My 1500-Watt No-No
March 10, 2012
On the plus side, we could leave turkey sandwiches on our desks overnight and they'd still be fresh in the morning. On the negative side, it's hard to work in a newsroom that feels like a walk-in refrigerator.
Until recently, my wing of the Weekly building had an almost supernatural capacity to exaggerate temperatures. Walking through the doorway to our desks, we'd feel the temperature drop 10 degrees on cold days, or rise 10 on hot ones.
So one chilly morning, I took matters into my own numb hands, nabbing a 2-by-2-foot space heater from a vacant desk. Warmth was mine for the cranking.
Very un-eco move, I've learned.
Just one 1500-watt space heater sucks the energy from more than seven of the Weekly's rooftop solar panels, Max explains. And by the time that electricity travels from the gas-fueled power plant in Moss Landing to my desk, it's already lost half its energy—compared with the 75 percent efficiency of our natural-gas wall heaters. "Whenever possible, you want to use natural gas," he says.
I'd be better off cranking up the new thermostat Bradley recently had installed in our newsroom, and in six other spots throughout our office. They've been programmed to turn on an hour before we arrive in the morning and shut off an hour after we leave, an effort to address the top concern in the occupant comfort survey we filled out last fall.
Indoor temperature represents two LEED points, Levi explains: One for administering the survey, and one for taking steps to address the issues. "An overwhelming majority of the building complained about thermal comfort," he says.
I recently asked around to see if my co-workers are feeling better about the building temp these days, and most just shrugged. Levi sees that as a sign of success. If it's too hot or too cold, people are sure to whine about it, he says; "We don't notice how comfortable we are."
Still, there's room for thermal improvement. Our new conference room (pictured above) tends to pack an invigorating chill, as does the BuildingWise office that shares a wall. Max and Levi theorize that has something to do with the lack of insulation between the floor and the carport below.
Levi throws in a wild card: "perceived warmth," which is all in our minds. People tend to feel about 1 degree warmer when they're in a space with warm-colored lights or photos of warm places.
Maybe it's time to ditch the heater, and pin up a poster of Costa Rica.