By Janis Mork
July 10, 2012 (San Diego)- ECM toured SDG&E’s new Energy Innovation Center at Clairemont Mesa, designed to be a demonstration facility and educational center, led by supervisor Ellery Stahler. We found an array of creative ideas and cool technologies that you can utilize to save energy and conserve resources in your home and garden.
During the Smart Home kitchen tour, she presented some low cost to no cost basic options, including CFL bulbs, a digital thermostat that can record the temperature of your dishwasher and refrigerator if it is too hot or too cold. Stahler recommended that since East County residents use their air conditioning (A/C) a lot during the summer, residents should get their A/C tuned up by going to the website www.acqualitycare.com for more information.
She also showed ‘smart strips’ that one can plug all electronics in, such as I-Pads, videogames/X box, or cell phone--and it saves you from taking the ‘vampire breath’ (in other words, wasting energy) out.
Another innovation is liquid crystal privacy glass, which uses electrical currents to turn it on and it actually lets daylight pass through clearly, showing what looks like the view from outside.
In the garage, there is a level-two car charger, which is designed to charge your car in six to eight hours. A tankless water heater next to the car charger saves fuel by heating water only when you turn it on; this type of heater is ideal for those who vacation a lot.
Out in the hallway, Stahler proudly pointed out that the carpet was made from recycled tires. In fact, this center is all about recycling and reusing as one can see from the clearly marked trash bins throughout. A hallway exhibit across from the kitchen enables you to learn about the difference between CFL (compact fluorescent), LED (light-emitting diode), and incandescent bulbs--and shows you which bulb a gemstone shines brightest under when illuminated.
Next came a seminar classroom. As you look up at the ceiling, you can see a huge bright light shining brightly, filling the whole room when all of them are turned on. These save a lot less energy than those regular rectangular lights usually present in buildings and school classrooms.
In the kitchen, you’ll find food service demonstrations. Restaurants can actually try out the new equipment with the dishwasher, ice machine, and stovetop and they can create their masterpieces there. Adjacent to the kitchen is a seminar classroom with a cooking stage, so the chefs at the center can demonstrate the new equipment and cook food.
Last up was the produce demonstration garden with ‘wooly pockets.’ These can be easily attached to a chain link fence, and hold the plants and produce comfortably. There were also many different plants including fruits such as peaches growing. Stahler mentioned that this garden was installed by Urban Corps of San Diego, which helps teach students master gardening skills.
Speaking of teaching, Stahler told ECM how community, nonprofit, and school organizations can have an event related to the center’s purpose free of charge.
Here is a Q & A done with Stahler and assisted by Erin Koch, Communications Manager of Media and Employee Communications:
How long did the center take to construct? When did construction start? Whose idea was it?
Ellery:“Yes, I do know when construction started. It started in December 2010 and then there was a community open house in January 2012 when it was officially open to the public. No one person came up with the idea. Many other companies had innovation centers, and SDG&E didn’t have one of its own.”
Erin: “I think also it would meet a community need; everyone had questions about this.”
What is the number one way people can to save to conserve energy, and why?
Ellery: “I think, as a homeowner, you use the air conditioner up more, so you should make sure it’s properly tuned up (72 degrees on average, 78 degrees in the summer), but it’s all about your comfort.”
Erin: So, the air conditioner uses up the most energy. If used less, you save energy and money.”
Ellery: I think also, some homeowners have a second, old refrigerator in their garage too. SDG&E has a recycling program, where if you call them, they can pick up your second refrigerator and recycle it.”
Single family homeowners can now also earn up to $4,000 for a whole-house approach to energy upgrades through the Energy Upgrade California program. For more information, visit www.sdge.com/energyupgradecalifornia
For more information on SDG&E’s Energy Innovation Center, visit sdge.com/innovationcenter , where you can also register for workshops/seminars.