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Maintain or Replace – be Energy Efficient or not – continuing the debate

So the other day my wife told me the water in the shower didn’t seem as hot as it normally does. “Maybe something wrong with the water heater?” she said. I did all the normal checks: no water on the basement floor, pilot is lit, check, check. All seems ok.

We happened to go to Home Depot to buy some other stuff, but we ran into the water heater guy.  His diagnosis: water heater going bad. (Full admission, it is 11 years old)

I kind of buy his story, it makes sense. Here is an appliance that is 11 years old that I never maintained. Expected life is 10 years, so I am already plus one, right? And maybe a new one would be more efficient, right?

But isn’t that the sort of internal argument manufacturers go through every day? Sunk cost (what they already paid for) vs. Maintenance vs. Replacement? How efficient are the machines you bought 10 or 15 years ago? How do you know? How much does it cost you for a shutdown for two to three days while you secure a replacement machine and install it? Wouldn’t that information be valuable to you if it was visible? How do you know?

Energy management/awareness is certainly a big part of this sustainability issue. Check out this video from Chet:

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Think your energy bill is high? Try a factory!

Energy cost and availability show up in every day conversations. What was your electricity bill last month? Mine was about $180. That pays for my lights, my TV’s, my stereo, my refrigeration, and probably some things I don’t know about. Maybe even timers to turn things on and off. But I know that some of my neighbors always ask what my bill was and then compare it to theirs. And given my Christmas lighting, likely my bill will be higher than theirs!

But in terms of energy consumption, I am just a tiny pea. Think about what our manufacturing plants use every day. They need to start up a process, they need to heat, refrigerate, do something to make it a product, transport, do what they do best, all to make a product we can go to a retailer and buy. And sometimes that product was built a continent away from us and then it needed to be shipped to a Distribution Center, so it could end up on the shelf in front of me.

So lets talk for a bit about energy and manufacturing plants. Many estimates are that manufacturing plants consume better than 50% of the power that is produced today. Just as we, consumers, are presented with offers from our utility company to “time sequence” our usage, manufacturing companies get more. Doesn’t it make sense for them to get all the information they can? Read More »

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