Energy Efficiency Technology Basics

Energy efficiency technologies provide ways to reduce your tribe's energy needs, making the goal of energy self-sufficiency that much easier. Energy efficiency technologies are often the most cost-effective "source" of energy available. Unless a tribe has heavy industry on its lands, likely options for saving energy are in homes and other buildings.

Energy efficiency is one aspect of a broader "green building" trend that relates to new building construction, building rehabilitations, and even the operation of building interiors by organizations that are leasing buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council is leading the way on green building through its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, a voluntary certification system for high-performance, sustainable buildings. The LEED section of the U.S. Green Building Council Web site provides information about certification standards, training workshops, publications, accreditation exams, and registering a project for LEED certification. The LEED certification includes four levels of certification — certified, silver, gold, and platinum — and is currently applicable to commercial buildings, although a certification system for homes is under development.

To help educate people about the LEED system and current trends in green building, Environmental Design + Construction magazine has published a resource called "The LEED Guide."

For a consumer guide on how to implement energy savings in homes, try DOE's Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home. DOE and the Alliance to Save Energy haveĀ also produced a useful list of home energy tips.

If you are renovating or remodeling a single- or multi-family home, look for energy efficiency tips on theĀ Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor Web site. By submitting basic project information, users receive individualized tips based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines for energy-efficient housing rehabilitation. The advisor also provides specific costs, savings, and payback periods for each recommended measure.

Casinos are some of the most energy-intensive commercial buildings, using up to five times as much energy per square foot as a large hospital. To help address this issue, the Western Area Power Administration has published a four-page fact sheet on energy management in tribal casinos (PDF 347 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

To save energy in all types of buildings, the following approaches may be used:

A collection of more than 275 technical software tools for analyzing the use of these technologies in new building designs and in building retrofits is available through DOE's Building Energy Software Tools Directory.

To help evaluate potential energy efficiency projects, DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has created a software program called FEDS. The software is free for federal and state agencies and for private projects that are part of federal programs; for others, the software costs $750.

Another software aid, available for free from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a spreadsheet for calculating the costs and savings associated with installing energy efficiency projects. The Energy Star Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator addresses three key questions about such projects: How much new energy efficiency equipment can be purchased from the anticipated energy cost savings? Should the purchase be financed now, or is it better to wait and use cash from a future budget? Finally, is money being lost by waiting for a lower interest rate? The calculator, which runs in Microsoft Excel, can be found under Financing on the Energy Star Web site.