News

HVAC Thermostat

Thermostats May Soon Be A Thing Of The Past

HVAC Thermostat

One of the most exciting jobs of what we do involves keeping a careful eye on what comes next. Science and technology are offering creative new ways to improve energy efficiency, and preparing now for what’s next is the best way to stay ahead of the curve, even in mundane controls like thermostats. 

With more of us spending time indoors than ever, HVAC is emerging as a crucial way to save energy and improve what we do with the power we already use. Not only are experts studying how air conditioning and heating airflow could be spreading the coronavirus, but we’re also learning that these systems offer a tremendous opportunity to do more for us without our having to even think of it. 

Lighting systems have offering automatic zone controls for years; by using movement to monitor the use of a room or space, they adjust lighting levels or turn on and off without any manual input. Those are critical systems in all sorts of applications, including warehouses, schools, and hospitals. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are working to bring the same idea to HVAC. Called HEAT (Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat), it could change the way we stay comfortable year-round. 

The idea focuses on using thermal cameras to scan the faces of anyone in a given space. The system automatically adjusts the room temperature to keep the occupant comfortable. If there’s more than one person in the room, the system calculates the most efficient temperature to keep the majority of the occupants comfortable. It’s essentially personalized automated climate control that can also adapt as quickly when people leave a room. 

Right now, that’s more important than ever. While we may be home more than ever, many office buildings and other facilities are seeing seismic shifts in use. Staggered or reduced workforces, more employees working from home, and a new need to use larger spaces to gather, rather than cramped offices. That means buildings need to cool or heat more precise spaces and change their energy use once workers leave. 

What’s even more exciting is that this process only gets more efficient with time. The system learns individual preferences and changes in body temperature throughout the day, meaning it will be able to anticipate needs more accurately over time. 

Finally, the information gathered by the system can connect to the Internet of Things, which could help influence how other facility structures operate, including lighting and even machinery by adjusting energy use based on occupancy. 

While the technology is still new, it’s already available for licensing, and it’s something you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about soon. 

Interested in what else we’re watching? Let us know with an email!

air pollution

Air Pollution Reduces Solar Energy Efficiency. COVID-19 Gives Us A Chance To Find Out How Much.

While they’d never have wished for it, the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have given climate scientists an opportunity to study pollution like never before. When it comes to solar energy, the findings could be critical. 

Around the world, countries responded to the rising threat of the coronavirus with economic and social shutdowns like never before. Entire economies didn’t just wind down, they slammed into a wall. That economic stop has left tens of millions of Americans out of work and drastic stimulus plans rushing through governments in every corner of the globe. Almost no business is unaffected, and industries like manufacturing, transportation, and others have been some of the worst hit. 

There is a silver lining, at least. The stoppage has allowed for an unprecedented drop in air pollution. In urban centers, the lack of traffic and other causes of smog have all but stopped, and the result has been staggering. Even in some of the most polluted cities on earth, locals have noticed better breathing quality and better visibility. For researchers, however, it’s offered the chance to do a lot more than just take a deep breath. 

For example, solar energy scientists jumped at the chance to study just how much solar panels are impacted by air pollution. One study focused on the air quality of Delhi, India, one of the most polluted cities in one of the most polluted industrial countries. The drastic lockdown measures taken by the Indian government offered a clean, easy-to-identify timeline for air pollution levels, giving scientists a way to get a closer look at how they affect efficiency. 

The study found that 950 Watts/square meter of sunlight reached panels in late March, up from an average of 880 W/sm over that same time period in 2017, 2018, and 2019. That’s an 8% increase, which is nothing if not substantial. In fact, an 8% increase is comparable to the difference in sunlight, on average, between Houston, Texas, and Toronto in Canada. 

It highlights how much impact pollution plays in the future of solar energy. By reducing the energy production of solar panels, that power needs to be produced by other means. Often, that means relying on fossil fuels that contribute even more pollution to the air, reducing solar production even more. It’s a vicious cycle, but there’s hope in the recent findings that air pollution can clear quickly, but only if producers stop creating such incredible amounts of smog. 

Of course, there’s more good to be gained from reducing air pollution beyond better solar power. Air pollution affects the health of tens of millions of people around the world, even contributing to less successful outcomes for coronavirus patients. The world spends billions of dollars a year treating people with respiratory illnesses and cancers connected to air pollution. 

The lesson is clear. All it will take to improve many of our environmental challenges is commitment. We simply can’t wait for a health emergency and a stunted economy to drive the change. Learn more about how Keen Technical Solutions can help your company be a part of that change, from solar energy to energy storage and beyond.

HVAC Summer Checklist: Fired Up To Cool Down

Temperatures hit the 90s here in our neck of the woods for the first time recently, but we’ve been fielding calls across the country from businesses flicking on the AC and….nothing. 

