Happy Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July is almost here and I know I’m looking forward to relaxing by the pool and enjoying grilled hamburgers and some home-made ice cream.  In this spirit, here’s a free analysis on whether or not it’s cost effective to heat a building with fireworks:

Americans set off about 285 millions pounds of fireworks last year costing approximately 1.10 Billion dollars.  Let’s assume that a firework is about 80% gunpowder. (I know that most firecrackers are a mixture of gunpowder and aluminum or flash powder, bear with me.)  This leaves us with about 228 million pounds of gunpowder burned up each year.  At a cost of 1.10 Billion Dollars, this works out to about $4.82 per pound of gunpowder.

For our analysis, we need to know the cost per unit of energy.  Gunpowder on average can produce about 1290 Btu/lb when burned.  For perspective, this is a little less than TNT (2021 Btu/lb) and a lot less than gasoline (20,290 Btu/lb).  With this data, we can easily calculate that we spend about 0.374 cents per Btu.

Now a Btu is pretty small (it’s the amount of work needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit), so for heating we generally use therms which are roughly equal to 100,000 Btu’s.  Converting again (isn’t this fun?) we come up with the cost of energy for fireworks to be about $374/therm.  We now have a value we can use for comparisons.

The average cost for natural gas was $1.01/therm in 2015 (a typical energy source for heating).  We can now say that based on an economic analysis, using fireworks to heat a building is a poor choice compared to natural gas.  This is in addition to other obvious concerns (like risk of fire) that arise when using explosives inside a building.

My recommendation is to take the fireworks outside and leave the heating up to your HVAC system.  As the old credit card commercials would say, the fireworks cost money but the memory is priceless.  Have fun and stay safe this Fourth of July.


Net Zero Plus Facility Opens in Los Angeles

Earlier this month, the nation’s largest net zero plus commercial building retrofit, the Net Zero Plus Electric Training Institute, opened in Los Angeles.  Net Zero Plus means that the building generates more energy than it consumes.  This is in contrast to a Net Zero building which only generates as much power as it consumes.  This 144,000 square foot facility is powered by an onsite, roof-mounted solar photovoltaic array.  The excess energy is stored in the building’s battery storage system and fed back to the electric grid. This is only possible due to the building being designed to use 51% less energy than before the retrofit.

Net Zero and Net Zero Plus designs are an interesting challenge for the engineer.  It involves first trying to reduce the energy consumed by the building.  You don’t want to generate electricity when you don’t have to.  This can involve innovative concepts like ground loop HVAC systems, daylighting controls, natural ventilation and other strategies depending on the building usage.  A lot of savings can be had by simply changing the way people use the building.  For example, turn off lights when a room is not in use and add thermostat setbacks when the building isn’t occupied.

Forward Engineers has a lot of experience assisting building owners in reducing their costs by lowering their energy usage.  If you are interested in Net Zero designs, or just want to reduce your costs by lowering your energy bills, be sure to contact us and we’ll review your facility for energy and cost saving opportunities.  We can complete computer simulations of the building so that you can have confidence when selecting the design that best suits your priorities.

You can read more about the Net Zero Plus Electric Training Institute, you can visit their website here.


June 2016 Newsletter

Summer is almost here and it is already very hot and humid in Arkansas.  Despite the heat, we have been busy at Forward Engineers and have a few exciting announcements:

New Website:  I am happy to officially unveil our new website.  It’s been available for a few weeks now, but I wanted to iron out any kinks before advertising it.  Please visit our site to learn more about us, our services and to see some of our past projects.  We periodically post updates and interesting articles to our news page so be sure to check that out.  If you prefer, our posts are also available on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Design Services:  We love energy consulting and we feel that the next logical step is to not only make recommendations but to complete the designs as well.  Therefore, we are seeking to grow the design side of our business.  If you have MEP design needs, please contact us and we’ll put together a quality design at a great price while keeping construction and future energy costs low.

Energy Consulting:  Our specialty continues to be making energy efficiency recommendations and completing incentive certification/applications.  If you have recently completed a facility or a renovation and are curious about what incentives are available, be sure to contact us and we’ll review your project for free.