Energy Waste – Its Everywhere and Prolific

This week whilst visiting Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) titanium operation in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, I had a chance to reflect on the energy waste that is all around us. I asked my Ensight Energy Solutions team of 15 amazing engineers this question:

How much power does a typical swimming pool pump motor use? The answer came back as “about 1,000 watts”.

Then I asked them this question:

How much power, using the laws of physics does a pool require to circulate the water from the pool, through a pool filter and back to the pool?

“350 watts” An engineer yelled out.

“Too high” I said,

another yelled out “250 watts”,

“Too high,” I said,

another yelled out 100 watts,

“Too high,” I said.

A look of astonishment arrived on their faces.

“The real answer is around 40 watts” I told them.

“No way”, was their shocked response.

So we only need 40 watts to circulate water through a filter, but we use 1,000 watts. This process and energy application is about 96% energy waste. Why?

There is a logical explanation, based on a long history of cheap and readily available electricity. The pump is designed for a job that is done for 5 minutes a week, not the job done for 8 hours per day. The job done for 5 minutes a week is to backwash the filter, and it needs the 1,000 watts to lift the sand off its bed with reverse water flow.

Let’s look at South Africa, it has a 1,000,000 homes with swimming pools, each has around a 1,000 watt swimming pool pump operating 8 hours a day. Each pool pump would cost around R4,500 per year to operate. Now that means that pool pump owners are spending R4.5 billion per year of pool filtering energy and 4.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Consider that 96% of this expenditure is wasted, that means that collectively South Africa is wasting R4.32 billion (USD360 million) and 4.32 million tonnes of carbon per year, just on one simple device.

Look around you, and you may see similar prolific waste. I assert that energy efficiency can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% profitably and cost effectively.

Francis Barram
Francis Barram

Chief Executive Officer: Ensight Energy Solutions

Francis is a leading Australian sustainability advisor and published author of “How to Profit from Climate Change”. Francis is passionate about demonstrating that impact energy efficiency can have on improving the valuation of businesses in the resources sector. Through applying economic rigour and strategic, innovative and holistic solutions Francis has demonstrated that world best practice environmental outcomes can be achieved project after project. Francis is an economist with more than fifteen years’ experience in energy analysis and economic evaluation of sustainability related efficiency projects. Francis has undertaken complex evaluation of environmental issues, energy and greenhouse policy. A founding Director of the Energy Management Institute, which accredits energy auditors in Australia.

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