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Editorial: Home Energy's New Compilation of Articles

September 01, 2009
September/October 2009
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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I am pleased to announce the availability of a compilation of Home Energy articles from 2000–2008. It’s available as a CD and costs only $75. These articles capture the state of the art in home energy conservation, from retrofit techniques to business strategies.

But this editorial is more than just an advertisement, it’s an opportunity for introspection. Viewing all of the Home Energy articles in various forms of organization is a wonderful way of reflecting on the topics that we covered and what we should cover in future issues. That’s why I was intrigued to discover that we published only sixteen articles related to diagnostics. Sixteen is surely more than any other source but you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The home energy industry needs better tools to assess energy-saving opportunities and evaluate successes and failures. We will redouble our efforts to report on the effectiveness of new and existing diagnostic procedures.

I hadn’t realized how heavily we covered water in all its forms—hot, cold, grey, fresh, and flushed—until I scanned “W” in the index.  Once there I was immediately transported (via one mouse-click) to an outstanding article on low-flush toilets whose coverage far exceeded anything done by Consumer Reports, while providing technical background that energy auditors need. Then there was the sobering photo essay of dangerous water heaters found by the Kansas City weatherization crews to remind us that energy-saving retrofits can also remove hazards. Meanwhile we haven’t gotten around to covering the electricity consumption of those enormously popular tankless gas water heaters.

Refrigerators received much less attention in the 21st century, scoring just five articles. This reflects the astounding success that minimum efficiency standards have had in reducing the electricity use of modern refrigerators, which falls below the consumption of several models of television set-top boxes (also five articles).

Motors are responsible for over half of the nation’s electricity use, so why did we publish only three articles about motors? Most residential motors are built into refrigerators, air conditioners, and fans. But we need to devote more space to motors and motor applications. Expect, for example, an article on residential elevators (where the United States trails behind Italy and Japan in the number of installations).

You wouldn’t know that a revolution in “smart” meters is occurring by reading the pages of Home Energy because we published only five articles on meters. But perhaps this reflects our skepticism—well, my skepticism—of the value of smart meters. Right now we see dozens of companies offering technologies in search of a solution. None of them have produced anything that bridges the needs of consumers and utilities in a form that people will actually want to use for more than a month. I expect that, sooner or later, friendly interfaces will appear and you can be sure that we will cover them because facilitating energy-saving behavior is typically the most cost-effective investment around. At the same time, we have watched how wattmeters have become cheaper, more accurate, and equipped with more features. Every energy auditor should have a couple of them. We plan to review these meters soon.

I urge you to buy the 2000–2008 compilation. You will rediscover many valuable articles. At the same time, please tell us what topics you want us to cover. One category of articles that you won’t find in the collection are my editorials. Maybe the compilers will include them next time after I write something useful.

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