Category Archives: Commercial Programs

Verde Elementary School Sees the Light

Energy Conservation Program Manager Julio Arroyo is always looking for ways to save energy for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. When Julio found an opportunity to implement a major lighting retrofit at Verde Elementary School with the help of the SmartLights Program, he knew taking the opportunity was the right decision.

Verde Elementary is a K-6 school in North Richmond situated on 8 acres of land, with an enrollment of about 320 students. On the school’s website, Principal Eric Acosta-Verprauskus describes the environment as “a collaborative network of thinkers focused on high achievement and embracing the whole child so that students grow academically and socially in a safe and positive environment to become college graduates, leaders, and lifelong learners.” CESC has collaborated in the past with Verde Elementary via the Family Sustainability Project. The school has been a destination of the Prescott-Joseph Center’s Breathmobile ®, which refers clients to our Healthy Homes Program.

Next it was time for CESC to help improve the school’s energy efficiency. The SmartLights Program performed a lighting assessment for the school and put together a detailed report outlining the projected cost, rebate and energy savings of the project, as well as the recommended lighting replacement measures. Contractors then came in and installed the lights to specifications, with the school receiving an up-front rebate to reduce the cost. Now, the school has replaced its fluorescent lights with new, energy-efficient lighting in its gym, classrooms, and library. The exterior and parking lot lighting was also replaced, a change which Julio explained “adds an element of safety for our maintenance staff that we didn’t have before.”

Julio Arroyo showing off new library lighting at Verde Elementary School

When you tour the newly lit school grounds, the impact of the bright, uniform lighting is immediately clear. Julio was particularly pleased with the new look of the library, which the lights show off to great effect.


Julio appreciated the instant rebates that SmartLights offered, which “allowed us to put more energy efficiency measures into place.” Thanks to the new, efficient lighting system, the school will now save an estimated $13,766 per year on its energy costs, a win for the district and a win for students.

Do you know of a school or business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Contact the SmartLights program!

Society of St Vincent de Paul Shines a New Light

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society's thrift store

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society’s thrift store

The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Pittsburg needed help last year with their building’s lighting. Dark corners and inconsistent exterior lighting compromised the facility’s safety, and the lighting inside had been replaced haphazardly over the years, making for a hodge-podge of different lighting types and color temperatures throughout the building.

“For us, lights equal safety,” Executive Director Melanie Anguay explained. With children on site in the daytime shelter, it was especially important to illuminate every dark corner in the building, and strong exterior lighting was needed to ensure that community members felt safe coming to the site for services. The on-site free health clinic also needed better lights for the healthcare professionals to do their work in.

When the Society added 400 square feet and needed to outfit the new space with energy-efficient lighting, they decided to take this opportunity to retrofit all of the center’s lights. Yet the Society needed help executing a large-scale lighting project. “We don’t have a facilities manager,” Melanie explained, “so things like this are hard to implement on our own.” CESC’s SmartLights program came to the rescue and helped the Society complete the project from start to finish, with a project manager to count the lights and suggest replacements and create a report to show the projected cost and energy savings.

Initially, Melanie was skeptical that the SmartLights program was for real. “It seemed too good to be true,” she explained. However, after exploring our website and reading stories of people we’ve helped, Melanie decided to move forward with the lighting project.

Melanie with St Vincent de Paul staff under the new lights

Once the project was approved, SmartLights replaced 121 fixtures with efficient LEDs, improving the facility’s lighting and saving the nonprofit over $300 a month on energy bills. SmartLights also provided a rebate to offset the cost.

Melanie was impressed with the contractor’s commitment to providing lighting that met the Society’s needs; he “helped us find the right lighting for our building,” she said. Melanie was also impressed with the HVAC services she received. “[The contractor] was professional and explained things clearly. I don’t have any HVAC experience, but thanks to [the contractor’s] explanation I was able to understand the purpose of the equipment. He even let me watch him install the controller. That was a fun learning experience that I’ve never had the opportunity to do in the past!” From a cost standpoint, Melanie was able to present the detailed, readable SmartLights report to her board with the return-on-investment figures, or ROI, right on the front page.

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Touring the St Vincent de Paul facilities, Melanie pointed out the many changes to their facility thanks to the new lights. The exterior of the building is now well lit, as are the medical examination rooms, the thrift store warehouse, the dining room, and the offices. “It’s nice to know that there are no dark corners,” she says. Melanie is happy she found us: “There are so few companies that provide this type of service. Your organization went above and beyond.”


