Overview: Apply engineering design thinking principles to reduce home energy use. You will a) design and implement an energy conservation plan, and b) test and possibly refine your plan over a two-week period. Participating students will be eligible to win a variety of prizes! All written work will be submitted electronically on Canvas.
Note: If you live on campus, please do not create an online PG&E account for your dorm address. You can act as an energy consultant for a family member or friend. This also applies to students who live off campus but can’t directly access their own energy usage data.
Part 1: Access to Energy Data (25% of grade)
Summary: Students will A) get access to energy usage data, B) log into the energy tracker and C) record data and analyze their energy use over the past two weeks (baseline period).
A) Access your smart meter data
- Log into your PG&E (or applicable) account online. If you use PG&E: go to https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/home.page and sign in. If you don’t have an account, you can register.
- Click on “Energy Usage Details.” You will see icons for electricity and natural gas usage. Select “Bill View” after clicking each of these icons. You should now be able to find your daily energy data for electricity and natural gas. If you don’t use natural gas, that’s okay!
B) Log into the Energy Tracker
- Register for the Green Ninja Energy Tracker: https://energytracker.greenninja.org/
- When you have registered, log in and add the following class code: 463257
- Using the data from your PG&E account, enter all the daily electricity and natural gas data available so far.
C) Analyze your energy data at the end of the two-week period. What is the range of values for daily electricity and natural gas usage? What is the average amount used per day? Point out any interesting trends. For example, is more energy used on the weekend than weekdays? Are there any sudden spikes or drop-offs in energy usage? Explain the possible reasons for your findings.
To Submit: In 200-250 words, summarize the analysis of daily electricity and natural gas usage data over the period of Thursday, April 13th, 2023, to Wednesday, April 26th, 2023. Provide a screenshot of the online PG&E graph showing daily electricity and natural gas usage over the baseline period. This part of the project is due on Monday, May 1st, 2023 at 11:59 P.M.
Part 2: Energy Conservation Design (25% of grade)
Summary: Develop an energy conservation design that reduces home electricity and natural gas usage for two weeks, from Thursday, April 27th, 2023 to Wednesday, May 10th, 2023.
A) Watch a Green Ninja video (3 minutes) about home energy conservation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeYOZgbgG1Q
B) Develop a problem statement that you are trying to solve. What is the problem you are trying to address?
C) Brainstorm to develop a list of possible solutions. First, think about the rooms in your house/apartment and evaluate energy usage in each room. Where can you make energy savings? Start with the obvious (e.g., changing light bulbs from incandescent or halogen to LED, unplugging electronics when not in use) but broaden to include changing the design of your home (e.g., how and when people cook or watch TV). Then, think about the tradeoffs for each. For a list of ways to reduce energy usage, see the “Energy Saving Tips” tab under “Save Energy & Money” on your PG&E account.
D) Develop a plan for how you will save energy in your home. In the description of your plan, estimate how much electricity, natural gas, and emissions (in units of kWh, Therms, and lbs of CO2, respectively) you expect to save over the 2-week period with these reductions. Take into account your energy usage over the baseline period. Note that 0.524 lbs of CO2 are emitted per kWh of electricity used, with 13.446 lbs of CO2 emitted per Therm of natural gas used.
To Submit: Describe your Energy Conservation Design (B, C, and D) in 250-300 words. This part of the project is due on Monday, May 1st, 2023 at 11:59 P.M.
Part 3: Reflection and Recommendations (50% of grade)
Summary: Students will A) analyze energy data during the energy conservation phase and compare this with the baseline period; B) revise their energy conservation design in response to data and intended results; and C) reflect on the experience.
A) Analyze your and the class’ data during the conservation period, using the following criteria.
- What was your average electricity and natural gas energy use for the baseline period compared to the conservation period? Explain the changes observed (how much electricity, natural gas, and CO2 emissions were saved), and why you did or did not achieve your designed goal.
- Summarize the classroom energy use, comparing baseline with conservation period data. How large of a reduction in electricity and natural gas usage was there for our class? What about CO2 emissions? Who were the 5 biggest energy savers?
- How does your energy use compare with the average in Santa Clara County? The average home in Santa Clara County uses 540 kWh of electricity per month, or 18 kWh per day. The average home uses 45 therms of natural gas per month, (60 therms in winter and 24 therms in summer) or 1.5 Therms per day. Is your home above or below the average, and why do you think this might be?
B) Revision of Energy Conservation Design. Based on your data analysis and what you have learned, how would you revise your design in the future to produce further energy and carbon savings? Justify your suggested changes.
C) Reflection. Explain what you learned from participating in the contest. How easy or hard was it to make the changes for yourself and your household? Do you think some of the changes you made could become permanent? Do you think it would be easy or challenging for others to make similar changes? How could the city of San José encourage energy conservation in households?
To Submit: In 600-900 words total, provide your responses to A, B, and C. Include a screenshot of the online PG&E graph showing electricity and natural gas daily usage over the entire four-week period (baseline and conservation).
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