How Electricians Can Promote Green Retrofits

Houston writes in to let us know about an article he wrote about five green retrofits that electricians should be advocating for. It’s a good way to get new business and help the planet.

Daylight Harvesting
Daylight harvesting is the practice of reducing artificial light in a room when sunlight is available. According to a study performed by the NRC Institute for Research in Construction, it can reduce lighting energy costs by 20 to 60%. Call it “upselling” if you will, but electricians should pitch this retrofit to customers that are already relamping their homes and buildings.

A daylight harvesting system uses photosensors to detect light levels in a room. As sunlight becomes available, the artificial lighting will be reduced. When it’s cloudy or becomes dark outside, the level of artificial lighting will increase.

Three other lighting controls worth mentioning here are dimmers, motion sensors and timers. These energy savers have been around for years, but they are just as relevant today as when they first came out. Homeowners looking for simple ways to reduce energy can install any of the above. For more information, check out the US Department of Energy’s lighting guide.

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Gasometer, Vienna

At Gasometer, Vienna people live in old gas tanks that have been converted to really neat-looking modern apartments. It’s a great model of taking old industrial spaces and converting them into livable spaces. You can read about it on Wikipedia.


The Gasometers have developed a village character all their own and are a city within a city. A true sense of community has developed, and both a large physical housing community (of tenants) as well as an active virtual internet community (Gasometer Community) have formed. Numerous theses and dissertations in psychology, urban planning, journalism and architecture have been written about this phenomenon.

Indoor facilities include a music hall (capacity 2000–3000 people), movie theatre, student dormitory, municipal archive, and so on. There are about 800 apartments (two thirds within the historic brick walls) with 1600 regular tenants, as well as about 70 student apartments with 250 students in residence.

Sears Tower to Undergo $350 Million Green Retrofit

You may already now that Sears Tower is getting a huge energy retrofit costing $350 million because it’s got a lot of media attention. Still, it’s really good to see old office towers see the benefit of spending a lot of money on increasing efficiency of their buildings.

Operators of the nearly 36-year-old, 110-story building say they have cut annual electricity consumption by 34 percent since 1989 and that increased energy efficiency has reduced annual CO2 emissions by 51 pounds since 1984.
Proposed renewables at Sears Tower.
Their five-year renovation plan is expected to bring base building electricity consumption down by 80 percent. The reduction is estimated to be equivalent to 68 million kilowatt hours or 150,000 barrels of oil a year. The retrofit project is also expected to slash annual water consumption by 24 million gallons. And the work is expected to create 3,600 jobs.

The improvements, detailed on the Sears Tower website, are to involve replacing and glazing the 16,000 single-pane windows; and upgrading boilers, elevators, escalators, lighting restroom fixtures and water management systems.
Sears Tower and hotel.
Wind turbines, solar panels to heat water for the building and green roofs are to be installed on various terraces and tiered roofs of the complex.

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