Lighting up Marin County Schools

CESC’s SmartLights program has made its reputation helping small businesses reduce their energy use, but schools, like businesses, use energy and worry when energy bills rise too high.

CESC recently had the opportunity to reduce energy use at three schools in Marin County’s Ross Valley School District: White Hill Middle School and Manor Elementary School in Fairfax, and Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo.

ross-valley-schools-statsWhen Bret Joyner, Director of Maintenance and Operations for Ross Valley School District, saw new bright lights installed in Redwood High School’s gym (LED sport high bay fixtures), he knew he wanted those same lights for Manor Elementary School, one of the schools in his district right down the street from Redwood High. Bret had looked into upgrading to LED lights several years ago, but wasn’t able to move forward with the project because the new lights were just too expensive. This time, though, he found the price of LEDs had come down significantly. Thanks to rebates from the SmartLights program, the project was even more affordable.

white-hill-gym-lightsThe retrofit at Manor Elementary, completed with the help of a rebate through SmartLights, was a success. Before the upgrade, Bret said,“People had been playing basketball in the dark—and the lights were on!” Thanks to the improved lighting, the school’s young athletes can see the court like never before. The new linear LED high bay lights are covered with a metal guard to protect against errant basketballs. The low-wattage lights are also saving the school approximately $1,000 a year. The change, Bret says, was immediately noticeable: “It was an amazing difference.”

Hidden Valley Elementary School’s gym is also looking brighter and saving energy thanks to the SmartLights program. The gym originally had metal halide lamps. SmartLights upgraded the lighting to low-wattage tubular LEDs (or TLEDs) on individual motion sensors which turn on only when the space is in use.

Joyner explained that this change means huge energy savings: before the retrofit, the lights were left on a lot, sometimes from 7 in the morning till 10 at night. Now, they are on about four hours a day, based on actual use. Bret notes that the gym also looks much brighter with the new lights: “It’s a significant difference.”

white-hill-hallwayAt White Hill Middle School, SmartLights changed out fluorescent lights with new, low-wattage TLED and LED Stairwell Radial lights. The school will be saving over $7,000 a year with its SmartLights retrofit. Classrooms are now well-lit, and school safety has also improved thanks to sensor-controlled LED lighting in outdoor hallways.

As a result of his positive experience working with the SmartLights program, Bret plans to retrofit the entire lighting system at all the schools he oversees.

Do you know of a school or business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Tell them about CESC’s SmartLights program!

Net Zero Commutes

By Janet Stephens

md-commute-blogYou may remember that last week, CESC employees, Dashile and Rianto, told me about the energy-efficiency of their commutes and the joy of going electric. This week, I interviewed two employees with a slightly different take on commuting without polluting.

By day, SmartLights Senior Project Manager Michael Denevan saves energy by helping businesses install energy-efficient LED lighting. By morning and evening, he saves energy during his commute. Michael has a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. His car isn’t a plug-in hybrid; he can’t charge an electric battery and drive without using the gasoline engine. But the electric motor does assist the small gas motor with acceleration, leading to an enviable fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon. The battery is recharged when he slows down using the engine, which provides extra braking power. His car also has a stick shift, making it a bit unusual for a hybrid car.

Michael told me that he doesn’t use his car much for commuting from San Francisco. Instead, he leaves the car near the office in Berkeley and uses it for business errands and meetings.

So how does he get to work? Michael almost always comes to Berkeley by BART and bike. He’s got a bike trip of a few miles on either end of the BART ride. Since CESC reports how many pounds of CO2 their projects save, I was curious how many pounds of CO2 Michael is saving with his alternative commuting method. Although I knew I could convert gasoline used to CO2 emitted, I wondered how I would find out about BART emissions. I found a great CO2 calculator on BART’s web site. If we use the fantastic fuel economy of his Civic Hybrid, he’s keeping about 10 lbs. per day and about 50 lbs. per week out of the atmosphere. But what if he drove a more typical car? A typical car in the U.S. gets 21.6 mpg (an average from the EPA). According to the BART calculator, that means Michael is keeping about 22 lbs. of CO2 out of the atmosphere every day, or over 100 lbs. every week. Way to go, Michael!

