Project Conserve saves money, improves environment

Click here to read about some of the people who participated in Project Conserve II.


by Tom Sagstetter 

Special to the Star News

Project Conserve is a program through the city of Elk River and Elk River Municipal Utilities (ERMU) that focuses on educating to reduce waste and help save energy, costs and valuable resources. There are several benefits to the city, ERMU and residents to have this program in place.

The partnership of ERMU and the city works well to provide a community-wide outlook on saving energy and water, while reducing waste that goes to landfills. We work hard with the customers to reduce all energy costs and raise awareness of things residents are able to do at home or at work to save energy, ranging from no-cost measures like turning lights off and turning your thermostat down at night, to installing a new high-efficient air source heat pump. Project Conserve saves energy and water now which is beneficial to a customer’s monthly budget, but in the long run the education and changes in behaviors that are exhibited through Project Conserve will reduce energy and water consumption on a sustainable basis.

One of the benefits of Project Conserve is that participants are able to have an energy audit conducted at their home. One of the most beneficial aspects of the audit is the result of a blower door test. A blower door is a machine used to measure the airtightness in small- to medium-size homes or commercial buildings. The blower door has three primary components: a calibrated, variable speed fan that depressurizes the home or business, a digital pressure measurement instrument that simultaneously measures the pressure differential across the face of the fan and across the building envelope, and a mounting system used to mount the fan in a building opening, such as a door or a window.

By reducing the pressure inside the home or business, higher outside air pressure flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. The blower door simulates a 20 to 25 mph prevailing breeze on the exterior of the structure, which shows where drafts are in the structure as the air is pulled through the cracks and openings.

To help pinpoint the origin of the drafts, pictures are taken with a thermal imaging camera that identifies the temperature of the air being pulled into the structure and the surrounding wall and window surfaces. The thermal images make it very easy to identify leaks around doors and windows. The camera is also able to identify areas of exterior walls and attic spaces that are completely missing or could use additional insulation. After these tests are done, participants are able to have a detailed look at the building and determine if it is too tight or too loose depending on the air changes per hour of the structure.

By reducing consumption habits, the utility will be able to reduce or defer the need for expensive resources to serve customer demand, such as additional generating plants and transmission lines. Every unit of energy we save through Project Conserve is one unit that doesn’t have to be produced, which saves everyone money and improves the environment we live in. Start making smart choices today. (Editor’s note: Tom Sagstetter is the conservation and key accounts manager at Elk River Municipal Utilities.)