An energy efficiency engineer could...
|Recommend the installation of the most efficient lamps and electrical ballasts available in an office building.||Review architectural plans and make changes to the design to improve the heating and cooling properties of a new home.|
|Analyze the energy usage in a production line, and recommend changes to boost efficiency and save money.||Use an infrared camera during an energy audit to determine where heat losses are greatest in a room.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||How much energy do you think all the houses and buildings in the United States consume? It turns out they eat up 40% of all the energy that the U.S. uses in a year. The figure is high because all those houses and buildings need to be heated, cooled, lit, ventilated, and supplied with heated water and electricity to run all sorts of electrical devices, appliances, and computers. Energy efficiency engineers help reduce the energy that houses and buildings use. This saves families and businesses money, and lowers the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.|
|Key Requirements||Detail-oriented, logical, persuasive, and able to present trade-offs in clear language with excellent oral and written communication skills.|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, computer science, statistics, applied technology, business|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
A bachelor's degree in engineering is the minimum requirement for employment as an energy efficiency engineer.
Education and Training
Most energy efficiency engineers have at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, such as mechanical or electrical engineering, in addition to P.E. (professional engineer) and/or C.E.M. (certified engineering manager) certification. Some employers prefer an advanced engineering degree, while others prefer experience in business management. A few colleges and universities are developing energy engineering programs designed to focus on the growing demand for engineers with training in energy efficiency, sustainability, and alternative energy development.
Many energy efficiency engineers need some practical experience before they can conduct their own energy audits. Often they start as an adjunct or support to another energy auditor. In this way, they get to learn the responsibilities on the job as they work. If an employer requires advanced degrees or certification specifically related to becoming an energy auditor, then the employee often works as an apprentice or support to another energy auditor while continuing his or her education. In addition, many degree programs have some work-study built into them.
Energy efficiency engineers require excellent oral and written communication skills since they interact with many types of people, give presentations to management, and write reports and documents which influence corporate decisions on energy conservation.
Nature of the Work
Energy efficiency engineers identify opportunities to save energy and improve efficiency in commercial and residential buildings by conducting energy audits in which they inspect, survey, model, and analyze the primary energy flows in buildings--mechanical, electrical, and thermal. Through their modeling and analysis, efficiency engineers find ways to conserve energy in buildings, reducing the amount of energy going into buildings without negatively impacting the energy needs, or the health and safety, of the people inside. The goal of their work is to reduce the ownership costs of homes and buildings and to promote good stewardship of our environment through increased energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency engineers may be called upon during any stage of home or building construction—from the design or building of new structures to the remodeling of existing ones. They may specialize in auditing one of the energy-consuming components of the home or building, such as the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC), or lighting system.
Energy efficiency engineers help corporations develop energy usage goals, and mentor their energy teams to help the corporations reach their goals. They assist in problem resolution, and energy project management through cost-benefit analyses, scope and bid development, contract negotiations, contract management, and project performance verification. They prepare quarterly reports and present detailed briefings to corporate leadership on energy efficiency progress, roadblocks, and future plans to achieve success.
Some energy efficiency engineers are employed in energy education. They hold training sessions in businesses to improve employee awareness of energy reduction efforts and to engage employees in a variety of opportunities for reducing energy usage both at home and at work.
Most energy efficiency engineers conduct energy audits inside industrial plants, commercial buildings, or residential homes, while their modeling and analysis of energy flows is done inside their own office building. Some engineers may spend time outdoors at construction sites to help monitor or direct operations or solve onsite problems. Some energy efficiency engineers travel extensively to conduct audits at plants or worksites outside their home city.
Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
On the Job
- Identify energy savings opportunities and make recommendations to achieve more energy efficient operation.
- Manage the development, design, or construction of energy conservation projects to ensure acceptability of budgets and time lines, conformance to federal and state laws, or adherence to approved specifications.
- Conduct energy audits to evaluate energy use, costs, or conservation measures.
- Monitor and analyze energy consumption.
- Perform energy modeling, measurement, verification, commissioning, or retro-commissioning.
- Oversee design or construction aspects related to energy such as energy engineering, energy management, and sustainable design.
- Conduct jobsite observations, field inspections, or sub-metering to collect data for energy conservation analyses.
- Review architectural, mechanical, or electrical plans and specifications to evaluate energy efficiency or determine economic, service, or engineering feasibility.
- Inspect or monitor energy systems including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), or daylighting systems to determine energy use or potential energy savings.
- Evaluate construction design information such as detail and assembly drawings, design calculations, system layouts and sketches, or specifications.
Companies That Hire Energy Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- A Bright Idea for Saving Energy
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- Feel Free to Sleep at School... If You're a Computer!
- Free Lunch? Can Solar Energy Systems Pay for Themselves with Utility Bill Savings?
- Get Something for Nothing: Free Power from the Sun!
- Green Technology: Build an Electronic Rain Detector to Conserve Water
- Green Your PC: Help Your Computer Save Power
- How Does Color Affect Heating by Absorption of Light?
- How Does Solar Cell Output Vary with Incident Light Intensity?
- How Much Can Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
- Just Keep Cool—How Evaporation Affects Heating and Cooling
- Killing 'Vampires': Saving Money and Power by Turning Off Computer Peripherals
- Pop Goes the Metal: How Temperature Affects Snap Time of a Jumping Disc
- Remodeling and Energy Efficiency
- Rooftop Gardens: Are They a Cool Idea?
- Seebeck Effect: Turn Heat into Electricity, Then Measure It with a Thermocouple Thermometer
- Solar Speedway
- Spare a Watt, Save a Lot
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Energy Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Association of Energy Engineers: http://www.aeecenter.org/
- United States Green Building Council: http://www.usgbc.org/
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers: http://www.ashrae.org/
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Energy and Utility Skills. (2010). Katy Deacon. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from http://www.euskills.co.uk/careers/a-day-in-the-life-of/case-studies/katy-deacon-energy-engineer-with-kirklees-council/
- iSeek Solutions. (2010). Day in the Life. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from http://www.iseek.org/industry/energy/careers/day-in-the-life.html
- Trade Press Media Group, Inc. (2009, March 24). An Interview with Peter Rumsey of Rumsey Engineers. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from An Interview with Peter Rumsey of Rumsey Engineers
- Interstate Renewable Energy Council. (2010). Interview: Chris Warfel: trainer, installer, designer, solar oyster farmer. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from http://irecusa.org/2009/12/interview-chris-warfel-entech-engineering/
- Chevron. (2010, January 14). Chevron Uses Energy Efficiently. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from http://www.chevron.com/stories/#/allstories/chevronefficiency/