Michael has been interested in energy efficiency since college, where he studied Energy Management and Design within an Environmental Studies major. He considers saving energy one of his passions. He bikes almost everywhere, but it’s not just to save energy. Michael told me that “Biking is a pleasure and a joy! Lucky me that I get to do it for my commute.” His ultimate goal is what he calls a “net zero” commute. The term “net zero” refers to buildings, which can use but also generate their own energy; the term “carbon-neutral” would typically be used for a car that uses fuel that does not add more carbon dioxide to the air than the creation of the fuel removes. If money were no object, he’d drive a Tesla or a Golf TDI that uses biodiesel (this is the car that could be carbon-neutral, since it runs on fuel derived from plants rather than from fossil fuels).

ls-commute-blogI also spoke to CESC Marketing & Outreach Manager Lois Smith. Lois is lucky enough to live pretty close to CESC. She lives in Berkeley about a mile away from the office. She’s lucky because often she can walk to work, which she enjoys a lot. On her twenty-minute walk, she told me, “It’s really nice because I get to notice what’s around me–the trees, nature, houses, and gardens. It really changes the quality of my commute. I don’t notice those things when driving or biking. It forces me to slow down.” When she’s in a hurry, Lois bikes to work, and if she has an outreach event to attend, she sometimes drives her car. CESC has a handful of bike commuters. It has a bike rack near its front entrance; I’ve often seen 4-5 bikes hanging there.

Using the formula I got from the BART calculator, I figured out that Lois keeps about 10 lbs. of CO2 per week out of the atmosphere by walking or biking instead of driving an average car to work. By living near her office instead of across the Bay, you might say that she’s saving even more.

But we’re not all lucky enough to live near where we work. In fact, before working at CESC, Lois commuted to a job in San Francisco. Cutting down the commute cut down more than her carbon footprint; the switch put at least one additional hour in her day.

Have you considered the impact of your actions on the environment? Have you considered biking or taking BART instead of driving? Carpooling? Turning down the thermostat a few degrees? Getting an energy audit on your home? California has ambitious carbon reduction goals and is leading the way in this country towards energy efficiency. Will you be part of the solution?  Sign up for CESC’s Newsletter to learn more!

Energy-efficient Commutes: Walking the Talk at CESC

By Janet Stephens

Many people at Community Energy Services Corporation, or CESC, as you might know us, spend a lot of their day thinking about how to conserve energy. If they’re not doing it for the people they serve in their job, such as small business owners or low-income residents, they’re doing it in the office. I’ve attended many a meeting there in a semi-dark conference room; they’re reluctant to turn on even their highly efficient lighting for a daytime meeting.

dashile-ev-600x800So  it’s not a big surprise that many employees have paid close attention to the energy-efficiency of their commutes.”How much energy can I save?” seems to be a question on everybody’s minds.

I was pretty excited to speak to a few of these folks two weeks ago, since I’m interested in an all-electric car myself and I knew that a few employees have electric or hybrid vehicles.

First I spoke to Business Development Manager Dashile Miguele. Dashile spends his days reaching out to potential SmartLights customers, that is, to businesses that might be interested in improving the energy efficiency of the lighting in their places of business. Dashile has a sizable commute in each direction, so coming to work and returning home he’s working on his own energy efficiency.

Dashile drives a 2013 Chevy Volt Hybrid, which he bought used in 2015. He told me that when he was young he wanted to go fast but that now his priority is going far. The total range of the Chevy Volt, including the gas engine’s energy, is 340 miles. The car is a plug-in hybrid; it has an electric motor that runs off a battery, which you charge by plugging in. It also has an internal combustion engine, to use when the battery runs out of energy, which means that he also has to put gas in the car. With the battery fully charged, his car can go 40 miles using the electric motor. After the battery is depleted, the gas engine kicks in. Since his round-trip commute is 40 miles, Dashile can go to and from work without using a drop of gas.

What he loves most about his plug-in hybrid, though, is the immediate feedback it gives him through a dashboard indicator (see the photo montage) on the efficiency of his driving. “As with energy audits, driving a hybrid puts you in the frame of mind of micromanaging energy.” It’s changed how he drives, he told me. “It’s a test every day.”  

