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How do we get people in apartment buildings to save energy?

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HeatingHelp
HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 650
edited January 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
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How do we get people in apartment buildings to save energy?

So I’m in Europe and telling these nice guys about my 83-year-old Aunt Lucy and how she moved into her studio apartment on Second Avenue in New York City back when J.F.K. was just taking the oath of office.

Read the full story here


Comments

  • westbye
    westbye Member Posts: 8
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    Maybe if Moses, Jesus, and Ed McMahon were the mechanics they'd let the in but I doubt it. Very hilarious article.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
    edited January 2018
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    Maybe there should be “fuel waste shaming” for the owners of those buildings. Think of a drone with an IR camera making surveys of all the suspect buildings in NYC, and finding the worst offenders of fuel wastage.—NBC
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
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    Nick, that "shaming" system is already in place. It's in place in all major cities that I am aware of (Chicago, NYC, Denver, LA SFO etc). It's a requirement for the building owners to list their energy consumption (electricity and heat) along with the footprint of their building. A smart renter can look this information up and determine what property has the lowest cost of operation. Interestingly, those buildings with hydronic heat have some of the lowest costs per square foot.

    As for implementing these energy savings programs, there are options available that will minimize out of pocket expenditures for the building owners. It's called performance contracting. The contractor provides the equipment, which is leased back to the end users. In most cases, the energy savings more than covers the monthly cost of operation, Once the system is under complete control (TRV's, resets, new boilers, new DHW systems) the occupants will fall in line, and the windows will begin closing. I have witnessed this many times in my 40 year career.

    Another more difficult way to get energy conservation is to pass the cost of heating on to the occupants. The problem with that method is a lack of uniformity in placing the burden squarely on the people who are wasting it. Many European countries have centrally located hydronic systems with meters that actually monitor the energy consumption (heating, cooling and DHW) to each individual apartment using accurate BTU meters. Can't do it with steam tho... THE best way to get peoples attention when it comes to wasting energy and other resources, is to grab them by the wallet. Then, it becomes a matter of them conserving their own dollars, and they will do whatever they need to in order to conserve, money.

    Retro fitting an existing one pipe steam system in a multi story building would be a VERY expensive proposition, but in my experience, it would reduce base energy consumption by 30%. Not an insignificant amount, but with energy costing so little, the economics don't look great, but when the leasing company is making money on renting the money, they don't care. The Europeans are paying many times more than we are for their energy, and are charged for their use, hence the inherent energy conservation.

    When I visited Germany many years ago, I asked the engineers why their energy costs were so high. They told me that the taxes that were added to the energy costs were used to subsidize the rail and other transportation systems. They also told me that back in the 80's that they noticed the tops of all the trees in their forests were turning yellow and dieing off. This is their national heritage (forest preserves) and they realized that their discharge of sulphur from their oil boilers was a bad thing for the environment, so the government began requiring the conversion to cleaner more efficient gas burning technology, along with upgrades in windows and insulation. This was done in an effort to save their forests. They look at what Americans do with their energy, and they say that we are headed for the same disaster, but that it will take longer because we have so much more space than they did.

    Once you see the devastation to our forests from the Pine Bark Beetle, you can understand their reasonings as to why they did it. Most of the pine forests in Colorado are being completely wiped out by this bug because it hasn't gotten cold enough for long enough to kill the larvae. It's sad that my grand children will probably never see the forests that I saw. This is not meant to spark a conversation about wether or not the warming we are seeing is man caused or not.

    It is what it is, and Mother Nature is still more so in control of what happens than man kind's potential influence. Please don't turn this into a political conversation on this thread, thank you. If you want to discuss AGW, take it to the political section please. I'd be glad to contribute my thoughts there.

    Great article as usual Dan. Thanks!

    ME

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 566
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    As owner of one of these 1 pipe systems in a 4 unit rowhouse, it ain't easy to maintain control. No matter how much I try and impress on the tenant who has the thermostat (set to 70) in their LR that they can't open the window during heating season, they still do. Legend is that city codes 100 years ago required enough heat to leave windows open for "health", which is why all these old systems are so overpowered.

