Lower your summer energy bill

Window

Open windows
On cooler days and nights, turn off your air conditioner and open your windows. Use a fan; it does not use as much electricity as an air conditioning compressor.

Use ceiling fans to cool your house
The most efficient ceiling fans cost as little as 30 cents a month if used eight hours a day. A  window air conditioner can cost 50 times as much as a fan. Ceiling fans will keep the air moving and allow you to keep the thermostat setting higher because moving air feels cooler.

Provide shading for your air conditioning condenser
Your central air conditioner condenser works more efficiently in a cooler environment. Provide shade around your air conditioner to reduce your cooling costs by nearly 3 percent.

Dry a load of laundry on the clothesline
Thirty years ago most clothes were dried outside on the line. Your electric dryer is a large energy user and consumes about 30 cents of electricity per load. During nice weather, try drying some loads the old fashioned way – on the clothesline. It also has the added benefit of a fresh smell for your laundry.

Utilize moisture sensing technology on your electric dryer
Most new electric dryers have sensors that can detect the moisture level in your clothes and shut off the cycle when they are dry.  This saves energy costs when compared to a timed dry cycle which is likely to waste energy after clothes are dry.

Plant trees for shade
Deciduous trees—those that produce leaves in the spring and lose them in the fall—shade your house from the sun during warmer days and let the sun warm your house on cooler days. Shading your home could save up to 8 percent on cooling costs.

Change your air conditioning filter
Clean or replace your central air conditioner filter monthly during the cooling season to improve the efficiency and extend the life of the unit.

Raise your thermostat setting
You can save $25 or more each month during the summer by raising your thermostat temperature from 72 to 78 degrees.

Learn about other ways to save energy at www.gundersenenvision.org.

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Summer energy-saving tips

Window

Open windows on cool days and nights
On cool days and nights, turn off your air conditioner and open your windows. A fan may also help and does not use as much electricity as an air conditioning compressor. Don’t open windows when the outside temperature is warmer than the inside of your house.

Use ceiling fans to cool your house
The most efficient ceiling fans cost as little as 30 cents a month if used eight hours a day. A  window air conditioner can cost 50 times as much as a fan. Ceiling fans will keep the air moving and allow you to keep the thermostat setting higher because moving air feels cooler.

Provide shading for your air conditioning condenser
Your central air conditioner condenser works more efficiently in a cooler environment. Provide shade around your air conditioner to reduce your cooling costs by nearly 3 percent.

Dry a load of laundry on the clothesline
Thirty years ago most clothes were dried outside on the line. Your electric dryer is a large energy user and consumes about 30 cents of electricity per load. During nice weather, try drying some loads the old fashioned way – on the clothesline. It also has the added benefit of a fresh smell for your laundry.

Utilize moisture sensing technology on your electric dryer
Most new electric dryers have sensors that can detect the moisture level in your clothes and shut off the cycle when they are dry.  This saves energy costs when compared to a timed dry cycle which is likely to waste energy after clothes are dry.

Plant trees for shade
Deciduous trees—those that produce leaves in the spring and lose them in the fall—shade your house from the sun during warmer days and let the sun warm your house on cooler days. Shading your home could save up to 8 percent on cooling costs.

Change your air conditioning filter
Clean or replace your central air conditioner filter monthly during the cooling season to improve the efficiency and extend the life of the unit.

Raise your thermostat setting
You can save $25 or more each month during the summer by raising your thermostat temperature from 72 to 78 degrees.

Learn about other ways to save energy at www.gundersenenvision.org.

