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Tue, 14 Nov 2006

over-thinking energy efficiency

Break room, water cooler, drinking fountain, or restroom?

The other day as I was carrying my NPR All Things Considered mug down the aisle in search of water for my desk plant, I encountered an conundrum: what is the most energy-efficient way of obtaining the water?

This came up because as I was approaching the break room where I normally acquire aqueous refreshment, I noted that the light was out.

"What does that have to do with water?" you ask... with good reason.

A little background is required by way of explanation: here at MasterCard Worldwide, we have motion-sensing lightswitches in all of our break rooms, meeting rooms, and restrooms. This is so that when a room is unoccupied, the light won't stay on indefinitely, wasting electricity. So far, so good. These switches also have a manual override, that allows someone to turn them off immediately upon exiting a room, rather than waiting for the pre-determined time to elapse before the lights shut off. Even better.

Anyway, the light in the break room was out. That's when my conundrum confronted me — Should I enter the break room, triggering the light, running the water in the sink, and filling my mug? That would mean I'm using electricity that wouldn't otherwise be used. Or, should I continue past the break room, and obtain the water from the electrically cooled drinking fountain? Finally, should I also pass the drinking fountain and enter the restroom, where the infrared-sensing faucet would dispense temperature-controlled, gas-heated water into the mug? (Of course I completely discarded the fourth option of entering the break room, triggering the lights, and filling the mug from the electrically-cooled and -heated water cooler.)

I'll not keep you in suspense — I chose the drinking fountain, for three reasons:

First, the lights were already on in that area, and no action by me could turn them off or on. Second, Although the water was electrically chilled, the refrigeration would be activated regardless of whether I turned the fountain knob to dispense cool, refreshing H2O. Finally, the restroom sinks' water temperature is not user-controlled, so the water automatically heats whenever it runs.

What would you have done?

posted at: 20:17 |


Marc Elliot Hall St. Peters, Missouri 

Page created: 21 January 2002
Page modified: 14 November 2006

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