Post originally published in 2016 and contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern
The holiday break for Auburn University has begun, so there’s no doubt people’s thoughts are filled with travel plans to see family and friends. Much of campus is vacant during the winter weeks of December and January, as most students go home and many faculty and staff aren’t in their offices for part of the break. Have you ever considered what goes on in empty residence halls and offices when no one is living or working in them?
In terms of human use, there may not be much activity, however, lots of energy is still being used when there’s no one there to enjoy it. Given the large amount of money Auburn University spends on powering campus per year, around $14,533,000 for electricity and $4,703,000 for natural gas, any actions we can take will help the university save money over winter break. In addition, energy production and consumption from non-renewable sources is a main emitter of greenhouse gases, which are contributing to climate change. By being aware of how you leave your residence hall, office, or apartment for a long break, you can help the Auburn community save money and energy this winter. So this year, before you start packing to leave campus, take a minute to check out these tips to power down during the holiday break!
- Computer monitors, printers, scanners, televisions, gaming systems, space heaters, fans, lamps, toasters, and coffeemakers are great places to start, as these appliances won’t be used if no one is in the building over a long break. Appliances such as these consume a phantom energy load, meaning they pull energy even when not turned on or in direct use. Annually 75% of electricity used to power homes is consumed when products are off1. By unplugging over break, you can get rid of phantom energy loads throughout your residence hall, apartment, or office building.
Unplug and clean refrigerators and freezers
- The electricity used by larger appliances is significant, and reducing it can greatly increase savings if not in use for a month. If you can completely unplug, be sure no food is left inside, so you won’t come back to a spoiled mess. If it’s not possible to unplug, cleaning refrigerators and freezers is still beneficial. Dust and dirt that build up on coils located under and behind the unit cause it to work harder for longer cycles. Energy consumption can be reduced 6% by removing dust from the outside of the appliance 2-3 times a year5. In addition, frost build up increases the amount of energy needed to run. Before leaving for break is a perfect time to clean, defrost, and unplug.
Turn off lights
- In a typical campus building 31% of energy use comes from lighting,2 making turning off lights an easy way to save both money and energy. Before walking out of the office or residence hall for break, do a quick walk through and flip the switches off.
Lower blinds and close curtains
- Heat transfer occurs from warm to cool areas, meaning a warm house in the winter is subject to lose heat as it flows to the cooler outside temperatures. Even when all windows appear to be completely closed, heat is still lost through a building’s walls, roof, and floor. About 35% of the heat produced by a building will be lost through gaps in and around windows and doors3. By closing curtains and blinds before leaving, you can decrease the amount of heat wasted from your residence hall or office building.
Turn thermostats down
- In an apartment you have direct control of your unit’s heating and cooling system and can adjust accordingly for the time you will be gone by turning your heating system down. In an office setting, even if you only control your individual room or you have a limited range of control, remember every degree counts and even small efforts can cause big changes. In fact, lowering the thermostat by 1 degree results in monetary savings of 3% off your bill4. Not only will this save you money, it’s environmentally-friendly because fewer resources will be used for heating an unoccupied building.
These small actions are good habits to develop every time you leave a building, and are especially important before leaving for an extended amount of time. Make this holiday break more sustainable and give a gift to the environment by powering down your residence hall, apartment, or office building before leaving campus!
1 Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. Take Control and Save. http://www.takecontrolandsave.coop/documents/PhantomLoad.pdf
2 National Grid. Managing Energy Costs in Colleges and Universities. https://www9.nationalgridus.com/non_html/shared_energyeff_college.pdf
3 The Green Age. Where am I loosing heat in my home? http://www.thegreenage.co.uk/where-am-i-losing-heat-home/
4 US News- Personal Finance. 9 Ways to Save on Your Utility Bill. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/02/21/9-ways-to-save-on-your-utility-bill
5 Horizon Services: Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning. Frugal Fridge Maintenance Can Save You Energy…and Cold Hard Cash. https://www.horizonservices.com/about-us/blog/frugal-fridge-maintenance-can-save-you-energy-and-cold-hard-cash/