University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of EngineeringOnline: Spring 2011
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Engineering Students Promote Energy-savings with Project in EPA Competition
The I-SAVE team, from diverse origins, includes (left to right): Evans Sordiashie from Takoradi, Ghana; Hosen Hasna from Damascus, Syria; Xueyi Wang from Beijing, China; Tim Wisnieski from Norfolk, Neb.; Mahmoud Alahmad from Jasem, Syria; Wisam Nader from Arab Mountain, Syria; Sean Bergstedt from Kansas City, Mo.; and Caitlin Brow, from Council Bluffs, Ia. Not pictured: Adam Brumbaugh from Red Cloud, Neb.

Earth Day became a year-round pursuit for Nebraska Engineering students developing the I-SAVE project. Their efforts with this energy monitor project aim to make going green as easy as pushing a button, with results that reduce emissions and save money—starting at home. Their project earned an honorable mention at an event in Washington, D.C.

I-SAVE team member Caitlin Brow, an architectural engineering major, said the device is designed to "wirelessly monitor every point where energy is consumed in your house, then show you the energy impact and how you could reduce energy waste with a panel board to centrally control energy use."

Assistant professor Mahmoud Alahmad, who teaches electrical system design for the built environment with UNL's Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction, guided the team devising the I-SAVE monitor to centrally manage energy use in a household.

"Most of the energy monitor products on the market are either relying on the user to figure out where to take action to save energy or providing a selective/isolated approach to segments of the energy system in the house," Alahmad said. "The I-SAVE system allows for non-essential appliances to be turned off in one action, when a home's occupant leaves."

Alahmad said UNL's I-SAVE project was awarded a grant to participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's P3 competition for college teams to design solutions for a sustainable future. He said this EPA program's goal is to help students benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet.

The I-SAVE project was presented and judged among 53 teams at a National Sustainable Building Expo, April 15-17 in Washington, D.C. UNL was also included in “Planet Forward,” PBS programming timed with Earth Day 2011, and an interview with Alahmad appeared in an April edition of PBS' Nightly Business Report.


Praising the P3 program's multidisciplinary approach, Alahmad said the P3 opportunity "offers students quality hands-on experience that brings their classroom learning to life."

Working at The Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha, the I-SAVE project attracted participation beyond The Durham School, including UNL computer engineering student Xue Yi Wang of Beijing, who helped with the project's wireless transmission aspects. The work also involved a local utility, the Omaha Public Power District.

Architectural engineering student Sean Bergstedt said he believes the I-SAVE project is important because "U.S. homes use about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in the nation, and about 60 percent of that is in the form of electricity."

Alahmad said research has shown that consumers waste almost 41 percent of the power supplied to their homes. When consumers are presented with feedback on their own energy usage, he said they are more likely to change their energy usage behavior, with savings of up to 11 percent reported in studies performed in the United States.

"With a comprehensive approach to the energy consumption and control in homes, we expect a 20 percent average savings in energy" for consumers using I-SAVE, Alahmad said. His team explored emissions reductions in terms of energy savings per household; they found the average household consumes 920 kilowatt hours per month, with each KWh resulting in 1.3 pounds of CO2 emissions. Alahmad said a household using I-SAVE could reduce its energy use by 184 KWh per month. This would reduce monthly CO2 emissions by 238.65 lbs per home, based on the assumption that the KWh was produced by non-renewable resources. For the average homeowner, reducing energy consumption by 15-30 percent translates into savings of up to $450 per year.

– Carole Wilbeck

View a 4-minute video about the I-SAVE project, including interviews with UNL student team members and adviser Mahmoud Alahmad, at


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