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Energy Saving

Reduce Pollution by Using Ceiling Fans

The 500lb Gorilla in the room

Are you totally frustrated with the Hong Kong Government’s lack of action on air pollution? Do you think they should be moving faster and taking action now? Do you think they and big business are really doing all they can to reduce energy consumption to reduce the major cause of air pollution in Hong Kong, namely, local power companies burning coal. Do you attribute and put all the blame for pollution on the Hong Kong Government and big business?

Now ask your self this: Have you done all you can to reduce your own electricity consumption (see following
questions)? If the answer is no, then you are part of the pollution problem in Hong Kong.

  1. What percentage of lamps in your home are energy saving Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)? (100/75/50/25/0 %)
  2. How much energy (watts) does a typical CFL consume? (200/100/50/20/10 watts)
  3. How many of your rooms have aircon units (split, wall etc)? (All/most/some/none)
  4. How much energy does a typical aircon unit consume? (50/100/300/2000 watts)
  5. At what room temperature do you normally set your aircon to? (20/22/25.5/27/30 DegC)
  6. Do you switch the aircon off every time you leave a room? (Always/most/some/never)
  7. What amount of time is your aircon on but no one is in the room? (100/75/50/25/0 %)
  8. How many of your rooms have you fitted ceiling fans? (All/most/some/none)

Some replies

A typical CFL in a room will rated at about 15 watts and this is equivalent to 80 watts for an inefficient incandescent lamp – therefore an excellent incentive to replace incandescents and save energy.

However, a typical aircon unit in a room when running can consume over 1500 watts – 100 times more energy than the Compact Fluorescent Lamp. Hence the aircon unit is the 500lb gorilla in the room that nobody is talking about.

Hint: Leaving an aircon running for 1 hour with no one in the room is equivalent to leaving the light on continuously for 4 days.

It puts things slightly in perspective doesn’t it!

The Problem

In the heat of summer we all need the aircon on – it is almost impossible to live comfortably without it. The question therefore is: how can we avoid or reduce this huge source of energy consumption?

The Potential Answer?

Studies (Florida)* have shown that using ceiling fans can potentially result in electricity savings of 14% per annum
for 1 DegC (approx) increase in the aircon thermostat setting and still provide good comfort levels.


Ceiling Fan Energy Savings

However, there is a catch (isn’t there always). The studys’ conclusion finds that the overall results, as far as energy
savings are concerned, are mixed. This was due to 2 main factors;

a. ceiling fans and aircon left running in unoccupied rooms
b. aircon setpoint not adjusted upwards.

The Possible Solution?

The Florida study also concludes that future work was required and hence the, ‘Spanking the 500lb Gorilla’ Project was
born. The objective of this project is to prove the hypothesis that a typical Hong Kong home’s electricity bill could be reduced by up to 30% with a payback target of approximately two years by using ceiling fans and a Smart Thermostat Controller system.

The Project in Action

Until recently, trying to do this has been expensive and complicated. The following shows the present setup and how
this can be achieved with minimum expense and simplicity using a presence detecting temperature control system.

Smart Thermostat Controller

  • room presence detection – PIR*
  • on/off and 3 speed control for wall panel type ceiling fans
  • on/off aircon control
  • tamper proof set points
  • auto or manual control and or timer controllable
  • standalone +/or network to Smart Metering

*PIR = Passive Infra Red Presence Detector Smart Thermostat system courtesy

Smart Thermostat Controller

The first system was installed mid April07 and to date (01Jul07) three rooms have now been completed. And so it was
with bated breath that the arrival of the power utilities bimonthly bill for May and June07 was anticipated (go figure).
The following shows the results so far ..

Power Utilities Bimonthly Bill

We can see that even with an uncompleted system, the energy savings are quite remarkable and on track for the
target of 30% reduction in overall electrical consumption.

And this has been achieved with no loss of comfort. In fact, the impression and feedback from family members has
been that the reduction in the use of aircon has made for a fresher, more healthy living environment.

The implications of this on Hong Kong’s present pollution (and energy policy) will be profound if many more people
install these systems.

It is beholden of each of us at Clear The Air and other activists to lead the way and to show that the power of change does not lie with government but with the people and that by maximizing our potential to save energy we can all have a direct
effect on the environment.

Mark Hunter MSc

Chair – Energy Committee, Clear The Air.

AmCham Energy Audit program

Doing our part to reduce pollution – Clear The Air project plan for

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

AmCham Energy Audit program

Do you want results – now?

Turning the thermostat up one degree will save 3% on your energy bill and reduce the need to generate power from burning coal. Three more simple solutions are 1. Caulk, 2. Weatherstripping and 3. Demand Management.