    Not long after I bought it and installed a new gas boiler instead of oil, I get a call at 10pm that "it's freezing in here!!" I rush up there expecting the equipment has failed to find the apt 70 deg and her standing there in shorts and tank top in February. Apparently she was used to the old wasteful ways. When we were looking at the purchase they said they burned $12k of oil heating 3k sq ft of uninsulated 100 year old frame house. I knew I could do a lot better, and that's why the boiler change.

    Anyway, when I said perhaps she should put some clothes on, she replied "That's ****!" Fortunately this professional tenant with a Section 8 voucher moved on, to a new construction 2 family with utilities included. Who would do that??? But she found it!

    Honestly I hate this frigging system. Hydronic doesn't have all these potential leak points. All you need to destroy a wood floor and a plaster ceiling is a bad vent valve and a tenant who doesn't understand that the rad valve needs to be all the way open or closed no matter how many time you've told him.

    Another hateful thing is what a PITA it is to reinstall radiators if you change the level of the floor or even just change the valve. All the rads where they had installed new hardwood were sitting in holes in the floor. Just this week I needed to change a broken radiator valve in a kitchen. The morons working for the previous owner had tiled the feet of the radiator to the floor because they were too stupid/lazy to remove it and reinstall it. I should have seen it coming because in the same unit they had tiled in the toilet so I had to shatter it to remove it.
    /rant
  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 952
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    I stayed in a 90 year old Hilton in Chicago Monday night. 2 pipe fan coils in the rooms. Room was warmer than I like & stuffy. No cooling except in the lobbies & bars. Had to open the windows!
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
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    Jells said:

    The morons working for the previous owner had tiled the feet of the radiator to the floor because they were too stupid/lazy to remove it and reinstall it. I should have seen it coming because in the same unit they had tiled in the toilet so I had to shatter it to remove it.
    /rant

    Same thing here, the idiot who installed the dishwasher put it on the subfloor and then tiled in front of it. Now I have to replace it, either I have to break the floor (tiles are crap anyway) or lift up the countertop to get it out...
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 566
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    Locked in DW is a classic. Bet they laid the tiles right on the plywood too, no CBU. I have a kitchen like that, constantly "shedding" tiles.
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,833
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    I did not read any of the post or the article, just the head line. The answer is make them pay for their own energy use.
    NY_Robkcopp
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
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    That method of separating the services, and providing separate boilers, or prorating the heating expense is often expensive or problematic.
    If you cured the system problems, made it balanced, and kept the heat at 70 in the coldest area, and if they kept the windows open, they would be cold.—NBC
    Zmanvibert_c
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited February 2018
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    No idea what CBU stands for, but yeah, there's nothing between the tiles and the plywood but some kind of grout or adhesive. The guy who flipped this house to me didn't spend a whole lot of money if he could get by cheaply.

    NBC: this is a 2-family house, and they were absolutely anal about keeping everything separate. Two gas meters. two steam boilers, two hot water heaters, two washers/dryers, the only thing that's shared is cold water. Even the porch light which has two bulbs, is wired such that one bulb is on each electric meter. (edit: and they did this by putting the switches in the neutral return line, meaning the fixture itself is always hot. It was fun figuring that out.)
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 566
    edited February 2018
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    CBU = cement board underlayment. Any tile job lacking this or waterproof membranes like Kerdy or Ditra is incompetently done. It also has to be put down properly with thinset if it's going on a subfloor. I once tossed out a contractor who was going to use Liquid Nails.

    The porch light sounds like fun, and illegally wired! Ive found at least my share of lights switched on the neutral, among many other horrifying electrical artifacts.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    More importantly as to ceramic tile is the Deflecto calculations of the substrate. While the aforementioned methods of tiling are proper. I have seen pl400 ceramic tile that’s lasted with no issues. Mostly due to a flat substrate with low deflection.
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 566
    edited February 2018
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    Gordy, I guess I'm tunnel visioned to my area, which is all ancient brownstones and rowhouses with, shall we say, 'dynamic' floors on old sagging joists. They move a lot! That contractor I tossed was working for a tenant who wanted 16" tiles, they would have all cracked pretty quickly.
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,441
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    Gotta get people to pay for what they use.
    Individual meters... Rent control is a joke. Hurts those who are supposed to be helped. Owners cant upgrade systems w/ money they don't have coming in.....
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    Jells said:

    Gordy, I guess I'm tunnel visioned to my area, which is all ancient brownstones and rowhouses with, shall we say, 'dynamic' floors on old sagging joists. They move a lot! That contractor I tossed was working for a tenant who wanted 16" tiles, they would have all cracked pretty quickly.

