You don’t need to use it, but you still push the button. How much energy are you wasting?

handicap buttons.jpg We live in a time in which luxurious technological services are seemingly being introduced every second. Instead of going out to get a pizza, we press a few buttons on our phone and have one delivered to directly to our door. Rather than waiting for our favorite TV show to air a new episode, we wait for the perfect opportunity to binge-watch the season on our laptop. This is all great, but have these new services made us more dependent, and dare I say lazier, as a population? We have all seen it before – the automatic door open button on a building door. It makes the day easier or simply possible for those who need it, specifically, elders or individuals with a disability. However, these folks are not the only ones who are using this button regularly. In fact, according to a study at Stanford’s Psychology Department, nearly 75 percent of people who press this button are not physically disabled. Unfortunately, this finding is not surprising. Whenever you are in a public space with automatic door open buttons, you are bound to see several younger and able-bodied people using them. They will press it, wait for the doors to slowly open and then walk in or out. This happens despite it being much quicker and more efficient for them to simply push the door open and walk away. I will admit, I am one person who has been guilty of doing this multiples times in my life. But it is a habit that should be broken for those of us who do not truly need the assistance. Although it may bring a momentary convenience to our day, unnecessarily pressing this button has its own negative impacts, perhaps put most simply, it wastes energy. Although the automatic door open button uses less power than automatic sliding or swing doors, it still uses energy each and every time the button is pressed. Therefore, like any other electric machinery, the more times the button is pressed and the door automatically opens, the easier the button can malfunction or break. This means it will need to be repaired more often and is less available to individuals who require this assistance in their daily lives. And this is not the only kind of energy wasted. There is most likely heat or air conditioning running throughout the public building. When the button is pressed, the door opens at a slower pace than it normally would if a person had just opened it him or herself. Typically, with the button, the door will stay open for an average of 20 seconds, letting air in and out and wasting energy from the building’s heat or air conditioning. Northern Kentucky University attempted to monetize this loss. According to The Northerner, Kohrs Lonneman Heil Engineers, a firm located near the campus, estimated that it cost 2 cents every time one of these buttons was pushed. While this may seem like a piddling amount (and a good way to get rid of pennies), it adds up, with the newspaper reporting that irresponsible use of automatic door open buttons could cost NKU more than $7,000 per week. This equates to $364,000. Doesn’t seem like such a minor thing anymore, does it? Let’s admit it: If we just open these public doors ourselves, it will not have a big impact on our personal energy level. On the other hand, it will have a substantial impact on the overall energy wasted for the building that has the automatic door open button. If we keep this in the back of our minds as we go about our day, we can save energy around us and respect those who need these utilities to go through their own day.