Tips for living green everyday

  1. Plant an herb garden
  2. Switch all your lightbulbs to CFLs (or at least switch a few)
  3. Create a homemade compost bin for $15
  4. Switch one appliance to an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label)
  5. Use reusable bags, not disposable
  6. Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle and stop buying plastic disposable bottles
  7. Watch The Story of Bottled Water, a short movie about the bottled water phenomena
  8. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot
  9. Turn off lights when you leave the room
  10. Use natural light whenever possible
  11. Drive the speed limit and combine all your errands for the week in one trip (better yet, walk or ride a bike to do errands that are two miles or closer)
  12. Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market
  13. Turn off your computer completely at night
  14. Research whether you can sign up for green power from your utility company
  15. Pay your bills online

Learn more about environmental sustainability at www.gundersenenvision.org.

cleaner air

Hand drying alternatives

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These photos are from public restrooms and show several alternatives for hand drying. Each solution has its pros and cons and consideration should be given for the proper method to suit the intended purpose.

The photo on the left shows a common paper towel dispenser where a stack of folded paper towels is dispensed one at a time in a similar fashion to a tissue box. Often, the towels will pull out in a bunch and drop into the waste receptacle or worse, on the floor as you can see in the photo. This method has several significant disadvantages. First, the towels must be loaded manually and the paper waste removed, which can consume significant labor from cleaning crews. In addition, the paper uses a significant amount of fossil fuels and electricity in the processing of pulp wood into paper, packaging, and transport to the point of use. Furthermore, the paper is disposed in the trash and will end up in a landfill.  In restrooms with large volumes, the paper waste can be significant. Its advantage is that it has an economical upfront cost.

The center photo shows an automatic paper towel dispenser that utilizes a roll of paper. This solution has the advantage of a hands-free touch-free sensor for dispensing the towel in a predetermined length appropriate for the need, thus reducing paper.  It is also a less energy intensive way to produce and package the paper. The towels can still require significant fossil fuel to harvest, produce, and transport, and the towels can still end up on the floor.

The photo on the right shows an electric hand dryer using a high speed air stream to evaporate the water from hands. While this solution does use fossil fuel electricity, the power is only used for a brief time and is more efficient in saving energy costs and has less impact to the environment. These new models of air dryers are much better at drying than the older versions that heated hands rather than forcing water from hands. Some disadvantages are that they have a significant upfront cost which may be prohibitive unless used for high volume restrooms. Other disadvantages are potential splatter of water droplets and their noise level.

There are several hand drying solutions available today and the factors for consideration are upfront cost, labor intensity, fossil fuel use, disposal costs, infection control, noise, and mess. Think carefully about your intended application and the proper balance of these solutions.

Visit http://www.gundersenenvision.org/ to see how Gundersen Health System’s Envision can help you with your energy conservation and sustainability program.

Nursing and climate change: You can make an impact

Lightbulb charge

Earlier this month Tom Thompson, Gundersen Health System’s sustainability coordinator, and Phoebe Breed, RN, Surgical and Digestive Care Unit, presented at the all RN/LPN staff meeting about Gundersen’s nursing and climate change grant.

The goal of the winning grant proposal is to apply some of the same sustainability and environmental practices nurses use at work (through the guidance of Envision) in their homes to broaden the impact Gundersen’s nurses can make on the environment.

Here are suggestions for implementation at home.

  • Unplug older appliances or use a power strip for a more convenient “turn off” option.
  • Turn off the lights when you don’t need them! One light on for eight hours each day can cost up to $20 in one year.
  • Change your light bulbs. You can save $135 in the lifetime of an LED Energy Star certified light bulb compared to incandescent light bulbs.

See how you can make a difference.

Scheduling exhaust fans – an easy way to save money

Have you ever taken a walk on the rooftop of your hospital or clinic to see what is up there? You might be amazed at the amount of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment that is placed on rooftops. This is often a good place to install mechanical systems since rooftop space is not in high demand. Exhaust fans can range in size and shapes from a very small unit such as those you might find in your home to fans the size of the one in the photo above. Sometimes you may find small exhaust fans mounted to duct work through exterior walls of buildings. Their functional purpose is to exhaust air from inside the building. They are frequently used remove fumes, odors, particles, etc. from inside the building and thus improve the indoor air quality for occupants. In certain applications, such as pharmacies that mix chemotherapy drugs, isolation rooms, labs, etc. exhaust fans may serve an important safety or infection control function. There are many fans that serve restrooms and cafeteria cooking areas.

