerging as a national leader in CHP. Last fall, Gunderson Health System in La Crosse County, Wisconsin became the first hospital campus in the country to achieve energy independence by producing more energy than it needs to operate. The company’s success [more…]

Reach for Your Rebates!

Utility rebates are compelling incentives for businesses looking to upgrade their energy efficiency. If you’ve been putting off investments that will lower your energy bills, now is a great time to learn about rebates to make your project more affordable. Helping organizations find rebates available to Minnesota customers is a popular service offered by Energy Smart. You can do a quick search online at, or contact our staff for personalized assistance. Please note that rebates may require pre-approval, so we encourage you to ask Energy Smart for complete information. Why investigate rebates? For one thing, you may have already made a purchase that qualifies retroactively for cash back. For another, you may not realize [more…]

Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future On Track

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says that Minnesota’s efforts to reach energy independence are meeting and surpassing national goals. The organization’s analysis credits Minnesota’s “strong investments in efficiency and renewable energy” for putting it “on track to surpass [its] 2022 benchmarks” under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, released earlier this month. With a continuing commitment to clean energy, Minnesota will also surpass state targets in 2030. The Clean Power Plan sets targets for each state to reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change, and provides flexibility for actions states can take to reach the targets. The plan’s goal is to cut electrical sector emissions nationwide by an [more…]


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