Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Engineer turns up the heat on energy costs

If anyone got a little hot under the collar at the University of Denver this past summer, it was for a good cause … and it was just the beginning when it comes to saving energy.

DU Energy Engineer Tom McGee says turning up the temperature to 76 degrees — from the customary 72 — in centrally controlled campus buildings over the summer contributed to a substantial drop in campus energy consumption. While the summer was cooler than usual, McGee says turning up the thermostats shows DU cut energy use from prior years by more than 5 percent. That dip saved DU more than $50,000 in June, July and August and cut the equivalent of almost 500 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. That’s like taking 72 cars off the road for a full year.

“At the end of the day, I am confident the thermostat setback program is directly responsible for a significant portion of the savings,” McGee says.

The program was so successful, the campus community should expect a repeat next year, he says.

But turning up the thermostat in the summer is just a start, McGee says. During the fall quarter, DU installed motion sensors that turn off lights in Sturm Hall rest rooms when unoccupied. And equipment is already on order for a similar retrofit in the rest rooms at the Ritchie Center.

“These types of areas, where there are frequently long periods when no one is using them, are perfect for motion sensor switches,” McGee says. “Why leave the lights on when no one is there?”

As part of an ongoing push to chop DU’s energy consumption by 5 percent overall by 2012, McGee and facilities managers are looking for more places to cut back. McGee and others are looking at plans for an energy makeover of Olin Hall, more efficient lighting at Penrose Library and solar power at the Ritchie Center, possibly to heat the swimming pool. In residence halls, students are competing to see which hall can reduce its energy consumption the most.

There are factors to consider at every turn, McGee says, including economics, but the theme of each new investigation is the same: save energy.

“More efficient lighting, when you talk about energy conservation, is something that has been around for quite some time,” McGee says. “Now, we’re starting to move into other areas of energy conservation, and we’re looking everywhere. It’s a challenge.”


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