Whether your HVAC system is working perfectly or on the fritz, the transition from spring to summer is one of the toughest times of the year for many facilities struggling to tackle huge temperature swings and high humidity. The best way to keep things cool is to schedule regular, professional maintenance with Keen. Of course, there are plenty of small things you can do, too, to make sure every season is a breeze. 

Filters – Every system relies on clean filters to run efficiently, and they’re one of the easiest things to overlook. We think of new filters as crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s; even if you upgrade everything else, you aren’t making the most of your investment without taking care of the details. Check each filter and replace worn or dirty filters wherever you can. 

Check The Lid – We’ve driven hours to warehouses before to help address underperforming or broken HVAC systems, only to learn that the facility had started their air conditioning without removing air conditioning unit covers. Remove any and all covers, and if you rely on other airflow equipment, take the time to inspect those to ensure they’re clear of any dirt, sticks, branches, or other debris that might affect air intake. 

Upgrade Your Thermostat – Investing in a smarter control system can pay for itself, especially in changeable climates with hot summers, cold winters, and big changes in humidity. By getting smarter, more adaptive and intelligent systems, you can set your HVAC to adjust to weather automatically, measure changes in energy use, and help you make small changes that can save a lot of money. Many modern systems even offer notifications on maintenance needs, software updates, and automated alerts based on your personal settings. 

We can help prepare your site for all four seasons to save money and keep your team comfortable, healthy, and productive!

less cancer

Less Cancer Bike Ride 2020: Nearly $70,000 For A Healthier Future

less cancer

Another year, another unique edition of the Less Cancer Bike Ride! Keen Technical Solutions pulled out all the stops to support one of our favorite non-profit partners, Less Cancer. 

This year’s ride was always going to be a little different. Two months ago, we helped make the decision to keep the ride solo. At the time, cycling organizations like USA Cycling and the League of Michigan Bicyclists were recommending only solo rides to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. To do our part, we made changes. While we certainly missed the challenge and camaraderie of a two-day, 250 mile adventure like we’ve done in years’ past, we knew that it was the right thing to do. 

The Alone But Together Bike Ride was born. By the time we made it to the planned weekend of June 6 and 7, guidelines allowed for small groups of riders. Cyclists all over the country signed up to pedal the path to prevention; from six miles to 150, every mile and every rider makes a difference. 

Together Team Keen Technical Solutions raised a total of $3,395, a great contribution to the $68,000 already raised for Less Cancer as a part of this event. 

We think we earned every cent! 

On Saturday, eight riders took on a massive 150 mile ride that looped south to Cadillac before heading north into a strong headwind home to Traverse City, Michigan. The small crew worked together and kept spirits high, with our friend Sean Kickbush driving the SAG wagon packed with snacks, water, and an open spot for any riders needing a break. 

The ride took over seven hours to complete at a flying pace of 20 miles per hour! You can see all the numbers here, plus some more great photos of the ride. 

We’d like to thank Less Cancer founder Bill Couzens for his passion and effort on behalf of the effort to bring cancer prevention to the forefront of thought, investment, and education. 60% of cancers are preventable. By informing healthcare professionals and legislators on dietary and environmental risk factors, we can reduce the number of cancer patients, the number of worried families, the number of financial disasters, and the number of cancer deaths. Prevention is the best investment we can make to a brighter future, and events like the Less Cancer Bike Ride are what make the difference. 

You can still donate to riders from the Keen Technical Solutions team through June 30. You can even sign up and go for a ride yourself and become a part of the team for 2020 and beyond! For more on the Less Cancer mission, make sure you check out LessCancer.org. We’re proud to celebrate our fifth year involved in this great event and to have helped bring the ride to northern Michigan. Until 2021, ride on!

cannabis energy electrical

Energy Remains Key To Cannabis Industry

With new regulations that could further support the booming cannabis industry, plus even more states loosening regulations in the 2020 election cycle, cannabis is ready to explode. However, it’s still the inescapable price of production that could make or break just how profitable companies will be. 

Energy is absolutely critical for a crop that’s extremely reliant on light and perfect growing conditions to meet demand. And that demand is high; cannabis was worth roughly $10 billion in 2019. That number is expected to rise consistently over the next few years, and it could come with a sizeable carbon footprint. The best data we have dates back to 2017, when the United States produced 16.4 million pounds of cannabis. That produced a staggering 1.8 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. By 2020, the industry is putting out roughly 2.4 million tons of carbon, and that’s something that may see more taxes and penalties in the years ahead. 

That inefficiency has a big impact on the bottom line, too. Electrical demand is a large component of day-to-day expenses for most growers. Behind labor, it’s the biggest operating cost for growers. Much of that is due to the plant’s sensitive need for light. Marijuana often requires stretches of twelve hours of lighting at a time, plus the right humidity and water to grow. 

On average, indoor growers spend 262 kilowatts per hour per square foot. One gram of flowering plant can produce a pound of carbon emissions and cost roughly 24 cents to produce, strictly in energy expenses. Outdoor growers see numbers half of indoor, but it’s still a big dent in the company budget. 