Let’s start by doing our part to reduce pollution from electricity. Then take our experience and our new found education to our subsidiaries and suppliers in China.

Below are the steps following the best US management techniques to make sure the program is a success in both the short and long term – and is self sustaining.

Define the problem:

Do an energy audit with an internationally approved system like LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (appendix A)


Make sure everyone involved is educated, from top management and the building facilities manager down to and including your subcontracted cleaning service.

Address staff psychological needs e.g. “cooler is healthier” – “wearing short sleeved shirts is immodest”.


Have the project team install the hardware, or just turn on the control systems that already exist. Show how the control systems work, move the office furniture for optimum air flow and work flow.


Show how the energy bill has changed. Show the changes in indoor air quality. Solicit feedback from the staff.


Display the savings real time in the office if possible. Report the results to top management, put it in the annual report, and send out a press release.


Did you get the result you expected? Start again at Define the Problem

Have a party – this is supposed to be fun !

Where to start:

1. The AmCham offices – an example of a – typical Grade A office space
2. The American Club – where so many AmCham members hold debentures and it is currently planning unaudited renovations – typical leisure facility with multiple retail functions like Food and Beverage.

Don’t overlook the psychological barriers to change

Getting staff buy-in is a fundamental US management principle. They can be your greatest ally or your biggest obstacle. Find out what worries them, solve their problem, address their concerns and you have a better chance at success.

Some common psychological barriers in Hong Kong

• Colder is healthier.
• I want to wear my nice winter clothes.
• I don’t like short sleeved shirts, they make me look skinny.
• I don’t like looking at men’s hairy arms in short sleeved shirts.
• I refuse to sweat.
• I need to set the thermostat to low so it will cool down faster.
• I need to cool off fast when I come indoors.
• I’ll get into trouble if I don’t leave the machine on.
• I don’t want to wait for the computer to boot up.
• Leaving just one machine on does not use that much energy

Ideally, setting your control systems correctly will actually improve the indoor climate and work environment for your employees so they will not notice any change. Instead they will feel better and breathe more easily at work.

All of these are real obstacles that need to be addressed to succeed. The way you do it can make or break your energy saving campaign.

Shave the Peak

At Hongkong Electric as soon as we use over 1,300 megawatts of energy they turn on their oldest, dirtiest coal turbines (see the graph below). The old ones pump out up to ten times the pollution because they have no pollution control equipment at all.

The goal is to “shave the peak” i.e. change habits to use electricity at non peak times – and keep those turbine turned off.

Hong Electric Allowed Pollution by Turbine - 2004


Do an Energy Audit to define the problem and find solutions. Use the best practices of a certification system like LEED to direct the project and ensure success. Educate the staff on any operational changes and get their buy-in. Implement the changes, measure the results and report them – to the staff, to top brass here and in the US. Have a beer bust. Give out “green stars”.

Clear The Air will – at no cost – help co-ordinate and advocate the process, and help you keep it on track.


Annelise Connell
Charirperson – Clear The Air

Appendix A

Certification schemes

Can we do better, and if so, how?

All certification schemes tell you how well or how badly you are doing against a benchmark that is widely accepted. Some things you may not even know are even possible, let alone crucial. Others you would chalk up to common sense. The certification is to educate you on what is possible, and how well you are achieving it. LEED is the most widely recognized system in the US.

Here is an example of the checklist.

Frequently Asked Questions

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.

What is LEED for Commercial Interiors?

LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) addresses tenant improvement of spaces primarily in office, retail and institutional buildings. It is part of a comprehensive suite of LEED assessment tools under development by the USGBC to promote green design, construction, and operations practices in buildings nationwide. A companion rating system for Core & Shell developments (LEED-CS) is currently under development. Together, LEED-CI and LEED-CS will establish green building criteria for commercial office real estate for use by both developers and tenants.

I am trained as an interior designer and don’t have the training to handle the energy- and HVAC-related credits. What do I do?

Successful LEED projects begin with a fully integrated design team in which all the professional disciplines work together toward the project goals. While each needs to be aware of the other’s contributions and participate in the decision making, none can or will have the knowledge and experience to complete a project unassisted.

Can interior designers become LEED Accredited Professionals?

Yes. Anyone wishing to seek accreditation can sit for the exam.


What kind of things are analyzed?

Do you know that carbon monoxide monitoring to see what your air quality is like is important? Does your space, or your building even conform to the minimum energy performance benchmark? Have you ever heard of “thermal comfort”?

Here are two key categories of the LEED checklist