Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Archive for the ‘Energy efficiency’ Category

Halve the energy use of your LCD monitor

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Computing equipment continues to get more efficient, and with LED monitors now available at good prices, there is even more opportunity to save energy.

Good power saving settings should be a given for any computer installation. However as you upgrade your computers there are now many ways to save energy. You can switch to laptops or thin client computers. And a new way is to make sure that your next monitor is backlit with LED lighting.

LCD monitors usually have two cold-cathode fluorescent lights in them, one either side of the screen. These are behind the LCD display, and “back light” the screen to make what is on the screen visible. However monitors are now starting to be readily available on the market that use LEDs for backlighting. As LED lighting is very thin, this can enable more effective positioning of the back lighting – for example a grid of LED lights behind the screen.  The higher lamp efficiency of LED lighting as compared to cold-cathode, combined with more effective positioning equals energy savings.

LCD monitor power use - CCD vs LED

LCD monitor power use - CCD vs LED

For energy efficiency reasons we only run laptops in our office. However we also operate a second screen on each laptop, to improve productivity. We recently purchased a 24” monitor with LED backlighting, and compared with our other 24” monitors this one uses much less – 21 watts vs 39 watts – almost half the energy use.

A monitor with LED backlighting only costs slightly more than a conventional LCD monitor. In our case we paid only around $30 more, and will be saving around $7 a year in energy costs. If we were buying black power, we would also be saving around 46 kg of greenhouse gas annually, equivalent to 900 black balloons.

The payback on the extra money spent on a LED monitor whilst not bad isn’t good either, however for the sake of only $30 I reckon its worth it for the greenhouse savings. And the cost differential will keep on lowering. Additional advantages are a screen with sharper contrast, a slimmer screen, and a product that is easier to recycle as it doesn’t contain cold cathode tubes that contain mercury.

Also LED backlit monitors are not hard to find. Its likely that your computer supplier has one anyway. We purchase all our computers from a shop in down town Frankston, less than one kilometer from our office, and that’s where we got our LED monitor from.

In an earlier blog post I discussed the technical innovation that should make it possible to have a net zero energy building by 2020. This is one of the many innovations that are making that possible.

Walmart plans to save more carbon than Australia

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

American retailer Walmart has announced it will cut its supply chain emissions by 20 million tonnes by 2015.

If Walmart can do this why can’t the Australian government get our country to do the same?

My understanding is that if the government’s proposed CPRS goes ahead Australia’s emissions will be cut by around 20 million tonnes by 2015. The Australian government’s target is a 5% reduction by 2020.

According to the Environmental Leader, Walmart’s target “translates into 150 percent of the giant retailer’s estimated global carbon footprint growth over the next five years.”

On a percentage basis Walmart’s targets eclipse Australia’s by a massive amount.

Australia has over 1.2 million people employed by state governments. I’m not sure how many public servants are employed federally, on top of this number.

Walmart has around 1.9 million employees.

From a staffing perspective the number of people whom Walmart and the Australian government have “operational control” over are not that dissimilar in magnitude. Obviously as a retailer Walmart has a much bigger supply chain over which it has influene than the Australian government. So in this regard a direct comparison between Walmart and the Australian government is not really fair. But on the other hand the Australian government in theory can influence all Australians to reduce their carbon footprint, either through regulation or incentives.

What is striking about the Walmart announcement is the seriousness of their commitment. If all businesses were this serious about reducing their carbon footprint our government’s incapacity to cut Australia’s carbon emissions would be less of a worry.

If Walmart, an organisation famous for keeping costs low and operating leanly, can significant cut its emissions, can’t yours do the same? I need to be clear here, Walmart is a for-profit business. Its margins aren’t huge – in 2006 its profit margin was 3.2%. Yet it can clearly see that the environmental benefit of cutting its emissions is not a bad business decision. 

Most of Walmart’s savings are likely to come from energy efficiency. Energy efficiency provides a positive return on investment. It makes economic and business sense, as well as environmental sense.
If Walmart can commit to significantly cutting their emissions, can’t your organisation do the same? Our government can’t, but you can. Are all Australian’s with worries about climate change going to be shamed by a business from across the Pacific, or are we all going to step up personally and in our workplaces and get serious about reducing greenhouse gas pollution?

World’s most energy efficient office building?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The Elithis Tower in Dijon, France, consumes just 20 kWh/m2 and was designed to cost no more than a conventional office buildings. The February issue of Ecolibirum, the magazine of AIRAH (Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating) reported on this building.

