February 4, 2014

University Unplugs, Saves $140,000 in Energy Costs

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Over winter break, Cornell Facilities Services saved the University $140,000 in energy costs and released 1,200 fewer metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere by lowering temperatures in some classrooms and laboratory buildings by four degrees.

Temperatures were lowered to 64 degrees from the usual 68 degrees, according to a University press release.

The office’s 2013 “Holiday Setback” program, which is an annual attempt to scale back energy use, occurred from Dec. 25 to Jan. 2 and saw a 7 percent improvement in energy efficiency from the 2012 program, according to Erin Moore, energy outreach coordinator for Facilities Services,.

In total, the program resulted in a 28-percent reduction in energy usage for the nine-day period, according to a University press release.

While the Holiday Setback Program was a campus-wide effort, facilities services did not lower the temperatures of all buildings, Moore said.

Only 58 of 100 buildings belonging to endowed colleges — the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, School of Hotel Administration and College of Architecture, Art and Planning — participated in Holiday Setback, according to the final report released by Facilities Services.

15 out of 32 buildings under control of the undergraduate contract colleges — College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, School of Industrial and Labor Relations and College of Human Ecology — participated as well.

The Holiday Setback Program can only run during Winter Break because it is the only time the University closes, according to Moore. In addition, the program requires the cooperation of multiple organizations and offices on campus, which makes it difficult to conduct during the rest of the year, Moore added.

“This program takes the combined efforts of multiple campus partners,” she said. “In order for the program to be effective, it is important that the program is done when the campus is closed.”

Cornell Facilities Services worked with the Division of University Communications to “send out university-wide messages to remind the campus community to turn off and/or unplug equipment before leaving for the winter break,” Moore said.

According to Moore, obtaining the awareness of various faculty, staff and other community members was “hugely important” for the program’s success.

“Individual conservation efforts are also what makes this program a success on campus,” she said.

Facilities Services intends to expand the holiday setback program to include all buildings on campus for the 2014 Holiday Setback program, according to the office’s final report.

In addition to the holiday setback program, Facilities Services conducts other programs throughout the year to increase energy conservation, Moore said.

One of these programs are the Energy Conservation Initiative, which works to upgrade lighting fixtures to be more efficient and perform efficiency surveys of campus buildings, according to Moore.

According to the Energy Consrevation Initiative’s website, these efforts achieve, “dramatic and lasting conservation results.”

Other ongoing efforts includes “Think Big, Live Green” which focuses “on promoting sustainable actions in lab and office areas, including energy competitions in academic and residential halls,” Moore said.