Of Mice and Energy Conservation

Michael Ivanovich’s recent blog post about the mouse in his house reminded me of my own mice issues. Kathy and I have had an had an on-again, off-again mouse problem too, usually about this time of year when the weather changes.  Kathy gets pretty freaked out if she sees a mouse in the house, despite the fact that she thinks the little mice and rat characters in the Muppet Christmas Carol are pretty cute. Bottom line is they are O.K. if they are dressed in cute little 1800’s London costumes singing with Michael Caine, but they better not run across her floor or counter top.

Kathy and I are both kind of “softies” and we successfully solved the problem with a live trap and subsequent relocation of the occasional seasonal mouse to the woods. Meanwhile, Hobbes (the latest addition to the FDE NW Satellite Office staff pictured below) ….

Dr. Riley Sellers; PhD CTK LBNL CTPSC (See footnote) and Hobbes Sellers, Undergraduate, Major – Applied Chaos Theory

… has made a big difference in terms of mouse control.  I’ve also purchased some of the ultrasonic devices that you find in the pest control aisle as an additional preventative measure.

A couple of years ago, I would have been pretty skeptical that ultrasonic mouse prevention measures were a viable deterrent. But that was before I met Bob , the Director of Facilities at a major research institution. Jay Santos, one of the principles and founding partner at FDE, introduced me to Bob one time when we were both in the area at the same time, and wrangled me a tour of Bob’s mechanical spaces, which are a lesson in how it can and should be done.

Anyway, Bob had just opened up a new vivarium and all of a sudden, the mice quit making little mice. This, of course, is a problem if you are doing research that involves having mice reproduce, especially if the the research is being done at a cutting edge facility with world renowned researchers. So, the mice’s (meese’s, micei? what ever the plural is) romantic dis-interest had things in a bit of an uproar.

Bob did some research and, bottom line, realized that the energy conserving occupancy sensors installed in the new facility, which controlled the lights right outside the mouse quarters, operated at a sound threshold that was smack-dab in the middle of the mouse hearing range (mice just start to hear at the high frequencies where we cut off based on Bob’s research).

Basically, that meant that every time someone opened the door and went into or out of the vivarium, it was as if (from the human perspective) a 707 before noise abatement regulations made a low approach to the local airport on a flight path that ran right over your house. Not so good for fostering the “come hither” look unless the object of your affection happens to be an airplane nut (most mice aren’t).

So, Bob changed motion detectors to a type that use sound in a non-mice hearing range and bingo, everybody (the mice mostly) started having a really good time again.

I love that story. For one thing, as you probably know from some of my past posts, I believe that “thinking outside the box” is essential for creative problem solving. Bob’s mouse story is a great example of that and to me, his research and solution are nothing short of brilliant. Plus, the story always strikes me as amusing in a “who woulda thunk it” sort of away and Michael’s post reminded me of it.  So I thought I would share my insight into the link between mice and energy conservation.

And incidentally, (knock on wood), so far, so good on the ultrasonic rodent repellents. Of course, Hobbes, who is a bit skeptical of technology, is ever vigilant and that could also be factor.


David Sellers
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering

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Footnote – Doctorate of Philosophy – Canine Treat Kinetics – Lower Buchanan National Labs, Canine Treat Preservation Systems Center

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One Response to Of Mice and Energy Conservation

  1. I tried the ultrasonic devices for about 10 years and they do help. What I don’t understand is how some people class that as inhumane actions against mice.

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