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Boating with Electric
Our 30-year-old Catalina 27 ft. sailboat was equipped with a four-cylinder gasoline engine. This engine is mounted in a compartment below the cockpit, as is typical on most sailboats, and is notorious for inaccessibility. Ours was starting to get finicky after all those years and, with using the boat on a lake, we decided to install an electric propulsion system. The electric system chosen was from various vendors in the market place.
The motor chosen is a 5 hp brushless motor with a separate speed controller. The motor is connected to the original prop shaft and prop with a home-built belt reducer. Providing power is four 100 Ah AGM batteries in series totaling 48 volts dc. This will push the boat at 3 knots for about 2 hours, higher speeds less time. A higher capacity battery bank would, of course, provide longer run times, but we typically run the motor only for 20 minutes on a day out. Dock AC provides power to recharge the batteries when we are back in the boat slip.
We are very happy with this system. There is no gasoline stored on board, no oil or water systems typical with an internal combustion engine. Minimal maintenance and no engine winterizing so we can take the boat out in the winter when weather permits.
Alternate Home Heating
We have a 2200 sq. ft. basement rancher that has an Electric Heat Pump. When the temperature gets below 30 degrees outside the heat pump is very ineffective. They usually switch to emergency back up, which in our case, are electric elements. Needless to say the temperature in the house gets colder and the electric bill higher.
We purchased a Wood pellet stove and installed it in the living room where we spend most of our time. We are now cozy and save about $100 to $150 per month on electric during the cold season, which offsets the cost of the pellets. Also we purchased the stove during the Federal alternative fuel tax savings and saved 30% off the initial cost of the appliance.
Recommendations for improving sustainability in Building 4100

[The following observations and recommendations were submitted by an ORNL employee who wishes to remain anonymous.]


I reside in 4100, the new building that will (likely?) get LEED certification, and I have some comments.


-There are recycling bins in the corridors, but all we got in our offices is 1 trash can. This can is emptied by the janitorial staff into trash bins, not recycling bins.

That means that if I want to recycle paper, cans, and plastic, I either have to make “piles” in my office, or walk with each and every item to these bins. The first option will probably be frowned upon (including using cardboard boxes) because we were told the internal aesthetics determine what we can do and not do (such as blocking windows). Management has been seen giving tours of our building to visitors. Piles of recyclable trash are not likely to be appreciated in this respect.

The second option is a waste of time (though good exercise).


I suggest to distribute small recyling cans such as distributed in 4500S. This way we have a neat way of collecting recyclable items and we can bring them to the big bins in the corridors when the can is full, saving many time wasting walks.


-There are many battery operated items in the restrooms: soap dispensers, towel dispensers, and antibacterial sanitizer dispensers. Permanent battery operated equipment doesn’t belong in a sustainable building. Power lines could have been included to feed electricity to these items. (I admit there is a possibility that this has been considered and the likely transformers necessary for these low voltage items are deemed to be a bigger waste of energy. Somehow I doubt that consideration was made though.)


-There are plastic items presumably meant as air refresheners in the rest and breakrooms. Whereas the appreciabiliy of the air especially in restrooms is important, it is precisely the chemicals in “nice smelling” items such as these that resemble hormones and other important regulating molecules in our bodies. In this respect, I am not comfortable about the recent (couple of years) pervasiveness of these items on the ORNL campus. Additionally, fragrance releasing products don’t refresh the air – they work only by saturating the air with other smells. So either we’re being saturated by these molecules, or it doesn’t work – neither is a good thing.

Smell neutralization (eg. illuminated TiO2 panels) is a safer option. Note that this option creates less waste too…


-The time it takes for hot water to reach the faucet is long. Maybe there was no good place to put the hot water source close to the restrooms, but now a lot of cold water is wasted before hot water is coming out. (Normally I use cold water, but sometimes it’s necessary to use hot water for washing greased hands.)


-The nice landscaping in front of the building is being irrigated. I thought the landscaping was supposed to be native to this region. This should result in only having to water the plants during the time they need to get established. Judging from the permanent sprinkler hardware, this is not the case. That to me seems wasteful of a precious resource as water. (The same holds for the at least 5 times that I noticed the sprinklers near the roundabout (visitor center) were on right after a big storm passed through… I understand especially that entrance to the campus needs a decent look, so yellowing of the lawn should be prevented. However, rain sensors could be useful in that system.)


To end on a positive note; I like the sensors (light/power) they have put in our offices, and the thermostat that allows me to not have to freeze at the 67 F it is in our corridor as long as I close my door.

