Energy Utilization FAQ

[PHOTO]The Interlock House

At Iowa NSF EPSCoR, our energy utilization researchers investigate how human choices play a role in reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency. Being efficient at using energy means making choices to use less energy while keeping our current standard of living.

Why is energy utilization research part of Iowa NSF EPSCoR?

People make choices about the types of energy efficiencies they will support. Our engineering and science needs to be responsive to actual human behavior. These choices are complex and extend beyond economics.

What specific areas of energy utilization is Iowa NSF EPSCoR researching?

Our energy utilization research has two areas. Consumer behavior research through a “Green Community Campaign” studies active intervention in communities to make people more energy aware. Building science research looks at how buildings can be designed and operated more efficiently and how human behavior affects building efficiency.

How does this work relate to other energy utilization research in Iowa?

Iowa NSF EPSCoR researchers work closely with industry, such as Mid-American Energy, and other entities, such as community labs, the Iowa Energy Center, the Center for Building Energy Research at Iowa State University, the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Iowa, and other non-EPSCoR researchers at our research universities, to ensure the research is need-based and findings will have maximum impact.

What energy utilization topics are of specific interest to Iowa and Iowans? What is different about Iowa than other parts of the country when it comes to energy utilization?

Every community is slightly different in energy utilization needs and concerns. Our building science researchers test strategies and building types that target Iowa’s climate – cold and sunny in winter, warm and humid in summer. Energy efficient products and services are also important to Iowans. According to the Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEEI) the Iowa advanced energy industry employs more than 22,000 people and is growing. Nearly half of this workforce is in the delivery of energy efficiency products and services.† citation

Is the energy used by buildings important?

Yes. Buildings use approximately 40% of the total energy used today, so making them more efficient is high priority. † citation

How can energy usage in buildings be reduced?

Strategies include using the right amount of insulation and weatherization for the region, using passive design strategies like daylighting and natural ventilation, using energy efficient appliances and smarter mechanical systems, having efficient infrastructure that makes use of renewable energy, and monitoring the performance of building energy systems.

How does solar energy relate to energy utilization?

Green Community Campaign researchers tracked the effectiveness of interventions such as discounts on energy efficient technology.

Solar energy can heat a building either through passive solar building design or through solar thermal collectors. Solar panels can also supply it with electricity. Buildings can be designed for passive solar energy use to keep them shaded and cool in summer and warm in winter. Our researchers study strategies for making the most of solar energy in buildings during every season.

Won’t people and companies simply reduce their energy usage if it saves them money? Why do we need to research this area?

We have much to learn about how people make energy usage choices. Although energy efficient building design is often not more expensive, efficient energy choices and upgrades sometimes require an initial investment with long-term economic benefits. Often, a variety of factors beyond economics constrain choices about energy usage.

How does energy utilization relate to wind energy?

Our energy utilization research focuses on people’s choices and behavior. Supporting wind energy, through making choices to allow turbines in the community or using wind-derived power, depends on a variety of social factors beyond economics.

Why are social scientists involved with energy utilization research?

Our energy utilization researchers seek to understand human choices in energy consumption and energy efficiency. These choices are complex and extend beyond economics. One area our social science researchers are studying is which other factors affect decision making.

Why are architect and design researchers involved with energy utilization research?

Good building design is the most important factor in building energy efficiency. Our architect and design researchers’ work helps create better choices for practicing architects.