It is a 10 storey building of around 5,000 m2, with solar panels covering the rooftop. A “light shield” allows light but not radiant energy into the building. Low environmental impact materials have been used in its construction.

This is an extraordinary achievement, and is an example of human ingenuity rising to the climate change challenge. Most office buildings of that size would consume over 200 kWh/m2, and a very efficient building around 60 kWh/m2.

The Elithis Tower is the first building that I am aware of that beats the 30 kWh/m2 we achieved in the CarbonetiX office in 2008. In 2009 our emissions crept up to 33 kWh/m2, probably due to the introduction of additional computer monitors and staff countering the savings from skylights we installed at the end of 2008.

The Elithis Tower sets a great standard which I hope inspires further great engineering and design to make low or no energy use buildings the norm rather than the exception.

LED lighting update

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

In October 2008 we started an independent evaluation of LED lights as a substitute for fluorescent lighting. The evaluation was undertaken in partnership with the Sustainability Fund, managed by Sustainability Victoria, and with the support of Frankston City Council. We chose to focus on fluorescent lighting because this is by far the most common form of lighting used in commercial buildings.

The trial has involved firstly a desk-top evaluation of LED products, then selection of lamps from those six manufacturers who appeared to have the best products. These were then tested by CarbonetiX for light output and power consumption. The best performing lamp was then sent to a NATA certified laboratory for photometric testing.

The useful light provided by the best lamp in a standard office fluorescent fitting was similar to that of a used halo-phosphor fluoro tube – a surprising result as earlier testing we had undertaken indicated the LEDs were just not bright enough to be used as a fluorescent substitute.”

We then replaced 176 fluorescent tubes with the lamp that had performed best in our testing  in the Mahogany Neighbourhood Community Centre in the City of Frankston.  Users of the facility were surveyed before and after the upgrade and noted either no change or an improvement in the lighting. An illumination assessment showed that illumination levels after the upgrade were around the same as before. Yet power consumption has dropped from over 40 watts per lamp down to 18 watts.

In October we undertook another check up of the lamps, eight months after they were installed. Illumination levels were similar to when they were installed, and none of the LED lights had failed.  Eight months of operation is not nearly long enough to establish whether or not the lamps will operate for 50,000 hours or not as claimed by the manufacturer. But it is a good start.

LEDs as a fluorescent substitute are still expensive, with roughly a ten year return on investment in an office environment. But this trial indicates that if the technology continues to evolve and prices drop that LEDs could help halve the use the energy used by lighting in commercial buildings.

In June the US Department of Energy launched the $10 million “L Prize” for the development of a 21st century lamp that produces more than 150 lumens per watt (current lighting technology is around 100 lumens per watt).  It also challenged the industry to develop a 10 watt LED replacement for the 60 watt incandescent light bulb. Philips have already submitted an entry in the 10 watt incandescent replacement.

With stimulation like this LED technology can only improve.

Not withstanding this good news, a strong word of caution for the here and now is necessary. After our testing we had a lot of LEDs from a number of manufacturers lying around our office. So of course we took out our fluoro tubes and put them in. All of these LED tubes, from five different manufacturers, have now failed. My advice would be for anyone contemplating the use of LEDs – firstly make sure you are happy with the level of illumination provided, then secondly ask the supplier to provide a minimum 3 year or 15,000 hour guarantee, with lumen depreciation (loss of light output) to be no more than 10% over the 15,000 hours.

The winner is WiMAX smart grid

Monday, October 26th, 2009

In my previously post, I was expecting any smart grid pilot project roll-out in Australia.

Two days later, Victoria gives me one immediately. On 23th Oct 2009, Electricity distributor SP AusNet announced its partners to facilitate the roll-out of more than 680,000 ‘smart meters’ to homes and small businesses across eastern and north eastern Victoria by December 2013.

Partnering with SP AusNet in the AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) program are: Landis+Gyr, GE and GridNet, UXC Limited, Electrix, Motorola, Unwired, eMeter, Logica, Accenture, Enterprise Business Services, and Geomatic Technologies.

SP AusNet adopts WiMAX technology which is a high-speed, high-bandwidth wireless communication technology would be utilized in any future 4G broadband. I reckon this is a great choice for Australia with low population density.

GE is providing the meter communications technology for the utility’s network and delivering half of the smart meters, with Landis+Gyr providing the other half. Motorola will provide the communications infrastructure.”

“SP AusNet is on track to roll out its 680,000 meters, with roughly 40,000 meters to be installed by the end of June next year.”

Victorian please do not be surprised when you receive an introductory letter from SP AusNet, because you will get a smart meter soon.

Image from