Bicycle Park and Ride needs bike lockers
The bicycle park and ride needs bike lockers -- it is not convenient for people to lug their bike back and forth and to have to keep lifting their bike onto and off their cars. 
Also, the bicycle park and ride spot is hard to find and is hardly a parking lot, I hope we can generate enough support for this to get a real parking lot after the budget climate improves.  I am not surprised that I found only 3 cars there given the state of it, how hard it is to find, and the lack of bike lockers.
It's definitely beneficial to us to have this, because then we can have fewer parking spots on campus, and it's more environmentally and health friendly.
Jon Forstrom of the Logistical Services Division responds:
The history of the bicycle park-and-ride lot is currently being investigated along with the feasibility of making improvements through the Sustainable Campus Initiative. More information will be provided when available. There are currently no plans to purchase and install bicycle lockers at the park-and-ride lot.
Turkeys dying outside of 4100
This might be a sustainability issue even if it's not an energy issue.  Turkeys are dying outside of building 4100 in the front.  As far as I know, this is because they hit the glass while flying and die. This is an easy to fix issue -- if it's because the birds see the reflection on the glass and think they can fly there.  It is possible to prevent this by putting some hanging swinging decorations, or special films or potentially some stickers, though the below site has some cautions about the effectiveness of stickers.
Motion sensing light switches in vending/break rooms
As far as I can tell, the break rooms in 4100 sometimes have their lights on all day even though they're usually empty. I could not even find a light switch for the one on the first floor of 4100.  My office has a motion sensing light switch, with the ability to override it and turn the light off and on.  The break room is a prime candidate for such a switch.
Travis Breeden of the Facilities Development Division responds:
The break rooms have occupancy sensors in the ceiling and do not require switches. When someone comes in, the lights come on. I believe there is about a 20 minute delay before they go off.
With that being said, they may have infrared/ultrasonic sensors. If that's the case, they detect both motion and sound, and either the break room is that frequently occupied or the vending machines generate enough noise to maintain the lights in the occupied mode. There is the possiblility of a faulty sensor as well.
At any rate, I'll take a look at it and determine if we have an issue.
Scott Brackett of the Facilities Management Division adds:
We'll check on the sensor functioning early in the morining to see if they are indeed turning the lights off.
Paper cups at the cafeteria
It is frustrating when I see all of the paper cups thrown away at the
cafeteria.  I was wondering why they are not recycled.  I only see
recycling bins for plastic and glass bottles near the trash cans.

It would be even more environmentally friendly if all new hires and guests
received a reusable cup for the cafeteria.
Jon Forstrom of the Logistical Services Division responds:
We are currently evaluating the possibility of establishing a composting process for cafeteria wastes. This would include food waste and paper products like napkins and cups.
Bicycle Parking and Bldg. 4100
I will soon be moving into Bldg. 4100.  I've asked numerous people about bicycle parking in the new building.  Most have said "that's at the bottom of my priority list". My goal is to obtain covered parking. I'm not worried about theft but I don't want my bike left out in the rain.  I currently put my bike in my office in 4500N but I suspect that will be frowned upon in the new building.  I've not used any of the bike lockers but the one near 4500N always appears to be fully occupied.  The ideal solution would be somewhere in the new parking structure.

Jon Forstrom of the Logistical Services Division responds:
The ORNL parking committee is evaluating bicycle parking in the vicinity of Building 4100, but it looks like we will be able to accommodate bikes in the hatched-off corners of the new parking facility.

Update from Lynn Cox of the Logistical Services Division:
We are planning to have a bicycle rack on the first floor of the parking garage. It will be located to your right as you enter from the Central Street side of the garage.
Follow-up request from David Mullins:
I wanted to follow-up on the bicycle parking in the parking facility next to 4100.
I appreciate the bike rack but I feel there is a fundamental flaw. As currently positioned it will only hold three bikes. One slot has been occupied permanently (I've never seen the bike missing) since June. Another slot is typically occupied "long term" (left overnight for a week or more).
For the past three weeks all three slots have been permanently occupied. I suspect these bikes won't move until April.
I have several possible solutions. Move the rack away from the wall so that bikes can be inserted from both sides. Move the rack to a different location where both sides are accessible (such as the car-inaccessible corners in the garage). Install an additional rack in one of these corners.
I commute regularly (only drove two days in June-August) and as a green/sustainable campus initiative, I hope that bike parking can be made regularly available for bike commuters.
Lynn Cox of the Logistical Services Division responds:
The bicycle rack has been moved out away from the wall and now can be accessed from both sides.
ORNL Employee Wants Help Building A Green House
I would love to build a home using the energy efficient technology out here at ORNL.  I have the propery bought and cleared and it is sitting high on a ridge top a few miles from the lab.  Is there any resources available to help ORNL employees make the right decisions and or to provide guidance on energy efficient home building?  I've looked at many articles on the internet and an amazing amount of them say "based on studies from ORNL".  If someone in energy management or building technologies were building a new home where would they start?  I think it would be incredibly wonderful to help ORNL employees do the right thing by using what has already been learned out here.

Melissa Lapsa, Group Leader for Whole-Building and Community Integration, provides the following response:
Your request for information regarding energy efficient building practices was referred to me. I have attached some references that are very informative.  The attachments include the following:

The Best Practices Guide has pertinent information to give energy efficiency best practices for all phases of home construction.  Near the end of this guide, there are case studies that give specific examples of builders that have utilized these practices in homes.

The Building America “Builders Challenge” Quality Criteria is useful for you to get a “general feel” of what is required to meet the Builders Challenge.  The Builders Challenge program is similar to ENERGY STAR for Homes but is used to demonstrate larger energy savings.  Here is a link to the Builders Challenge website ( 

The Building America “Builders Challenge” Technology Information Packages document is a more of a “quick read” that gives certain technology pathways that can be used to meet the Builders Challenge.  These documents along with Building America Best Practices Guide for homes in various climate zones can be found at Other Best Practice documents can be found by keying in “Best Practices” (or “retrofit”) at

In addition, I want to provide links to resources available on our Building Technology Research and Integration Center website (  These would be great tools as well to reference in your building design. 

Insulation Calculator (useful online calculator to get cost-effective insulation recommendations):

Some websites for retrofitting existing homes are:;;  TVA’s energy right website offers information also.

Good luck with your home building project.
Strategies for encouraging energy-efficient behavior
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