For example, he has learned that there are adjustments he can make as he drives to increase his efficiency. In stop-and-go traffic, he downshifts to low. He doesn’t come to a jolting stop but instead slows down gradually. Instead of always driving 75-80 miles per hour, he keeps it at a cool 65-70 miles per hour, which is the sweet spot for his car. “We should turn our attention to energy conservation. We should not take energy for granted. America’s call to arms is global warming.”  Doing what he calls his fair share to get us to a new energy source, Dashile has installed a 4.5 KW solar system on his home, so when he charges his car at home, he’s using clean, locally produced energy.

Dashile says that with the array of current electric vehicles and the choices that will be available to consumers in the next few years, this is the era of going electric.

rianto-evI also spoke to Business Development Manager Rianto Lie, who drives a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius. Rianto freely admits that his main motivation behind the purchase was the HOV access green sticker that the low-emission vehicle allowed him to obtain. He lives in Martinez, and access to the carpool lane saves him a lot of time. Although California had stopped issuing the green stickers as planned after the first 40,000, it has now extended this limit many times.

The 4.4 kWh battery in Rianto’s car holds 12 miles of charge. After that range, the gas engine kicks in, and the car behaves like a regular Prius. As is the case with the Volt, the gas engine does not charge the battery. Rianto plugs in about 10 times a week to recharge the battery, including at work. He does get really good mileage, though, more than 50 mpg, thanks to the powertrain that can run the electric motor, which accelerates more efficiently in city traffic than a gas-powered motor.

Dashile and Rianto both mentioned the federal tax credit and state rebate, which make it easier to invest in a new electric car. The fate of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project was uncertain for a while, as the legislature debated extending it, but  $133 million was allocated to the program on August 31. Take note, however, about a warning on the program’s web site: “Apply . . . before rebate funds are exhausted.” The federal tax credit can go as high as $7,500, but will be on a slow phaseout out after 200,000 electric vehicles have been sold in the U.S.

Looking for an electric vehicle in the San Francisco Bay Area? you can take advantage of a program called Bay Area Sun Shares, which has partnered with auto dealers to offer extra discounts on the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Both of these vehicles qualify for an HOV access white sticker reserved for pure-electric cars, which have no tailpipe and zero emissions.

I spoke to a few other CESC staff members. Look for what I learned from these energy-conscious staff people next week, in part two of this blog.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can conserve energy?  Contact us for a home energy audit at 888.436.3751 or Jennifer @

Oakland’s Very Grand Lighting

grand-lake-blog-picOakland’s Grand Lake Theatre has been a showcase since the 1920s, but in recent years, it hasn’t shone quite a brightly as it used to. The ambiance of the beautiful old theatre was lost or hidden; the theatre kept many of its decorative lights off except on weekends because the energy costs of lighting were so high. That is, until now.

Grand Lake Theatre has a long history. March 6, 1926 marked its grand opening as a vaudeville show and silent movie house. In 1928, it became part of the Fox Theatre chain. Vaudeville shows were discontinued after talking pictures (known as ‘talkies’) became popular. In 1980, Allen Michaan, owner of Renaissance Rialto, Inc. purchased the lease, opening the theatre as a single-screen movie palace and beginning a process of restoration and upgrades that continues to this day.

Office Manager Audrey Marr has been very happy to see the Grand Lake Theatre finally undergo a much-needed lighting makeover. SmartLights, CESC’s energy-efficiency program for small businesses, originally approached the Grand Lake Theatre in 2008 with the possibility of a lighting upgrade, but the cost and lighting technology didn’t yield enough savings, and the theatre declined.

soffit-lightsWith new LED technology, however, the theatre moved forward with a SmartLights project to restore its ambiance through improved and more efficient lighting.

The first phase of the upgrade was to replace the “front-entrance soffits,” the many multi-colored lights under the overhang at the entrance. SmartLights replaced the old-fashioned bulbs with cold cathode fluorescent lamps (which are ideal for use on theatre marquees).

The second phase of the upgrade was to replace the lights that create the orange glow wreathing the proscenium area of each screening room. With over 1000 LEDs from SmartLights, the theatre now glows as in days of old.

grand-lake-numbersThe theatre will see many additional benefits of the project, including lower maintenance costs, lower impact on the interior paint from the low-heat output of LEDs, and the tremendous energy and cost savings, estimated at $19,000 each year from the energy-efficient lights.

