Hello! I’m Your Energy Manager

By Michael Denevan, Program Manager, Your Energy Manager
Senior Project Manager, SmartLights

If you’re someone who pays the utility bills at home, you may have learned to take simple measures (like turning the heat down or weatherstripping doors) to reduce your energy consumption. Many large commercial facilities have a full-time Energy Manager to oversee the building’s energy and HVAC systems. But what about smaller businesses who can’t afford to pay someone to take care of their energy system?

Beginning this month, CESC’s Your Energy Manager program can help small- and medium-sized businesses get a handle on the amount of energy they are using—and the amount they are paying for utilities.

To qualify, businesses must have an energy demand of less than 200 kilowatts of electricity, which is significant but not huge. As a comparison, most homes have a demand of about 4-6 kilowatts of electricity, and a small restaurant might need 10-15 kilowatts. After a successful pilot project that ended in August of last year, we’re relaunching the program now.

Our First Customer

We’re starting with a small business of a type that may be familiar to a lot of you–a motel. This El Cerrito-based business uses a fair amount of energy to light, heat, and cool motel rooms. After analyzing their current energy usage for lighting, we installed over 400 new energy-efficient bulbs, LED A-19 lamps for their rooms and exterior walkways. This single switch could save them 11,169 kwH per year. 

After examining usage for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), we also installed new wireless thermostats and controls for 30 PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) units. PTAC units are the all-in-one small heating and air conditioning units that you see under the window in motels and hotels. We installed occupancy/sleep sensor controls; these sophisticated controls work slightly differently from simple motion sensors. They sense when the room is occupied, even if the occupants are sleeping. These devices allow the PTAC units to turn off automatically when the room is not occupied, saving motels a lot of energy.


YEM provides a comprehensive solution for businesses that can go beyond rebates; it might include HVAC improvements and analysis of larger systems. For example, if we see that a business’s compressor is inefficient and needs a tune-up, but there’s not a rebate available for a new one, the program can still recommend maintenance or replacement and can project  the energy savings. YEM is a smart complement to CESC’s program SmartLights, which focuses on energy savings that can be achieved through measures that qualify for a rebate, typically lighting.

For YEM projects, CESC provides free auditing and consultation. The customer pays for parts and installation minus the rebate, which in some cases covers the entire cost. In those cases, CESC will enlist the SmartLights program to act as a project manager and provide quality assurance.

My Favorite Part of the Job

My favorite part of the job is interacting with customers, especially after the work has been done. I like seeing how the work has improved the business’s lighting and space, and of course I like the energy savings. At the beginning of the project, we give the client a rather abstract picture of what will happen: “This is what you will likely experience.” The actual results, which are so tangible, are very satisfying.

Saving Energy in Surprising Places

Something many small businesses can benefit from is maintenance of their rooftop air handling units. These units, as you might expect from their name, control the air that goes into and comes out of the building. Typically, the temperature of exhaust is closer to the desired temperature than the new air being pulled in (which is either too hot or too cold). A device on the unit called an economizer can help the system save energy by recirculating some of the ventilated air while maintaining enough fresh air for health needs. Yet on most systems the economizer breaks after just a few years, and the building occupants are not aware of this malfunction and the energy that is being wasted.

Through YEM, we can replace these economizers and install more advanced controls. It’s a chance to fix and enhance the system for a low cost, or sometimes no cost at all, if the measures qualify for rebates.

Do you know a business that might benefit from an analysis of their energy usage? Contact CESC’s Your Energy Manager program.


Get Ready for the Emergency Prep Fair!

By Lois Smith, Marketing and Outreach Manager

Want to learn how to stay safe when a power line comes down, or maybe just need a reminder on how to use your fire extinguisher? Looking for emergency rations for your car in case you’re driving when the Big One hits?

Look no further than the annual Berkeley Emergency Prep Fair taking place this Saturday, March 18th from 10–2 at LeConte Elementary School.

A joint effort of the Berkeley Fire Department and the City of Berkeley, the event takes place every spring in an effort to make sure East Bay residents are ready for an emergency of any kind. Community Energy Services, with its home repair programs focusing on safety, and its seismic safety program, will have a booth at the fair as well. Come by and say hi!

