Tuesday, July 10, 2007

10.5 Ways to Use Technology to Go Green

Awareness of the need to conserve energy is skyrocketing in response to higher gas prices, efforts from Al Gore and others, and the associated media frenzy. Residents are more cost-conscious and environmentally-aware than ever.

Using technology to go green will help you maximize your energy conservation efforts throughout your community.

This entails everything from creating an easy-to-use interface for commonly-used audio and video systems, to less obvious ways to help reduce residents' overall energy consumption, including integrating lighting and HVAC.

Here are some suggestions for communities that are starting the process of going green:

1. Install LED or compact fluorescent lights. Lower energy usage, markedly longer lamp life and low maintenance mean these innovative lighting categories are a win-win-win for you and your residents. Adding occupancy sensors will save even more.

2. Choose energy-efficient appliances and electronics components. Every little bit helps in terms of curbing energy costs and integrators can find components for their clients that are more energy-efficient than others by visiting the Consumer Electronics Association’s myGreenElectronics.com or the government’s EnergyStar.gov.

3. Recycle old computers and components. It probably doesn’t save you money, but environmentally-conscious residents will have peace of mind if you pledge to properly dispose of their old components.

If improperly disposed of or illegally dumped, “electronics can pose a serious risk to the environment,” according to myGreenElectronics.com. Share this site with your residents to help them find information on how and where to properly unload old equipment if you can't take on the burden yourself.

4. Smart irrigation. You don't need to water your green spaces if it just rained last night, yet many watering systems often operate uncontrollably. Install a system such as WeatherTRAK that monitors current weather conditions and only waters your lawn when plants actually need it. You'll conserve water, and reduce both your water bills and landscape maintenance costs.

5. Manage your energy use. Even though technology tends to involve multiple energy-guzzling components, new systems are available that allow you to conveniently monitor energy use with a main interface that controls all of your building’s electrical systems.

6. Use lighting control. Without control, lights run at 100% brightness, 100% of the time. With a lighting control system, you can program the majority of common area lights to run at lower brightness, controlling energy and saving lamp life.

7. Motorized shades. Managing the volume of sunlight entering a building will keep the HVAC equipment from running through the day and keep energy costs down.

8. Offer home control to your residents. Something as simple as making it easy for residents to turn off energy-guzzling components can make a difference. New home control systems are rapidly coming down in cost, making this a more viable option than ever before.

Provide very simple, convenient buttons such as “all on,” “all off” and “good night” on any kind of control interface in the clubhouse, fitness center and living units. Energy conservation through convenience is key.

9. Check the garage. Replace any fleet vehicles with energy-efficient alternatives, and offer residents a shared car service such as Zipcar.

10. Go solar. Installing renewable solar energy systems will reduce your utility costs and can even earn you energy credits from utility companies.

10.5. Pre-wire for solar. Maybe you're not sold on solar energy now, but you might be in a few years. Pre-wiring your community for solar today will make retrofits will be easier and less costly later.

Energy conservation is a growing trend, and it's good business, too. Use technology to go green, spread the word among residents and when marketing to new prospects, and your energy-saving ways will pay off many times over.

Have a great way you're using technology to go green? Leave us a message and tell us your favorite "green" technologies!

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