There’s more: before the upgrade, the Grand Lake rented scaffolding every few years to change the old lights. This expense will no longer be needed, as Audrey anticipates the new LEDs should last as long as their lease.

proscenium-lights“Our theatre has the ambiance it used to again. It’s those little touches that make all the difference in an antique theatre,” says Marr.

Come down and see why this is the ‘Best Place to See a Movie’ in the East Bay! The ‘Grand’ is back in the Grand Lake Theatre!

Do you work for or own a small business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Contact the SmartLights program for more information.



Charged Up—Almost—About Tesla Batteries

By Martin Bond, CESC Executive Director


There is something about shiny new toys with a T on them. A Tesla Model X car would be awesome! But it is expensive, and not as practical as my minivan.

However, now I can dream about something a bit more practical from Tesla. The company is selling a residential battery, PowerWall, a rechargeable lithium ion battery which can be purchased as part of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. I can see it now—my home off the grid—Taking Back the Power!

Saving money, independence from the local utility and, during a blackout, my house will be the only one in the neighborhood with power! A great dream. Are we there yet?

pv-graphWhat are Tesla batteries?

Tesla’s $3,000 PowerWall is a battery that recharges using electricity generated by solar panels during the day, or through utility power during off-peak rate periods, and then provides power when the sun goes down, or when utility rates are high. The 6.4 kWh PowerWall is designed for home use and to cycle (charge up, and then expend its energy) daily. The kWh rating is the maximum amount of energy it can store, the same way that a 5-gallon bucket holds a maximum of 5 gallons of water. Ninety-two percent efficient, the PowerWall can supply approx 0.9 kW of power to your home for about 6 hours. This means that it can supply about 5.4 kWh per charge (not 6.4 kwH). As a comparison, the average U.S. home uses almost 30 kWh per day, according to the US DOE.

Breaking the costs down

The purpose of a battery is to store energy to be used at a different time than it is generated. The PowerWall is designed to cycle daily and is warrantied for 5,000 cycles. Doing the math–taking the price of equipment, installation, StorEdge inverter, taxes and other fees, divided by the energy– over its lifetime, the battery will expend about 30,000 kWh of electric energy at a cost of $0.135/ kWh. This is just the cost of battery storage and doesn’t include the cost of installing solar panels or purchasing energy from a utility.

Is solar PV worth it?!

The approximate cost of solar depends on the size of the system along with installation and permit costs. But here’s a ballpark figure: SolarCity, who is partnering to offer Tesla batteries, sells energy generated from a PV it installs on a client’s roof (and continues to own) at a guaranteed price of  $0.15/ kWh. I buy electricity from the utility and pay $0.18 before fees, yet my price can go up to $0.40/kWh if I am a heavy user. If I installed solar  along with battery back up, the total cost to purchase, store and use the electricity would $0.28/kWh. That is pretty expensive.

Such a setup could make sense for a high electric user, or someone who uses a lot of electricity during the most expensive peak periods. Not for me, an energy efficiency geek who hesitates to turn even my LED lights on. So these batteries will not help me save money.

Independence from the grid

Can I still cancel my utility bill and those many fees, and go OFF Grid? Maybe not, as most residential solar PV systems are still connected to the electrical grid. And I have have gas appliances, so I still need natural gas service. I could replace all my natural gas appliances, (water heater, furnace, dryer, stove) with electrical appliances, though at significant costs.

The most challenging issue I would have is the need for more than one PowerWall; I would probably need two or even three. Even though my use might average approximately 0.6 kW at any one time, I would need to have the available energy for my peak demand, which might go much higher, and in the winter, I would need power throughout the 14-hour night (not for only 6 hours). When the AC is going, lights and TVs are on, and my family is using computers, tablets, etc., the household could be using up to 1.5 kW of electricity at a given moment.

My utility bill is not going away any time soon.

Emergency power

One of the misconceptions of most solar PV systems is that they stay on during blackouts.

Short answer: they don’t.

Grid-tied solar systems turn off during blackouts so that solar-generated power does not rush through the grid uncontrolled and cause damage to the wires. Tesla PowerWall advertises that it can supply power during a blackout, but this is an optional feature that costs extra. A secondary electrical panel must be installed and wired to  the critical appliances and outlets I want to back up. The backup system could almost double the cost of the battery itself, with its complex installation.