Lois and Evan at last year’s Emergency Prep Fair

As the City of Berkeley website explains,  “A city’s resilience is defined by the ability of the community to survive, adapt and thrive no matter what acute shock or chronic challenge it experiences.”

These challenges can take many forms, as my colleague Evan and I learned while staffing last year’s fair.

Safety can come in the form of making sure your pet has an up-to-date licence, preparing an emergency plan for you and your family, or attending a first aid training through Berkeley CERT. The fair even provides extras like free bike repairs, emergency supplies and activities for kids.

We hope to see you there! More information about this year’s fair can be found here.  

If you want to know more about Seismic Safety and how you can get help preparing,  Contact CESC.


The Hidden Hazard in the Home for Seniors

By Janet Stephens

The prospect of an older relative taking a serious fall can be a legitimate cause for worry. The CDC reports that each year, more than one out of four seniors falls (more than one in three, according to the National Institute on Aging), and one out of five falls causes a serious injury. More likely to fall than younger adults, seniors also have a more difficult time recovering from falls. Indeed, hip fractures set the stage for a whole host of activities detrimental to the senior’s health. It’s best to stay securely on one’s feet, and walk into the doctor’s office for regular check-ups!

Prevention is the best medicine: reduce fall hazards ahead of time.

What are possible causes of trips? According to the National Institute on Aging, common fall hazards include:

* a slick floor
* a poorly lit stairway
* loose rugs
* clutter on the floor or stairs
* carrying heavy or bulky things up or down stairs
* lack of stair railings
* lack of grab bars in the bathroom

Some of this information cuts close to home. My own mother fell in her home, ended up in the hospital, then moved to nursing facilities–and she never returned to her own home. The fall exacerbated her poor health and accelerated her death.

Until recently, my dad lived in a well-designed retirement home in Seattle, where it is evident that they’ve thought about all of these hazards. The floors are carpeted, everything is well lit, the common areas are uncluttered, there are well-situated elevators, the stairs all have sturdy railings, and there are grab bars and pull-cord alarms in every resident’s bathroom. Yet about one month ago, my dad took a fall in his apartment, hit his head, and ended up on the floor. Confusion meant that he didn’t pull the cord alarm, but instead walked down to the front desk. Now he’s in a skilled nursing facility trying to recover.

So I do wonder about those seniors who lack resources and don’t have family nearby to help them. Luckily, there’s CESC’s Home Repair Program, available to qualifying residents of Berkeley, unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County, and Oakland. It’s like having a handy son-in-law nearby—one with a day job in construction!

The CESC team begins by inspecting the home for safety. The team looks at the exterior, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and common living areas. In every area, the team is thinking about many different kinds of hazards, but especially about fall hazards. According to Gregory Clark, CESC’s Construction Services Manager, “Delayed maintenance and improper installation are the main culprits I’ve personally seen. Ragged carpet on stairs, hand railing mounts secured to nothing more than plaster or Sheetrock, bad lighting—the list is endless.”  

* Exterior
Is there a walkway, stair, or ramp? If so, are the steps in good condition, and are the risers even? Are there sturdy hand railings? Is there lighting for the stairs?

* Kitchen
Is the floor surface even and in good repair?

* Bathroom
Is the floor in good repair, and are any rugs adhered securely to the floor? Is there a grab bar in the shower? How about a non-skid surface?

* Bedroom
Is there adequate floor space for mobility, and is the floor space clear of hazards? Is the lighting from the bedroom to the bathroom adequate?

* Common living areas
Are there accumulated belongings blocking throughways? Do electrical cords pose a trip risk? Are interior stairs level, not slippery, and in good condition?

After CESC provides repairs, clients typically describe a sense of relief and of empowerment at the improved state of their homes. These repairs and education mean a greater sense of well-being that living in a safe and well-maintained home can provide. Here is what some clients from the Home Repair Program have to say:

“It feels good to know that you checked out all of my functions and brought me up to health and safety regulations. I just feel safer!”

“You made such a big difference on the comfort and safety that I feel now.”

“[CESC] put in something for us to hold onto as we go down the steps because we are slowly losing our balance. Because it’s easy to fall down at our age, we gotta be very careful. . . .I am hoping and praying that they continue to have this program. . . I recommend anyone that’s low-income to this service, because it’s very helpful.”  

Could you or someone you know benefit from this program? Contact CESC, or help us spread the word by sharing this blog.



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