To the Western Cooling Connection Update Newsletter! This month's newsletter includes WCEC's first ever webinar open to the public! This webinar will explore the significant energy savings potential in laboratories.
Our featured content this month focuses on some of the latest behavioral research currently in progress at the Center including a look at how users interact with new, more advanced thermostats and their efficacy for energy savings & an examination of energy use behavior and interventions for two different ZNE communities: e-Sogo in Yokohama, Japan & West Village in Davis, California.
Also included is an invitation to join this year's ETCC Emerging Technologies Summit happening October 20-22nd in San Francisco, CA. A new WCEC webinar is available to view online on enhancing DSM program portfolios.
Next Webinar: Special Event Webinar Open to the Public!
October 23rd, 2014 10:00 AM PST
Laboratories are an often overlooked energy consuming market with significant potential for energy savings. Join Allison Paradise as she describes the advances made in energy efficient laboratory technology and how these new energy savings devices, taken in aggregate from laboratories across the nation, can make an impact on our overall energy usage. Allison Paradise is the Executive Director of My Green Lab, a California-based non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainability in laboratories. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Neuroscience from Brown and Harvard, and after graduation she spent over five years working as a scientific consultant for a life sciences manufacturer. It was from this perspective that she co-founded My Green Lab in 2013.
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Thermostats Can’t Fix This: Case Studies on Advanced Thermostat Field Tests
With the advent of new advanced thermostats, (some like the Nest have even become a household name), WCEC looks to see if users actually engage with these devices in ways that save energy and, whether or not these users have a positive experience interacting with these new devices.
This small study covers a diverse user-group including teachers, building managers and service employees with locations at a private school, golf clubhouse and a restaurant from June 2013-Februrary 2014. The data collected look to assess users’ perception of thermostat usability, efficacy and comfort, comparing their existing installed thermostats and the new, advanced thermostats.
Participants surveyed reported that the advanced thermostats tested are no easier to use, and that they had much less confidence in their ability to operate the new thermostats even for basic thermostat tasks like finding out the current setpoint, or changing it. One of the most re-occurring themes in the literature on thermostats is users’ lack of confidence in scheduling a thermostat. This study shows a continued trend in that regard, with no improvement in users’ confidence in their ability to schedule the new thermostat or the previous thermostat they were using. If anything, user confidence dropped when comparing the previous and new, advanced thermostats, as the graph below shows, which contributed to the overall negative feelings the new devices elicited from study participants. Some notable responses users had towards the new thermostats are below:
“I clicked all over it, and nothing I did changed it… I thought it would be easier.”
“The thermostat seems to have a mind of its own.”
“I don’t like having people from the outside deciding what the temperature should be in my classroom.”
Participants confident in their ability to perform basic thermostat tasks with the new thermostat and their previous thermostat
In light of the discouraging findings regarding confidence and overall feelings about these new thermostats, maybe the advanced devices could be redeemed by their energy savings. Unfortunately, for the three demonstration sites, only one (the golf clubhouse) showed a modest energy savings (3.5%). While the private school’s data was inconclusive, the restaurant showed an increase in HVAC energy use of 6.7%.
There are some significant advantages to utilizing advanced thermostats like as these on a larger scale, for example, in settings such as large office building or a college dormitory. One advantage is that all the thermostats can have their setpoints and setbacks changed simultaneously from a remote location by a facilities manager, instead of the more typical workflow which requires many labor hours to enter the spaces when vacant and reset the thermostats. This function alone was a significant value proposition to UC Davis, who purchased over 3,000 (similar, but not identical) advanced, internet-connected, thermostats for 5 different dormitory buildings without doing a pilot test first.
Of course, this study focuses on how end users view these devices and how they interact with them. Ultimately, only one user accessed the thermostat remotely, one of the “advanced” features touted. By contrast, the other users never touched their thermostats after they were installed and programmed, nor did they use any of the advanced features that command the higher product price.
Advanced thermostats are thought of as a drop-in replacement for existing manual or programmable thermostats. They are purchased the same way, they are installed the same way, and they tend to be used the same way. However, they require a more sophisticated deployment process that includes training and instruction, documentation, strategy-setting, commissioning, and ongoing support. If this class of technology is going to be used with the intention of saving energy, and not just to remotely control, lockout users, or deliver comfort, then an initial schedule of setpoints and setbacks must be established and maintained. Utilities that offer rebates for such products should consider how to achieve some form of continuous commissioning. Organizations that wish to install advanced thermostats would be wise to balance the need for automated methods of optimizing the thermostats, with that of respecting end users’ autonomy. With these kinds of checks-and-balances, smart thermostats can yield significant energy savings in many circumstances, while providing an important amenity to occupants.
Variations in Residential Energy Use: Examination of the E-Sogo Building in Japan and West Village in California
E-sogo building, ZNE building in Yokohama, Japan & West Village in Davis, California
The typical US household uses two to four times as much electricity as a typical Japanese household. Although household sizes (number of people) are the same, American homes have 3 times the floor area, per person (see the graph below for an illustration). Despite greater consumption levels, spending on electricity and gas represents only 3.5% of American household expenditures, compared to 4.7% among Japanese. Energy prices bely the trend in consumption. While prices rose in the US, consumption rose, too. Concerns about climate change have policy makers searching for ways to encourage conservation.