So my dream might not be possible today. Soon, though, multiple homes and businesses will be connected, each with a small solar PV system and a small battery. With large energy production and storage capabilities, such microgrids will allow small communities to substantially reduce their utility costs, or go off the grid completely. These microgrids are the future of energy in this country.

If you want to learn more about the solar potential of your home, check out CESC’s SmartSolar program!

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Solar For All!

By Lois Smith, CESC Marketing & Outreach Manager

keep-calm-and-go-solarAs a steering committee member of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition, I feel lucky to be in the know about all the latest goings-on in the world of Bay Area energy efficiency.

On October 5, the Coalition is hosting a Solar For All workshop at the South Berkeley Library. The event aims to educate the Bay Area public about the many solar resources available through programs like Bay Area SunShares. If you’re looking for discounts on solar or zero emissions vehicles, there is probably something for you here. Renters have options, too!

Rebecca Milliken, Climate Action Coordinator for Berkeley’s Ecology Center, is one of the people making this event possible. Among her many contributions there, Rebecca convenes and facilitates Berkeley Climate Action Coalition and Steering Committee meetings. She also supports the Coalition’s working groups and engages Coalition members in advocacy efforts on local and state issues.

Rebecca chatted with me recently about what Bay Area residents can expect from the upcoming workshop:

LS: What are you looking forward to sharing with the Bay Area community at this workshop?

RM: If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, this is a great time to “go solar.”  At this meeting, we’ll try to demystify the various pathways to go solar or 100% renewable. There are options for both renters and homeowners to produce or buy renewable energy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Our guest presenters will talk about many of these options. They include bulk-purchasing discounts through Bay Area SunShares, options for renters, a special program for qualifying low-income homeowners through GRID Alternatives, the 30% federal tax credit, and various financing options.

We’ll also talk about SunShares discounts for zero-emission vehicles, with the vehicle dealerships on hand to answer your questions.


LS: What are some additional resources you’d recommend to anyone who wants to know more?

RM: If you are considering an electric vehicle, definitely check out the Ecology Center’s Drive Electric on a Budget blog post.

If you can’t attend the Oct 5 meeting, subscribe to the Ecology Center’s EcoCalendar for more solar workshops in the East Bay. Doug McKenzie, one of the speakers at the Oct 5 Convening, will present again at the free Solar Simplified workshop in El Cerrito on Oct 20.

If you are a low-energy footprint household, you may have discovered that solar power doesn’t make sense financially–you’ll never generate enough energy savings to pay for the cost of the installation. If that’s the case, check out the nonprofit SunWork Renewable Energy Projects, which has recently expanded to the East Bay. With the help of trained volunteers, SunWork offers low-cost installations to homes with modest energy use and also works with small nonprofits.  You can also attend free SunWork volunteer trainings to participate in installations throughout the Bay Area.


CESC also has a solar resource you’ll want to check out: the SmartSolar program. Estimate your savings, learn about the cost benefit of going solar, and compare online quotes.

See you at the workshop on Oct 5th!

Saving Energy from the Ground Up


Mimi Abraham shows off their repaired geothermal system

Mimi Abraham shows off their repaired geothermal system

Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El installed one of the first geothermal systems as part of their efforts to protect the environment through reduced energy use. Geothermal heating and cooling systems take advantage of the stable temperature underground using a looped piping system. Water circulates in the loop to exchange heat between the building, the ground source heat pump, and the earth, providing geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water. Beth El’s utility costs had been increasing each year, and they sought help from CESC’s Your Energy Manager program to better understand and manage their complex energy systems.

Congregation Beth El was founded during the 1940’s as a Reform Jewish Congregation. Berkeley’s Jewish community expanded dramatically after World War II with an influx of European immigrants. The original Temple Beth El was built in 1951, and they moved to their current location in 2005.

Your Energy Manager (YEM) provides cost-benefit analysis on energy and water efficiency upgrades including incentives and financing options, a loading order of projects based on cost effectiveness, and operational modifications: all with the goal to drive utility costs as low as they can go. Additionally, the Energy Manager trains employees to further drive operational changes. Beth El staff worked with YEM program manager Henry McElvery to help the facility effectively control its energy use. “We were in the dark,” explained Mimi Abraham, Communications and Operations Manager. “Henry explained to us what repairs were crucial to saving energy.”

