After Bursley Hall residents left for winter vacation, LSA junior John Ray — a Bursley resident advisor — entered 88 rooms to check if students defrosted their freezers, unplugged appliances and turned off lights. As an RA, Ray assisted the University’s effort to conserve energy over winter break by inspecting each room to see if students followed the University’s energy-saving techniques.
“Most students complied with making sure their appliances were off,” Ray said. “There were only a few incidents in which the refrigerators were still plugged in.”
To conserve energy in the residence halls, residential computing sites are completely shut down, and the dining services staff were instructed to turn off unnecessary lights and equipment.
University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the University cannot entirely shut down buildings over breaks because people still work in them.
“One of the challenges is that because there are some live-in residential education staff in some buildings, we can’t turn the heat down completely nor can we turn the heat off in any facilities because that would run the risk of pipes freezing,” Logan said.
Logan said that while students are gone, housing staff walk through each building daily to make sure areas are secure and energy is not being wasted.
Alan Levy, director of communications for Information Technology Central Services, said computers at ITCS campus computing sites were on low-energy consumption sleep mode during the break.
“IT administrators in schools, colleges and departments advise faculty and staff to turn off as much computing equipment, including printers, during the break as feasible given ongoing research, laboratory and other essential activities that don’t stop during the break,” Levy said.
Other universities in Michigan practice similar energy conservation strategies.
Western Michigan University officials named its energy plan “Holiday Setback.”
Cheryl Roland, a spokeswoman at WMU, said WMU plans to save between $250,000 to $350,000 from Holiday Setback this year.
“Our Energy Command Center has computer access to adjust the settings for about 3,000 thermostats in 75 buildings campus-wide,” Roland said in an e-mail interview. “Beginning at noon Dec. 24, our entire campus will go into holiday mode with much of the building space at about 55 degrees.”
From 1996 to 2008 WMU’s campus experienced a 19-percent increase in building square footage. During the same period, it reduced energy consumption by 17 percent.
Roland said representatives from the University of Michigan and colleges in Ohio and Indiana have visited WMU this semester to observe its energy consumption practices.
“Our campus regularly attracts colleagues from other institutions — including U of M — who pose just one question, ‘How do you do it?’” she said.
Michigan State University attempts to conserve energy through Environment Stewards, a group of 613 faculty volunteers who work to make MSU more environmentally friendly. Almost every building has one steward who engages co-workers in energy-saving, waste reduction and recycling practices.
Lauren Olson, one of the coordinators of Environment Stewards, said the program works well because it’s easy for volunteers to talk to their co-workers working in the same department.
“Having direct contact is better than getting some e-mail (with energy-saving tips),” Olson said.
In preparation for winter break, the Environment Stewards advised co-workers to turn off and unplug appliances and turn down the heat.
Sharri Margraves, MSU director of housing and food services and maintenance and interior design, said MSU saves $200,000 for every degree lowered in residence halls and campus buildings.
“In the campus buildings we ask that we do not exceed 70 degrees,” Margraves said in an e-mail interview. “In the residence halls, the heating is reduced to about 65 during the break.”
MSU Housing also set up posters in residence halls to remind students what to do before leaving for break. The posters alerted residents to unplug electronics because “plugged-in electronics create phantom energy waste by drawing electricity.” The signs also told students to report any dripping faucets or showers since one dripping faucet can waste more than 100 gallons of water per day.
The University of Michigan has not been able to estimate how much money it saves from energy reductions over breaks due to weather variations, differences in vacation length and difficulties in measuring energy use for short periods.
“Basically, University Housing has conducted these ‘shutdown’ efforts for years because we know that it reduces energy and water consumption, and it’s the right thing to do,” Logan said.
When asked if the University could improve its energy conservation during breaks, Logan said the University does everything it can to cut consumption.
“Given the facilities we need to manage, some of which are pretty old, we do a pretty good job,” he said.