Exhaust Fan

However, “out of sight” typically means “out of mind” and when energy use is invisible to us we usually don’t manage it very well. When Gundersen Health System began its Envision® program in 2008 we started with an intense energy efficiency effort. One of the steps we took was to inventory our exhaust fans. We found that we had over 300 exhaust fans serving our six largest facilities … approximately 1,500,000 square feet of mixed-use inpatient, outpatient, and medical office buildings. That was a surprising number of fans, but what was even more surprising was that most of these exhaust fans were operating 24 hours per day, 7 days per week even though most were serving areas that were unoccupied for at least 10 or 12 hours each day. If you think about it, nobody leaves their bathroom exhaust fan running when they leave their home for the day. Why should we have these exhaust fans using energy when it is not needed? Energy waste costs money which is passed along to patients, contributes to disease, and harms the environment.

Electronic controls can make automatic scheduling of fans easy so they can be turned off when they are not needed–although they are frequently installed without electronic controls. However, some fans may have electronic controls and others may make sense to retrofit with new controls so they can be scheduled. On one of our buildings, our fan inventory revealed eight fans similar to the one in the photo that could be automatically scheduled and instantly provided an annual energy savings of more than $5,000. This is an easy way to improve health, save money for patients, and improve the environment.

The experts at Gundersen Envision can help you uncover a number of quick payback energy conservation measures in your organization. Contact them today at envision@gundersenhealth.org.

 

Search for renewable energy sources close to home

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This photo shows wood chips from a saw mill in western Wisconsin that Gundersen uses as a fuel in its new biomass boiler. The biomass boiler project supplies 38 percent of the health system’s energy needs with a renewable source of energy. When you look for renewable energy sources it makes sense to search for the assets that are abundant in your region. The Upper Midwest region of the U.S. does not have oceans from which to capture tidal energy nor does it have an abundance of sunlight nor does it have geothermal steam near the surface of the earth’s crust. However, Wisconsin and neighboring states are blessed with numerous sources of biomass such as trees, grasses, animal waste, and agricultural crops.

New technologies have developed that enable cleaner combustion of biomass fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. These fuel sources can become a significant source of renewable heat and electricity production in the United States which could allow our country to become more energy independent and reduce the negative effects of mining and burning fossil fuels.

Often, biomass fuels are commonly thought of as waste products or residues from other primary operations and can commonly be purchased at relatively low cost compared to other fuels.  For instance, this particular sawmill processes hardwood logs from western Wisconsin such as red oak, white oak, walnut, hickory, etc. The milling machinery is very efficient at producing boards of lumber from the rough logs and various byproducts such as chips, fines, sawdust, and ground bark can be recovered and utilized in a clean and productive manner. In the past, byproducts such as these may have been sold into a lower value application such as animal bedding or landscaping material. In some cases, producers may have had to pay to have the byproduct removed. Utilizing these sources of fuel can improve the economics for both the producer of the biomass fuel and for the purchaser.

Some fuels classified as biomass may present challenges to boiler equipment and/or require expensive emissions control systems. It is important to consider the sources to make sure they are free of chemicals and treatments such as glues, paints, heavy metals, varnishes, etc. to avoid challenges and expense in minimizing emissions and optimizing boiler performance. Some natural sources of biomass may also contain high levels of sulfur or alkalinity, which may present other challenges, so a thorough review of the source is necessary before launching a project.

Standards and programs have also been developed in recent years to promote ethical harvesting techniques used for biomass fuels. One example is Wisconsin’s Woody Biomass Harvesting Guidelines.

A couple of  great resources for understanding the best fit for your application and gaining help for a project are the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Energy Resource Center. 

And the U.S.D.A.’s  Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Learn more about renewable energy by attending Envision’s Renewable Energy Project Development seminar, September 23-25. Register today!