Henry identified several low-cost and no-cost items that significantly impacted the building’s energy use. He discovered that the geothermal system ground loop pump was operating at full speed continuously all day, every day; this constant cycle was wasting large amounts of energy. Henry negotiated on behalf of Beth El with the geothermal installation contractor to fix the issue and to perform other deferred maintenance at no additional cost. Additionally, Henry was able to repair a frozen HVAC unit that had been slated to be replaced, providing a savings of over $6,000.

All told, with repaired equipment, re-programmed thermostats, and other measures reducing energy usage throughout the facility, Congregation Beth El is saving about $1,000 per month on  energy bills.

“We feel indebted to Henry for everything he did for us,” says Mimi. “He really went above and beyond to help us understand and manage our system.” The YEM program took the time to explain what was being done and trained Beth El’s operations staff, enabling them to identify issues and keep their system working properly in order to continue saving energy.

The Beth El Operations Team ready to take on the next challenge in energy efficiency

The Beth El Operations Team ready to take on the next challenge in energy efficiency


Again, I can’t express enough my appreciation [of]…how incredibly valuable you and your program are to those of us out here who are otherwise at the mercy of vendors who clearly are not interested in either serving their customers OR saving energy.

— Jim, Interim Executive Director
Does your business need to reduce energy use, water use, and engage your employees? Do you have a sustainability plan but no one to implement it? Are you still developing a plan, or do you even know where to start? Your Energy Manager program can help. Give us a call!

Meyer Sound Saves Energy


Gary Robinson poses with Meyer Sound's retrofitted rooftop unit

Gary Robinson poses with Meyer Sound’s retrofitted rooftop unit

Meyer Sound Laboratories has been a leader in audio and recording equipment since its founding in the 1970s.  Meyer Sound has many patents, and has pioneered many technologies which are now standard in the audio industry. With the help of CESC’s Your Energy Manager Program, Meyer Sound is also leading the way in energy efficiency for their buildings! After participating in a local sustainability group for businesses, Gary Robinson, Director of Operations at Meyer Sound, found out that the first thing he needed to do was upgrade his HVAC system. After being connected with CESC’s Your Energy Manager Program, Gary found out that there were PG&E rebates available for 10-ton units. They installed advanced digital economizers on the RTU: “We tried it on one, and we liked it, so we put it on two more. We have three total now.”

Most small to mid-sized commercial buildings use packaged rooftop units (RTU) to provide their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). An air-side economizer is an air ducting arrangement that includes dampers, linkages or gears and an automatic control system to allow the RTU to supply outside air to the inside of a building for ventilation purposes. When outside air conditions are cool enough, economizers reduce or eliminate the need for energy-intensive mechanical cooling. This is often referred to as “free cooling” in the HVAC industry. The San Francisco Bay Area climate has many hours throughout the year of fog-cooled air that systems can take advantage of.

Performing upgrades on Meyer Sound's RTU

Performing upgrades on Meyer Sound’s rooftop unit

Unfortunately most economizers on commercial HVAC units do not work, or are set incorrectly! A recent Public Interest Energy Research Program report on RTUs shows a high rate of failure, finding 64% of units had malfunctioning economizers. The economizer is one of the most often neglected components in an HVAC rooftop unit. It can be broken, with the damper stuck open or closed, and the building owner would typically never know.

CESC’s Your Energy Manager (YEM) program is working with small- and medium-sized businesses to control their economizers more efficiently, make sure they are operating properly, and install advanced technologies to reap continued energy savings.

The YEM program is installing advanced digital economizer controls (ADEC), which can detect and report problems with sensors, dampers and other components. Installing an ADEC is like giving an economizer a bigger, better brain. They save energy by allowing the economizer to be more precise, making the fullest use of cool, fresh outdoor air to help cool the air inside.

A newly installed Advanced Digital Economizer Controller (ADEC)

A newly installed Advanced Digital Economizer Controller (ADEC)

Committed to making Meyer Sound’s facilities as sustainable as possible, Gary is pleased with the project: “I’ve had good results.” Gary also remarked that the YEM program’s expertise was useful, and that now his crew better understands their HVAC system: ”He also trained my guys to do it, so next time, we can do it ourselves.”

Does your business need to reduce energy use, water use, and engage your employees? Does your heating or air conditioning unit need some attention?  Your Energy Manager program has the expertise to help you with a free assessment.  Give us a call!