That big footprint can have an impact on the communities growers live and work in. To fight an oversized draw on the grid, some municipalities are putting caps on the number of electricity growers can use, typically around 36 kWh per square foot. Cities in Massachusetts, Illinois, and part of Canada already have this type of legislation on the books, and as the industry grows into new regions and states, those same rules may find traction at the state or even federal level to create an even playing field and protect the environment. 

At present, just 6% of the electricity used in cannabis production can be traced to sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. The vast majority use coal and natural gas, especially in North America. Individual growers are looking at ways to include renewable technologies, more efficient lighting fixtures, and energy storage to lower costs and increase margins as they grow. 

If you’re ready to take a closer look at how you can improve your energy environment and save the planet in the process, we’re one of the most experienced companies in improving efficiency for cannabis growers. Learn more and contact us today!

SAFE Banking Act Finds New Life In Stimulus Bill

The news has been non-stop for months now, and that ever-rushing stream of coronavirus updates include big news for cannabis companies. 

Weeks ago, Congress passed the CARES Act, just one part of what looks to be a series of stimulus bills designed to save and, when the time is right, jumpstart the economy in the hopes of avoiding a long-term recession. Those financial fears are well-founded, with industries from hospitality to manufacturing facing months of uncertainty. 

Cannabis growers, however, received none of that financial support. With marijuana classed as a Schedule-I drug, the industry is essentially barred from receiving federal money, no matter how much that support might be necessary in an environment that has seen 36.6 million people lose their jobs since early March. It’s an ironic situation. Just as many states have deemed cannabis growers and retailers as essential businesses, those same companies aren’t allowed to receive loans. 

The next round of stimulus, however, might just have some good news tucked into the folds. Last fall, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act by a comfortable vote, only to see the bill tossed onto a heap of measures awaiting the elusive attention of an unproductive Senate. In the process of drafting the next stimulus package, however, the House has revived much of the language from the SAFE Banking Act and put it into the next round of legislation, which is rumored to be around 1,800 pages long. 

In the majority of states across the country, cannabis companies face the same challenges as every other small business but without the necessary federal support during these trying times. Most experts believe it may be a long shot to expect the cannabis-related language to survive cuts on the Senate floor, but the persistence of the House and the acknowledgment of just how important the industry is for the overall economy going forward is a good sign. 

Cannabis is here to stay, and having fair, reliable access to financial services is going to be a piece of the puzzle that completes the picture. 

How has your cannabis company fared during the pandemic? Let us know; we’re here to help!

Spain

Renewable Energy Growing In Heart Of Oil Country

There is a lot of uncertainty on when and how the United States will get back to its feet. With record unemployment, a huge dent in consumer confidence, and the on-going threat of a pandemic that shows few signs of being under control, it’s important to look ahead. 

For businesses and communities asking questions about what comes next in the world of energy, it’s hard to look past the future of oil. Fossil fuels, in general, saw a reprise of sorts over the past decade thanks to new but inefficient fracking methods in the US. Not only did the practice contaminate the groundwater of millions of Americans, it wasn’t cost-effective. As the OPEC+ in-fighting demonstrated, few of these domestic producers offered a long-term solution to our energy needs. Hundreds have gone out of business in the past three months, and many more are not expected to survive the recession. 

The bright spot, then, is solar. And not just solar, either. As we’ve said many times, at residential, commercial, and even grid-scale, it will take a number of renewable energy sources and an efficient energy storage system to keep America running through the transition away from fossil fuels. If anyone still needs proof that this move is inevitable, look for further than Egypt. 

While not as productive or reliant on oil as other North African or the Middle East, oil does have a strong presence in the Egyptian economy. Rather than rely on domestic supply supported by foreign imports, Egypt is turning its eye to the sky and investing heavily in solar power. The solar field of Aswan, for instance, is the nation’s largest solar array and produces 1.5 GW of power per year, enough juice to power 1.5 million homes in the region. 

All of the Middle East has been built on oil, with just 3% of its current energy needs met by sustainable needs. But that’s changing, and fast. Over the past ten years, its renewable capacity has doubled, and it’s expected to double yet again in just the next four years. Originally, it was non-oil producing countries like Morocco that made the move, but now even OPEC titans like are getting in the game, including offering one of the lowest tariff bids just last year.

While the scale of production is growing quickly, it’s dwarfed by another important factor in the move to renewable energy, and that’s investment. Production is actually behind the cash influx; in the past ten years, the Middle East has grown from just 91 megawatts of renewable energy production to 9 GW; in that same time, investment in green energy has increased by more than twelve times the 2008 level. 

For US businesses, it’s a sign that the move to efficiency, sustainability, and responsible energy production reflects a growing demand in the public and in the energy sector itself. On a firm-level scale, it’s a time to invest in the energy efficiency measures that will allow a business to make the most of low oil prices now and be ready to make the transition to renewables before it’s an arms race. Take ownership of your energy environment for a brighter future.