Developing zero-net energy (ZNE) buildings is a growing trend that relies on on-site generation with (primarily) renewable resources and delivers energy savings by ensuring efficient design, effectively bypassing much of the behavioral challenges traditional construction faces to overcome weak building envelopes, little opportunities for passive lighting, heating or cooling. California is the national leader in adopting ZNE goals: by 2020 all new residential construction must be ZNE.
The Western Cooling Efficiency Center has been asked by Tokyo Gas to study energy use in their ZNE apartment building in Yokohama, Japan (named E-Sogo) and a large, mixed-use ZNE complex in Davis, CA (named West Village). Although West Village residents consume far more energy than those in E-Sogo, both communities have wide variation in consumption across apartments, with high users consuming approximately 10 times more energy than low users. In both cases, ZNE goals have not quite been met, and efforts to encourage efficiency and conservation have been ongoing.
Research at the E-Sogo apartments in Yokohama centered on a pilot intervention to encourage reduction in air conditioner use. The intervention included such behavioral tactics as consumption feedback, positive reinforcement of improvements made, asking for a commitment to make behavioral changes, setting targets and goals, and establishing norms by making comparisons with other units. Although the apartments at E-Sogo are already very efficient and the users operate their systems in a very efficient manner, most were able to achieve additional savings.
For those units that had used almost no cooling energy the previous summer, we conducted interviews to identify how they managed it. We found that these occupants successfully implemented coping strategies (such as use of sophisticated floor fans, personal cooling accessories like ice pillows and towels, and changing activity patterns), before resorting to use of air conditioners. It was notable that uncomfortable conditions were somewhat acceptable to these residents in certain circumstances, which expanded their ability to avoid air conditioning.
Meanwhile, at West Village, the developers have tried several strategies to reduce electricity consumption. Most recently, WCEC has implemented a pilot intervention aimed at encouraging the adoption of passive cooling techniques to reduce AC usage by utilizing the design features of the ZNE apartments to capture night breezes and precool the apartment, to avoid use of the air conditioner the next day. Through raising awareness and providing feedback on the environmental impact of their efforts, the intervention was successful in encouraging a majority of respondents to modify their cooling strategies in favor of less energy-intensive strategies, and some have committed to continue utilizing these energy savings recommendations even after the conclusion of the study.
Despite the success, numerous participants were not willing or able to significantly reduce their AC usage by utilizing alternative cooling strategies. The impediments cited included: discomfort, noise and safety concerns with opening windows, differing preferences among roommates, and lack of motivation to save energy. Although their housing style is relatively unique (i.e., modern ZNE student apartments), West Village residents are certainly not the only people who live in climate zones with great potential for passive cooling who face these challenges.
Attempts such as these to encourage conservation through developing a deeper understanding of human factors, which go beyond the now-ubiquitous efforts to utilize social comparisons, will have to thoughtfully address occupants’ potentials for adaptation and their concern for other amenities and provide the knowledge, tools, and motivation required to take action. Developing effective means to encourage, educate, plan for and execute passive cooling strategies and other conservation techniques requires further research on when, where, why and how occupants make decisions about energy consumption. This may ultimately have implications for design of highly-efficient and satisfactory air conditioners and controls in both Japan and in the US.
Emerging Technolgies Summit: October 20-22, 2014
What is the ET Summit?
From October 20-22, more than 500 stakeholders in the energy efficiency and demand response emerging technologies sector will gather for an interactive conference at the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco to learn, ideate and debate the intersection of utility programs, technology, market drivers, customer engagement, policy and implementation in order to impact the advancement and adoption of emerging technologies.
The ET Summit's presenting Sponsor is The Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (ETCC). To help achieve the state’s ambitious energy savings goals, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the California Energy Commission with oversight from the California Public Utilities Commission created the ETCC.
The ETCC provides a collaborative forum for its members’ to exchange information on opportunities and results from their Emerging Technologies activities. Efforts are focused on identification, assessment, and support for commercialization of energy-reducing technologies, such as advanced lighting, water heating, and air-conditioning systems, for residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial customers. ETCC members are committed to helping achieve California’s energy-reduction goals by screening potential technologies, assessing them to validate performance and customer acceptance, performing in-situ demonstrations and recommending the proven winners for IOU customer education and rebate programs. The ETCC is particularly interested in technologies that offer large energy savings and rapid market penetration.
- » Opening night reception at The Exploratorium
- » Thought leaders engaging in cross-cutting breakout sessions
- » Showcase of the latest innovative technologies and services
For more information including a list of the distinguished presenters, organizations involved and how to register, please go to: Emerging Technolgies Summit: Accelerating Innovation in Energy Efficiency
Latest Recorded Webinar
WCECs' previous webinars can nowbe viewed online! This month's featured webinar recording is: Enhancing DSM Program Portfolios to Reflect EPA's New 111d Rules. On June 2, 2014, EPA issued draft rules for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. By June 2015, states are required to develop final rules. Within this coming year, utilities, even with robust DSM portfolios, will likely reevaluate numerous aspects of their portfolios to identify how DSM can most effectively contribute to the states' needs to adhere 111d regulations. This seminar will focus on specific actions utilities are likely to embrace in reviewing their portfolios and the timeframe in which these actions must be addressed.
Watch the webinar now »