Energy Effectiveness

Energy Effectiveness


   Goal: Understand how to reduce energy impacts.


Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. Energy use is not inherently bad: trees use energy from the sun, your body uses energy from food, and these are natural and healthy. Energy use becomes a problem when it drains resources and pollutes, like the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. So, to improve your product’s energy impacts, reduce your use of problematic energy, switch to cleaner energy sources, and think critically about why you’re using energy.

When does your product use energy, and what for? Are there other ways to achieve that? How much embodied energy was required to create your product’s materials? And what sources of clean energy might you tap for free? Is your product used in sunlight, or near heat, or with kinetic motion, or other possible energy sources? 

The following video gives a quick summary of energy efficiency and effectiveness:

These videos provide more detail on energy efficiency in mechanical, thermal, and fluid systems:


Other Energy Resources
You might also enjoy the following readings and videos:

  • Factor Ten Engineering Principles by Rocky Mountain Institute. This is a design guide for deep systems thinking about effective engineering. 
  • Saul Griffith’s 2008 energy audit video.  This video explains the big picture of energy & climate through the lens of one person’s impacts.
  • Natural Capitalism (Hawken, Lovins, and Lovins), Chapter 4, pp.62-73. This section describes designing for energy-efficient and effective manufacturing, the importance of measuring to find opportunities, and more.
  • Markus Kayser’s solar sinter.  This is an example of 3D printing using clean energy—melting sand with sunlight.
  • Table of Embodied energy coefficients by Victoria University’s Centre for Building Performance Research.  This lookup table shows the amount of energy used to produce many common materials. Useful for both architects and product engineers.