Embrace Living looking greener with energy efficiencies

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Did you know:

  • LED bulbs are the most efficient light bulbs and use about 90% less energy than other bulbs. You can save over $100 on energy bills over the bulb’s lifetime.
  • It is estimated that the ENERGY STAR label, a program that promotes energy efficient appliances and products has helped save more than $430 billion on energy bills and reduced carbon emissions by 2.7 billion metric tons.
  • About 30% of an average household energy bill is made up wasted energy. Windows, doors and fireplaces not sealed properly cause heat to escape through the cracks.

Embrace Living Communities has made it part of its strategic plan to become “greener” – upgrading parts of its facilities to ensure greater energy efficiency.

“We have always strived to be green,” says Ed Havlovic, Director of Operations at Embrace Living Communities. “With 20-plus year old buildings, we have to continually look at ways to make updates, and in the process, be more energy efficient.”

Shining a light on early efficiencies

Embrace Living has made these types of updates over time as the leadership reviewed costs and benefits for each upgrade. In 2005, the organization invested back into its facilities after a refinancing effort. Much of that involved “tightening up” its buildings by replacing older windows and boiler systems in 12 facilities.

Over the coming years, the organization also looked at additional ways to bring efficiencies. “We focused on lighting, knowing we spent a lot of money in that area at our facilities,” says Ed. “We moved away from T12 fluorescent bulbs to T8 bulbs which use 35% less electricity to produce the same amount of light.” This change also allowed for future upgrades to LED lighting, using the same fixtures. LED bulbs produce 70% more light, last twice as long as T8 and are 30% more energy efficient.

In 2010, Embrace Living received additional funds through a green stimulus package. “That really let us go to a new level in efficiency,” says Ed. “We started looking not only at ENERGY STAR rated appliances but also began testing the feasibility of solar power at two of our facilities.”

Applying new measures to product purchases

Along with new appliances across the communities, the organization also changed out old water heaters to tankless water heaters and high-efficient 90+ direct vent tanks. LED lighting was also beginning to appear across outdoor spaces and indoor community areas.

“Another priority for us is ensuring the products we purchase are green-accepted products,” says Ed. “This includes vinyl tile that comes from post recycle materials as well as rubber roofing that consists of recycled rubber.”

As for water conservation, the team began switching out bladder-tank toilets for newer compressed air tanks. “This reduces the amount of water used for each flush,” says Ed. “We also changed out older shower heads to aerating shower heads, one type of low-flow shower head.” The newer fixtures control the size and direction of the water droplets that pass through as they inject air into the stream of water. The resulting spray is gentler than the jets that shoot through traditional shower heads.

Powering up solar innovations

At two of its resident facilities – Bethel Greencastle in Kansas City, MO, and Greencastle of Bayonet Point in North Tampa, FL – Embrace Living installed solar panels, which are seen in common areas. “The key to bringing solar into the picture is having surface area large enough to have a decent return on the investment,” says Ed. “As solar fields (or solar farms) become more common, utility companies can generate green, clean electricity at scale and feed it into the grid for residents.”

At this time, both facilities generate enough solar power to handle their common areas across the buildings. This helps overall costs and allows Embrace Living to put money into other beneficial areas for its residents.

The energy efficient road ahead

Greencastle of Bayonet Point is the first Embrace Living community to earn an ENERGY STAR rating. “The goal for us is to use that as a benchmark for our other facilities,” says Ed. “We want to continue to do what’s not only right for our organization and its residents but for the environment as well.”