    Like I said the deflecto of the substrate is the key factor. No matter what you use for the base for ceramic,marble, or stone tiles.

  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited February 2018
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    The porch light was probably legal in 1920 when they built the house... individual hot conductor running through the ceiling with branches to each fixture, not in any conduit. Now it occurs to me to wonder how many other switched neutrals there are. The outlets have all been upgraded (at least twice, they were all knob and tube, now there's some BX - rusty and old enough to not have a bonding conductor, so the ground is iffy - and some new Romex from 2004) but the room lighting is still knob and tube. Don't tell my insurance company that. We've got a mix of 15 and 20 amp breakers. If it's fused at 20 amps, it's the new 12 gauge Romex; if it's 15, though, all bets are off.

    Off topic, but If I do want to have the tiles replaced, can they do some of them, or do I have to have the whole floor redone? They're cheap-o Home Depot tiles, if I'm not mistaken, and a few of them have cracked, but most are still OK.
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 566
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    Easy nuff to find out about the fixtures, next time you change a bulb, turn off the switch and probe with a voltage detector. If you don't have one you should, like $5 at Harbor Freight.
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
    edited February 2018
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    Funny, grandma's porch light had switched neutral too, 1870's house, knob and tube. Story goes grandpa wired the house.

    I discovered it while scanning wall with AC electric field wire sensor to find a wall bay to run new wires in. Was puzzled when the electric field went away when light was on, but was on while light was off. Then it dawned on me the wire was being "backfeed" by "hot" voltage coming thru the bulb and energizing what had to be the neutral wire. Unscrewing the bulb confirmed it.
  • NY_Rob
    NY_Rob Member Posts: 1,370
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    I found we had a bedroom can light fixture switched by the neutral too. With the new LED downlights, when we had high humidity in the summer the lights would come on by themselves. I even pulled the switch and disconnected it at 4am one morning when I awoke to full bedroom lights on. Imagine my surprise when the lights stayed on with the switch disconnected? :o
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
    edited February 2018
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    Was at a friend's house and as we left the garage I noticed when he shut off his 4 ft florecent lights they went dim but stayed on for about 5-10 seconds before shutting off. Was not winter.

    I had him open it up. Found it had 2 problems, he was switching the neutral AND balast had an internal short to case ( which was grounded). So when he pulled the switch the ballest kept running but at a reduced output from the winding short. Was hot from 24/7/365 running.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
    edited February 2018
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    Our early muni electrical system of the 1920's did not have a neutral as we know it today. Most pole transformers were 2400/120 VAC, just 2 wires were run to a house. Neither of them were grounded.(There were just a handful of 240 volt requirements with hit and miss methods.)
    These circuits had a fuse in each conductor. This was the common white porcelain open knife double pole switch with the Edison base plug fuses in them. (Usually mounted as high as possible on the back porch).
    If the conductors overloaded or shorted together a fuse would open. If a conductor was grounded to any metal in the house, that metal may have been slightly but not fully energized. The pole transformer was in effect an isolation transformer. So you could not even ID a hot from a neutral. So they would switch whatever was handy.....and they were not wrong.

    When we got modern with a new town rewire in 1958, we then got 240/120 transformers with a center tap establishing a neutral and a ground rod at the transformer pole.
    At that time, few people understood the importance of a solidly grounded neutral that would blow the single fuse if the "hot" came in contact with a grounded surface. Many continued to fuse the neutral.......but they were wrong.
    So they would switch what wire was handy......but they were wrong.

    So now were are doing a complete rebuild from the 1958 system.