Unplugged appliances cut energy costs over break

Monday, February 14, 2005

The University saved over $78,000 as a result of reduced electrical energy consumption during Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

Brown consumes approximately 172,500 kilowatts of electricity per day during the school year, according to Facilities Management Resource Efficiency Manager Kurt Teichert.

As a comparison, the average household in the northeast United States consumes approximately 20 kilowatts per day.

During winter break, from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, the University reduced its consumption to 144,142 kilowatts per day, an 18.3 percent reduction in energy use on campus.

“The main goal is to throttle down as many buildings as possible,” Vice President of Facilities Management John Noonan said. “We don’t necessarily have a particular goal of how much we want to conserve over a break. We just want to save as much as we can.”

With most students leaving campus, the University was able to reduce energy use the most in the dormitories, according to Noonan. Whereas the average temperature in dorms during the school year is set between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature during winter break was set in the mid-50s.

During the break, Andrews Hall consumed approximately 2,375 kilowatts per day, which was 70 percent of its normal winter average. Much of the reductions in Andrews and in all the other buildings can be attributed to students and faculty turning off appliances, he said.

“Any little appliance consumes energy. Even a clock radio that is left plugged in consumes energy,” Noonan said. “Overall, I think the students, faculty and staff are doing a pretty good job in trying to save as much as we can.”

Emily McAteer ’07, a member of Brown Environmental Action Network, said many students underestimate the impact they can make.

“Students could do so much more, and a lot of it is that they don’t know,” McAteer said. “Anything plugged in on standby, like a TV – even if it’s not on – is using energy. On top of all of that, there are 5,000; 6,000 people here and if everybody just remembered to turn off their computers, it’s that much energy that is saved.”

“Simply by turning down or turning off appliances you can get a substantial decrease,” Noonan said. “Obviously we can’t do that in buildings where activity is still going on during the break, so we reach out to the departments to see what hours they are going to be out of the buildings. Dorms are clearly the biggest source of energy conservation for us.”

Still, some students and faculty members think the University could do more to raise awareness about the negative effects of electrical energy consumption on the environment.

“From Brown’s point of view, the University needs to be a leader,” Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies Harold Ward said. “President Simmons has just recently signed a statement saying the University will take energy conservation issues seriously. We’ve agreed to do it, and we need to.”

Ward said raising awareness on campus should be a priority.

“Its part of the University’s responsibility to educate on these matters,” he said. “The truth is, if it’s done successfully, the benefit is education rather than saving electricity. It would be a lifetime of saving electricity if somebody really came to believe it, not just turning off a light one day or an appliance over a break.”

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