Thursday, January 12, 2006

Energy Conservation Gone Awry

I'm currently visiting the center for Computational Science and Engineering at UC Davis for a few weeks. They are located in a new mathematical sciences building. The lights in the office I'm sharing are turned off and on automatically by a motion detector device. The idea, I suppose, is that the lights will turn off if nobody is around, thus conserving energy.

This makes a lot of sense for a hallway and maybe even a bathroom. If nobody's there, no need to have the lights on. However, this doesn't work in a room full of theoretical physicists. See, the harder I work, the less I move. When I'm getting work done, I barely move at all. So the lights keep going off. Every two minutes and thirty seconds. To get the lights to go back on I have to roll away from my desk a little bit so I'm not obscured by my desk partition and wave at the motion sensor. I suppose this is decent exercise. But it gets a little annoying. Fortunately, there's a small light on my desk. So when the main lights go out I'm not in total darkness. I've pretty much given up using the main lights and just use the desk light now.

Anyway, this isn't a major inconvenience. But one has to wonder: whose great idea was it to have lights operated by motion detectors in the offices of a math building?

3 comments:

Jessica said...

Interesting dilemma. I suppose someone was perhaps being overzealous in their pursuit of saving energy. But if it were me designing that building, I'd do the same thing. You can't trust people to do it on their own. I'm like the soup nazi, but with lights. If it were up to me, they'd be everywhere - stores, malls, parking lots... homes. No energy will ever be wasted again, wahahaha!
But I also worry, whenever I used a public bathroom with a motion sensor, that it will suddenly turn off. I know if I move, it'll come back on and everything - but it would really freak me out. I'm glad you sat still and timed how long it took before the lights went off. Now I just have the fear of being locked in a public bathroom all night...

Dave said...

Yes, I'm not opposed to the concept of the motion detectors. But a black-out time of under three minutes seems a little extreme in an office in which productivity is frequently measured by the extent to which its occupants don't move.

Jessica said...

Yeah, that's totally true! I wonder if you could do a formula or research into how long would be productive, without being annoying. Like compare productivity interruption to energy saved per time unit... Or something mathematical like that. hmm...