By Michelle Werts

Oh the irony of writing a blog post about energy conservation in buildings while sweltering in my office on a 60-degree day while wearing short sleeves — a month ago I was shivering on an 80-degree day while wearing a long-sleeve cardigan (you cannot imagine the pains we’ve gone to trying to stop this awful phenomenon). But writing about energy conservation I am.

Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan. Credit: OiMax

Everyone and anyone knows the simple ways to be environmentally conscious when it comes to home and the office: turn off the lights when you leave a room, turn the air up or down when you’re not at home, don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth. However, it becomes trickier when one wants to determine the energy efficiency of their abode. Did your energy bill go up because you’re leaking air somewhere or just because it was hotter outside this month? Is your showerhead not conserving the water it claims to or are you just taking more showers? Now, imagine trying to make this determination for a whole skyline of buildings.

Well, one man and his company are trying to help business owners with this very dilemma (thanks, E&E ClimateWire, for telling me about this story). Steve Heinz established EnergyCAP Inc. in 1980 and for years the company has been compiling data and developing software to help monitor and analyze the utility bills of major complexes like universities and retail chains.

EnergyCAP’s software eliminates the tricky weather factor, allowing companies to directly compare utility bills from month to month to notice any drastic changes in their energy usage that would indicate a need for more efficient systems. Because of its work, the company was named a 2011 Energy Star Partner of the Year by the EPA. Pretty nifty, huh?

Speaking of nifty energy efficiency, did you know that by properly placing trees around a building, air conditioning can be reduced by 30 percent and heat by 20-50 percent? That’s right. Trees help you be energy efficient, which is just one of the reasons why urban forests are so vital, but that’s a post for another day.

In the meantime, tell me how you save energy at home. My favorite: unplugging appliances that I’m not using because even if they’re not on, they’re still drawing electricity. What’s yours?