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Archive for Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City, Westar to partner on downtown Lawrence project to cut energy usage

November 20, 2012

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As holiday shoppers amp up the energy level of downtown Lawrence, city leaders are launching a program they hope will cut down on the energy use inside downtown shops and offices.

The city is partnering with Westar Energy, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to create a pilot program aimed at getting downtown businesses and building owners to make energy-efficienct improvements to their properties.

“Our people often can provide some really simple solutions that allow businesses to reap some really big benefits,” said Kim Gronniger, manager of consumer services for Westar Energy, the city’s electric utility.

The program — dubbed the Green Business Leaders Program — seeks to sign up about a dozen businesses from the downtown area that are looking for ways to reduce their energy usage.

Topeka-based Westar will provide the selected businesses with a free energy audit that reviews everything from heating and cooling units to lighting systems and the company’s operational practices.

“The goal is to produce a set of recommendations that are very specific to your building,” said Eileen Horn, the sustainability coordinator for Lawrence and Douglas County.

Businesses selected for the program are expected to undertake at least one of the recommendations that come out of the energy audit.

Those improvements could include items such as installing more energy-efficient lighting, upgrading heating and cooling systems or items that are a bit less complex, like installing a programmable thermostat or simply shutting the front door more often.

“A lot of shops open their front door during the middle of the summer to attract people in, but that is a lot of cold air that is escaping the building,” Horn said.

Businesses that participate in the program will be labeled a “Green Business Leader” and will be given a window decal and receive other recognition organized by the city.

In addition to the energy audit, participants will get free registration in a class put on by Westar and others related to energy efficiency.

Gronniger said the businesses also will get special training on how to use Westar’s online dashboard program, which became available to businesses and residential customers as part of a citywide Westar project to install “smart meters.” The dashboard allows users to see their energy usage in 15-minute increments, which can be particularly useful for businesses, she said.

Horn said she hopes the Green Business Leaders Program expands to other areas of the city in future years, and eventually will become a project similar to the chamber’s Leadership Lawrence program.

“I hope it ultimately creates a network of people who get together and share best practices on energy usage,” Horn said.

Horn said project leaders are looking for a variety of businesses for the inaugural program: restaurants, retailers, office users, bars and others.

Any downtown business interested in applying can do so at lawrenceks.org/green-business-leaders. Businesses are expected to be selected by the end of December, with energy audits and classes beginning in February or March.

Comments

Number_1_Grandma 1 year, 8 months ago

Anything to do with Westar is a scam!

Cancer causing smartmeters....no thank you!

Big brother doesn't want to help you track yourself. They want to track you.

And their programmable thermostats are junk and only only for them to shut your AC off when it convenient for them; not you.

JUST SAY NO!

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parrothead8 1 year, 8 months ago

Is the power they sell you a scam? Why don't you go without?

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tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

Better readjust your aluminum hat, there.

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

I am really somewhat shocked that people and businesses need some expert to tell them that opening the door in summer isn't very energy efficient.

Or that having a programmable thermostat is a good idea.

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headdoctor 1 year, 8 months ago

I am sure they will get the dozen or so business to sign up. There will be some resisting because the Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce have their fingers into it. Both of those organizations would love to gain some control over business operational practices. Throttling and cycling compressors may work great for residential savings. It would be nice to know what the long term effect is on refrigeration units both residential and commercial units. Just because some PR person says it wont cause damage, doesn't make it true. I am just not sure it will work for all businesses. It would be great to save energy and cost but not at the expense of smoking a $5 thousand dollar compressor or compressors. Even if it just shortens the life expectancy of the equipment. That doesn't make it cost effective just to save a bit of energy and utility cost.

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't know why you're talking about things like throttling and cycling.

All I said was that a programmable thermostat is a good idea - we have one, and we maintain control of it.

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headdoctor 1 year, 8 months ago

Jafs. I have no problem with programmable thermostats. I do have a potential problem with the ones Westar has been pushing along with their smart meters. I did my post running with the first sentence of your post. "I am really somewhat shocked that people and businesses need some expert to tell them that opening the door in summer isn't very energy efficient." It is both shocking and silly that they would need someone to tell them this. Even so they will still get their dozen or so for their pilot program. Along with that I listed a few things that people might object to.

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Kat Christian 1 year, 8 months ago

PRogramable thermostats are a scam alright. If you have one and you are not a person who tracks your usage and what you are charged (which is what they are hoping) they will overcharge and you'll never know it. I keep getting their junk mail on this - I"m going to start sending it back with a note DO NOT SEND ME THIS JUNK MAIL.

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headdoctor 1 year, 8 months ago

I think some people are confusing programmable thermostats that you can buy at a hardware store or your HVAC tech from the programmable ones that Westar was giving away free.

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

Yes.

And, the program that Westar is selling to let them control your thermostat sometimes.

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Water 1 year, 8 months ago

Thank you Eileen and Westar for working together to encourage improvements to Lawrence's downtown properties. Eileen's remark about businesses propping their doors open in the middle of summer is a topic that has grated on me for years. Is there any scientific proof, this draws paying customers into a business? I know some turn off the a/c when the front door is open but some don't. How about open windows in the dead of winter, toilets and faucets that run constantly, blatantly obvious unlevel a/c units, single pane glass, gas stoves without hoods to move hot air outside, ventilation ducts filled with dust......Oh, these energy hogs are going to be sooooo easy to find. Just hope the landlords and business owners are willing to get their hands dirty.

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

Actually, the fact that these folks don't think of that on their own is the more outrageous thing to me.

And, you should notice that the article points to that as an example of easy changes, not the only ones the SC offers.

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

Apparently that's the case though.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

My husband and I made an interest free loan from Westar, funded by federal stimulus money to buy new windows and a new more energy efficient air conditioner, none of which were bought from Westar, and all of which helped to stimulate an air conditioning business and a window business.
We also have their thermostat however, and last summer when it was really hot, and I noticed they had to manipulate the temperature, it made little difference in our house, partly because we had good insulation and good windows. We also aren't under any obligation to keep this thermostat either. We are a little worried about it getting too hot, but they said if we didn't like it they would come and get it and reinstall our old programmable thermostat or any other one we provided for free.
Perhaps Westar is going to show stores where heat and air conditioning is escaping. After our energy audit, there were things that surprised me, that I never would have thought of.

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