Commercial HVAC Equipment

Don’t dread the college students: Tips on saving energy when they return to campus

Thursday, August 25 2016 11:23 AM
By Jon Goering

Lighting, HVAC and water heating account for 84 percent of energy consumption on U.S. college campuses.

With college students returning to campuses this month, facility leaders can expect to see a significant increase in energy consumption.

How much? While every college and university differs, we know that lighting, HVAC and water heating account for 84 percent of energy consumption on campuses in the U.S., according to National Grid, an investor-owned energy company.

So what can be done on your campus to save money while reducing energy? Based upon the statistic above, it’s only natural for facility leaders to turn to lighting and HVAC first. In reality, your answer should depend on the amount of time and energy you want to invest.

In this article, we’ll explore both quick fixes and more long-term solutions to reducing your energy spend and improving your bottom line.

Turn It Off or Turn It Down

The most obvious way to save energy is to turn things off. Turn off lights when no one is in the room. Turn off computers and monitors or utilize their sleep-mode function. Turn off a water faucet or shower when it’s not in use.

Sound too simple? Consider this. Let’s say a typical computer monitor draws 100 watts of power. If it’s never shut off, it could add $30 or more to the annual energy bill. Multiply that by the number of students on campus. It adds up!

Something as simple as a sticker reminding people to turn things off can produce positive results. If you don’t trust people to turn off lights, then consider installing occupancy and daylight sensors, which can provide great returns.

Another option is to turn down heating and cooling equipment. HVAC systems often overheat or overcool buildings, and sometimes they condition areas where there is no need. A building automation system can eliminate this from occurring, although it should be considered a more long-term option.

Water heaters, too, can be turned down where showers or laboratories aren’t in play. And water fountains may not need to produce ice-cold water, thus reducing the cost of cooling it more than necessary.

Changing human behavior can have a significant impact on reducing energy consumption. In fact, some colleges have initiated campaigns aimed at increasing awareness and created contests to see which student housing area could save the most energy. One example is the University of Colorado. It posts energy usage data to its website so students and faculty can see how energy usage in campus buildings is trending.

Turning off lights is an easy way to save energy.

Think Big

Since buildings and systems change over time, one of the most important steps you can take to reduce energy consumption is commissioning. During this process, an expert investigates all things building-related: lighting, electrical, plumbing, elevators, security, fire, communication and the building envelope. The goal here is to see how your systems and structures are performing. Once complete, the expert makes recommendations on changes.

Take lighting, for example. Do you have old, inefficient T12 fluorescent lamps in your buildings? Consider replacing them with LED lamps and electronic ballasts, which can reduce energy consumption and lead to savings up to 35 percent. Adding reflectors, new lenses and occupancy timers can double the savings.

Water is another area where savings can be realized. Reduce water usage by adding low-flow faucets and shower heads, and add controllers that shut them off after a specific amount of time. Plus, save 50 percent or more energy by utilizing gray water heat recovery equipment in shower drains.

Do large, older boilers serve your campus? New, smaller boilers are more energy efficient and can encourage enough savings to justify the replacement of older models. If you are not ready to replace an older boiler, adding a new one provides you with redundancy and the ability to use the older one only when needed.

Outside of the spectrum of energy usage but just as important to consider is your roof. Recoat or paint your roof a reflective color to minimize heat absorption into the building. This solution can reduce energy use up to 20 percent.

Measure, Measure, Measure

The aforementioned solutions can lead to energy savings, but if you don’t actively track your energy usage, how will you identify the areas where those savings are occurring?

Be proactive by tracking and reviewing your buildings’ energy use. Work with your building automation provider to better understand how your system is operating and identify areas where changes can be made. In doing so, it’s not uncommon to discover other problem areas that have existed for years, costing you thousands of dollars.

Think Short and Long Term

While it’s tempting initially to implement smaller, less-costly changes with a shorter payback, consider rolling out both short- and long-term changes simultaneously. For example, replace or upgrade a boiler system along with lighting replacements. The shorter payback solutions help fund the long-term measures, allowing for the project to be paid for more quickly.

Energy Leader

One final option for colleges is to designate or hire an energy officer. If designated, this person might be the facilities leader or building engineer. The energy officer will be a champion for saving energy and will see to it that the institution’s energy goals are carried out.

He or she will work closely with the facilities team and act as a liaison between that department and the president or leadership team. As the old adage goes: “If it’s not someone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.”

Colleges and universities don’t need to dread the costs associated with increased energy use. By taking a proactive approach to your buildings and systems, you can reduce energy use and save money in the process. More importantly, you can create a better environment for students to learn and faculty and administration to work.

Would you like to know more about ways to reduce your energy use at your college or university? For more information, please email Jonathon Goering by clicking here or call 316-265-9655.

Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to identify solutions to reduce downtime and increase building efficiency. We provide services that enable building owners to have a high performance building.

Topics: Summer’s effect on commercial buildings, utility spend and ways to save

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