Terry Norris: Small Business Hero

Making Big Differences with Small Actions

Terry Norris runs Precision Lab Calibration in Palmdale, California. If you need something measured to the millionth of an inch, he’s your guy—he’s also an Energy Hero.

What does Precision Labs Calibration do?

We provide high-accuracy measurements to the aerospace and manufacturing industries. If you need to measure something to a millionth of an inch, we’re the people you come to. All materials expand and contract with temperature changes, so we need to keep our labs at exactly 68˚F all the time to get accurate measurements and comply with international standards. That requires a lot of air conditioning.

Is this why you are so energy conscious?

I’ve always been energy conscious, going back to my childhood. I’m a Navajo Indian. When we were herding sheep on the reservation you couldn’t waste your water; you couldn’t waste any kind of energy you had. That’s continued throughout my life. This has increased in importance because the exponential growth of humans isn’t stopping, so our energy use is increasing exponentially. Now we have to make conscious decisions so that there is enough for everyone out there. I like to know that I’m helping the planet. I’m not here just to consume and destroy—I’m here to try and help.

“Although I’ve dropped my energy usage to zero, it isn’t going to make a difference right? What makes a difference is if I can get 10 people to do that—100 people, 1000 people…”

Can you explain how Precision Labs is saving energy?

The roof of our building is coated to reflect heat. I used an infrared thermometer and found over a 50˚F difference from uncoated surfaces; that meant much less heat coming into the building, which meant less cooling required. I installed solar panels and switched all the lights to LEDs. Lots of things are on timers, like the lunch refrigerator and water heater, so they’re not on when people aren’t here. I automated our alarm system to shut down different things that aren’t in use, like the intercom system, when we set it at night. The original plan was to get to net-zero electricity use. We’ve actually achieved far more than that.

You’re already doing an amazing job, so what’s next?

Although I’ve dropped my energy usage to zero, it isn’t going to make a difference, right? What makes a difference is if I can get 10 people to do that—100 people, 1,000 people to cut down their usage. If someone else drops theirs 10%, this person drops 15%, that person drops 8%, and we get 1,000 people doing it, then the electric company starts noticing: “Hey, rather than running my plant at 100 megawatts, I can run it at 99.” That 1% drop for them is huge in terms of emissions output, so the answer is education. Now we can really start to make a big difference.

Any advice for everyone reading this?

Small changes add up over time. You could install low-flow showerheads or look at getting a solar device installed to help reduce your electricity costs if that’s an option for you. From there, maybe use the broom once in a while rather than running the vacuum on a smooth floor—and wow, you’re saving a little bit of electricity just by keeping your house clean. Everything adds up.