Keeping Utility Use Under Control

Taking a few cost-saving measures and multiplying them by many people can amount to big savings when it comes to utility consumption. By keeping mindful of this equation, every member of the campus community can play an important role in helping Gallaudet reduce its utility costs.

Next to salaries and benefits, utilities-electricity, gas, oil, and water–represent the University’s largest expense. Gallaudet projects that it will spend approximately $8.2 million on utilities this year-twice the rate of five years ago. The University’s Facilities Department is aggressively taking steps to reduce the number of utilities the campus consumes, and in a May 26 email, Vice President for Administration and Finance Paul Kelly encouraged the community to join in these efforts. The campus received good news in a July 21 follow-up email from Kelly, who said that these measures are beginning to pay off–Gallaudet expects to save $500,000 on its utility bills by the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

This is only the beginning. The University is reviewing a number of additional steps to take in reducing its utilities consumption, and a vital part of this important initiative relies on the community’s participation. The utilities market is a volatile one-a hurricane that disrupts an off-shore oil refinery, the current massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the high demand for electricity caused by this summer’s record-breaking heatwave can cause energy prices to soar. While consumers’ bills are dependent on market fluctuations, the impact can be lessened if everyone on campus takes a few simple but effective measures.

The primary ways that Gallaudet has saved money on energy costs to date are by renegotiating its electricity and natural gas contracts with Hess Energy Services for a combined savings of $200,000 in June compared with June 2009, and through participating in the Load Demand Response program. The latter is a partnership the University has with Hess to reduce electrical usage during peak demand-noon to 8 p.m. The program requires participants to turn off nonessential lights, office equipment, and appliances so that residences and small businesses can avoid disruption in service. In return, Gallaudet receives a monthly royalty check. In the 15 months that Gallaudet has been involved in the program, it has been required to reduce energy use on two days when the temperature soared–June 11 and July 7. “I’m very satisfied with the results,” said Stephen Kalmus, Gallaudet’s manager of utility services. “There was great cooperation from the campus; everybody seemed enthusiastic about doing their part.”

Gallaudet recently had a six-month energy study conducted by Johnson Controls, Inc. that resulted in a 1,000-page report on ways the campus can reduce energy use. The recommendations, which would cost $12 million to implement, would result in a savings of $2 million annually, meaning that it wouldn’t take long for the University to recoup the initial expense and begin making substantial savings. The report is now being reviewed by the administration.

Facilities has established an energy committee that meets regularly to discuss ways to reduce energy consumption. As a result, a number of steps have been taken, and others are under consideration. For example, air conditioning and lighting have been discontinued during the summer months in unoccupied residence halls at the University and the Clerc Center. In addition, the temperature of the chillers that provide air conditioning to campus buildings has been raised a couple of degrees. Regarding future measures, Facilities is looking at reducing the University’s fleet of service vehicles, installing low flow toilets, efficient showerheads, and faucets, installing efficient lighting systems, reducing irrigation system usage, coordinating with Clerc Center and University pool supervisors to reduce water heating over the summer, and enhancing campus environmental controls to better monitor mechanical systems.

Additionally, reducing heating and air conditioning levels to campus buildings on evenings, weekends, and holidays will result in savings. Because lighting accounts for 28 percent of energy costs, another option being discussed is installing motion detectors in offices and public areas that would shut off lights automatically if no movement is sensed for a predetermined period of time-say, 30 minutes. The lights could be reactivated with the wave of a hand, or an override switch could simply turn off the system.

While large-scale plans such as these can result in a dramatic reduction in energy use, every member of the campus community can do his or her part to contribute to the effort. Facilities has compiled a list of some simple steps that people can take to help Gallaudet.

  • Incandescent lights should be turned off immediately when they aren’t needed. This type of lighting has largely been phased out at Gallaudet in favor of fluorescent lighting. According to Kalmus, fluorescent lights require about 15 minutes to reach full power, so he recommends leaving them on unless the area will be unoccupied for a longer period of time.
  • If an area receives sufficient natural light, keep the lights off during the day.
  • Turn off computers, copiers, and other office machines when not in use.
  • Turn off heat and air conditioning units when leaving for the day.
  • To ensure that the above steps are followed, assign the last person leaving the office for the day the responsibility of shutting off all lights and heat or air conditioning.
  • Report running toilets, dripping faucets, and other sources of water that is being wasted.

Don’t use personal appliances; instead, use those already on hand in residence halls or office kitchens.

“As you can tell, energy stewardship is not just a Facilities team solution but a community solution that I am confident we all can contribute to set our campus up for energy savings success,” said Dr. Mel Batten-Mickens, executive director of Facilities. “As our team of talented engineers design and plan increased facility technologies we will be able to provide increased data analysis to develop solid foundations to further support improvement areas that will enable our campus to age gracefully with an efficient operation.”

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