1661881429555 Keepitsimpleps2

Keep it simple! Technology is only a tool; people are the key

Feb. 17, 2014

If you want people to understand and use tools to actually Improve Energy Efficiency and Cut Costs over the long term, then keep them as simple and reliable as possible!

Watson: Most of what I learned in engineering school was pretty complicated. Now you are telling me simpler is better?

Holmes: Let me give you an example from “Brimstone”(1), a thriller by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child that I read recently. It included a description of an old Remington bolt-action rifle, “The weapon was an old design, but Vasquez was not interested in the latest frills or gimmicks: what mattered to him was simplicity, accuracy, and reliability.” A paid assassin, all Vasquez cared about was results, and he had a $2 million incentive from the person who hired him.

For many years our only fee was a share of actual, documented savings, so like Vasquez and the person who hired him, we had the same incentive as the owner who hired us, to produce results, to save money. We wanted to assassinate energy waste and knew that we didn’t need the latest frills or gimmicks. All we cared about were the best results with the fewest problems.

Watson: So what you are telling me is the latest technology doesn’t always translate to a better solution?

Holmes: I had a boss in the Air Force, a good ol’ Georgia farm boy who had a lot of folksy sayings based on common sense. One of them was, “You damn engineers, you measure it with a micrometer, mark it with a piece of chalk and cut it with an axe.” He had a good point; many engineers have a talent for coming up with complex solutions for simple problems. Ever hear of the Rube Goldberg Competition at Purdue University? Read more about it ...

As Wayne Turner, the editor of the AEE Journal said in the 6/17/11 Issue, “I have seen numerous reports of companies that put in sophisticated equipment, save energy for a while, and then years or months later find they are worse off than before…At least when they have to turn it on and off, some control occurs. If automation goes haywire, that is often not caught and corrected for years, if ever…When I started in energy management some years ago…we emphasized the people side, but in recent years that has taken back stage except for a few very successful programs.”

When I started spending most of my time in buildings instead of engineering offices Watson, I quickly learned what Wayne and other successful energy managers know, the key to success is the “the people side”. Since that time I have been emphasizing it in every way I can; presentations, papers, articles, case studies, Webinars and more; The AEE Journal published an article I wrote back in 1995, nearly 20 years ago titled, “Reducing Utility Costs is Primarily a People Problem; Technology is Only a Tool”.  Read the Article ...

Holmes: Just keep things as simple as possible Watson and everyone will be better off.

Watson: But if I provide a simple solution instead of a complex, expensive one, won’t that mean I will have to lower my fees?

Holmes: Very perceptive of you to see the dilemma, Watson. What’s best for the owner is not always what’s best for the Energy Professional. The owner wants to save money from solutions that reduce energy costs while the consultant’s first priority is to make enough money from selling solutions, products and services, to stay in business. Saving energy often takes a back seat.

Tell us about your experiences, both good and bad with energy professionals, what has worked and what hasn’t. Send us your comments, thoughts and suggestions on how to improve our profession so we can all continue to learn from each other. Thanks – Holmes & Watson.

(1) Preston,Douglas & Childs, Lincoln, Brimstone, Warner Vision Books, New York, NY, 2005, p 268.

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