Technology Spotlight: The power of non-energy benefits

Most energy-saving technologies are invisible to users, but for some technologies, non-energy benefits (NEB) can be the deciding factor in getting consumers to spring for that energy-efficient new appliance or system.

NEBs are those “warm fuzzies” that keep customers happy—things like improved productivity, comfort, safety, health, process control or resale value. Commercial customers who do not excited about cutting energy costs or saving the environment might light up when they learn that a technology could reduce inventory, address regulatory concerns or cut down on maintenance. Especially for projects that don’t have a quick direct payback, NEBs can make the business case to move forward.

The E3TNW databaseRedirecting to a non-government site of new and emerging efficiency technologies, co-sponsored by Western and Bonneville Power Administration, has a field just for NEBs. Because these benefits often influence purchasers more than the energy cost savings, they can have a big impact on how quickly and deeply a new technology is adopted.

Beyond efficiency
One example is interior storm windows, which can cut window energy losses by a quarter or more. These cost-effective alternatives to window replacement are available as easily installed Plexiglas models for homes and double-pane, aluminum-frame models for commercial buildings. They can cut cold drafts and raise the temperature of the interior pane, reduce outside noise and reduce condensation that can cause mold and damage window frames. Some come with solar-controlling tints and UV filters to reduce glare, heat gain and fabric fading. Homeowners who want to be more comfortable and protect their furnishings might see the energy-efficiency performance as just icing on the cake.

Interior storm window panels not only reduce energy loss, they protect furnishings and cut down on outside noise. (Photo by Emerging Energy Efficiency Technologies Database)
Interior storm window panels not only reduce energy loss, they protect furnishings and cut down on outside noise. (Photo by Emerging Energy Efficiency Technologies Database)

LED lighting is another technology that can almost sell itself on NEBs alone. The lamps are four to six times more efficient than incandescent lamps and last about 50 times as long, a point to mention to customers with critical lighting in hard-to-reach places.Unlike metal halide or high-pressure sodium lamps, LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can be dimmed to save additional energy in areas where daylighting may occasionally be sufficient for the task. Warehouse managers might appreciate how easily the lighting can be automated and programmed for “just in time” use—turning on and off only when occupants enter the space—without needing a warm-up period to reach full intensity. The lamps perform much better than fluorescent lamps in cold temperatures, don’t contain mercury and can change color as needed to support plant growth and intangibles such as workers’ mood and productivity.

Speaking of mood, innovative products like the Sky LED PanelRedirecting to a non-government site can liven up dreary spaces without putting an expensive and leaky hole in the building envelope. The office light fixture has images on the lens, such as clouds, that make the panel look like a skylight. Imagine the boost that could give to people in a hospital waiting room or drab office cubicle.

The Sky LED panel is an affordable and energy-efficient alternative to installing a skylight. (Photo by Smart Lighting Solution)
The Sky LED panel is an affordable and energy-efficient alternative to installing a skylight. (Photo by Smart Lighting Solution)

The Philips Hue lamp may be just the technology to get your early-adopter customers excited about LEDs. The color, brightness and timing of the lamp can be controlled remotely with a smart phone, a pretty cool app to show off to your tech-savvy friends.

Learn more
Too many program managers focus entirely on energy savings and speak purely in engineering terms. Decisions makers, from homeowners to corporate CEOs, usually have other priorities more important to them. Western’s Energy Experts hotline provides a resource for documentation and program ideas to help utility program managers figure out what their customers’ priorities are and how energy-efficiency improvement projects can address them. Contact Energy Experts at 800-765-3756 or submit a technical question online, and don’t forget to browse through Energy SolutionsRedirecting to a non-government site and Utility Options for inspiration.