To learn more about this profession, ask your career counselor for additional information or for assistance in arranging a field trip to an industrial, commercial, or business workplace to explore energy efficiency.
Utility companies exist in almost every city and employ energy analysts or a team of auditors in their customer service departments. Energy specialists also work for large hospitals, office buildings, hotels, universities, and manufacturing plants. Contact these employers of energy technicians to learn about opportunities for volunteer, part-time, or summer work.
You can also enroll in seminars offered by community colleges or equipment and material suppliers to learn about such topics as building insulation and energy sources. Student projects in energy conservation or part-time work with social service agencies that help low-income citizens meet their energy costs are other options for exploration.
Energy efficiency and conservation are major concerns in nearly all homes and workplaces. This means that work assignments for energy conservation technicians vary greatly. They may inspect homes, businesses, or industrial buildings to identify conditions that cause energy waste, recommend ways to reduce the waste, and help install corrective measures. When technicians complete an analysis of a problem in energy use and effectiveness, they can state the results in tangible dollar costs, losses, or savings. Their work provides a basis for important decisions on using and conserving energy.
Energy conservation technicians may be employed in power plants, research laboratories, construction firms, industrial facilities, government agencies, or companies that sell and service equipment. The jobs these technicians perform can be divided into four major areas of energy activity: research and development, production, use, and conservation.
In research and development, technicians usually work in laboratories testing mechanical, electrical, chemical, pneumatic, hydraulic, thermal, or optical scientific principles. Typical employers include institutions, private industry, government, and the military. Working under the direction of an engineer, physicist, chemist, or metallurgist, technicians use specialized equipment and materials to perform laboratory experiments. They help record data and analyze it using computers. They may also be responsible for periodic maintenance and repair of equipment.
In energy production, typical employers include solar energy equipment manufacturers, installers, and users; power plants; and process plants that use high-temperature heat, steam, or water. Technicians in this field work with engineers and managers to develop, install, operate, maintain, and repair systems and devices used for the conversion of fuels or other resources into useful energy. Such plants may produce hot water, steam, mechanical motion, or electrical power through systems such as furnaces, electrical power plants, and solar heating systems. These systems may be controlled manually by semiautomated control panels or by computers.
In the field of energy use, technicians might work to improve efficiency in industrial engineering and production line equipment. They also maintain equipment and buildings for hospitals, schools, and multifamily housing.
Technicians working in energy conservation typically work for manufacturing companies, consulting engineers, energy-audit firms, and energy-audit departments of public utility companies. Municipal governments, hotels, architects, private builders, and manufacturers of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning equipment also hire them. Working in teams under engineers, technicians determine building specifications, modify equipment and structures, audit energy use and the efficiency of machines and systems, then recommend modifications or changes to save energy.
If working for a utility company, a technician might work as part of a demand-side management (DSM) program, which helps customers reduce the amount of their electric bill. Under DSM programs, energy conservation technicians visit customers' homes to interview them about household energy use, such as the type of heating system, the number of people home during the day, the furnace temperature setting, and prior heating costs.
Technicians then draw a sketch of the house, measure its perimeter, windows, and doors, and record dimensions on the sketch. They inspect attics, crawl spaces, and basements and note any loose-fitting windows, uninsulated pipes, and deficient insulation. They read hot-water tank labels to find the heat-loss rating and determine the need for a tank insulation blanket. Technicians also examine air furnace filters and heat exchangers to detect dirt or soot buildup that might affect furnace operations. Once technicians identify a problem, they must know how to correct it. After discussing problems with the customer, the technician recommends repairs and provides literature on conservation improvements and sources of loans to pay for energy-efficient systems or other products.