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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 23, 2007

Weather causes loss in energy savings

by Samantha Beres

fume hood
copy machine
laser printer

Fume hoods, copiers and printers are examples of equipment faculty and staff can turn off to save energy. Photos by Bob Elbert.

For now, extreme weather has squelched progress in energy savings at Iowa State. In the past, growing energy consumption has been at the root of lost savings, but this time the culprit is Mother Nature.

In the month of January, the power plant delivered more than 120 million pounds of steam to general university facilities. That's about 19 percent more than last year's 86 million pounds. The plant burned 25 semi-truck loads of coal every day in January, as compared to a more typical 18.

"Early signs were that this year was better than last year, but now, in spite of everyone's efforts, the frigid January has us creating brand-new consumption records," said Dave Miller, director of facilities operations.

In December, the energy savings were up to $200,000, a vast improvement from October, when the savings had dipped into the red. But January has made Iowa State's goal of saving $1.5 million a long shot.

The goal of $1.5 million in savings was part of an energy conservation effort established in 2001. The savings is calculated by comparing current use to a benchmark which is the average consumption for three years leading up to the conservation effort - FY99, FY00 and FY01. Iowa State met the goal in FY02, FY03 and FY04.

"I think we could still save $1 million this year, but I think the $1.5 [million] is out of our reach now," Miller said.

When the weather is this extreme, he said, it overshadows any efforts that may be made in personal usage. However, before January, electricity readings were looking good. Electricity is the best indicator of individual efforts in energy conservation because people have control over lights, printers and other machinery. Miller added that individual efforts still are important in helping Iowa State meet its savings goals.

"Turn off anything that you're not using," he said.


Energy hogs

  • Fume hoods that operate when they do not need to, or with the sash raised higher than it needs to be. (Turn it off when not using and save $425 each month.)
  • Office equipment such as copiers, printers and PCs. (Turn them off when not using and save $3-4 per month, per unit.)
  • Too many personal appliances, such as refrigerators and coffee pots. (Get rid of some or all and save $2-14 per month, per unit.)