Archive for October, 2011

Watts it to you?

In addition to vampire power, our various gadgets and devices draw power while they’re in operation.  There’s a great little device out there called a Kill-A-Watt that measures energy consumption at the plug level.  I have one at home (and you should too!) and recently did some testing.  It’s actually kind of fun (especially if you’re a huge energy nerd like me), and some of the results are pretty interesting.  As far as vampire power, most of my devices were at 0 or 1 watt while not in use.  The bad news is things like my cable modem and router are always on, and they draw about 6 watts each.  That means it costs me about $10 per year just in electricity costs for internet access (or 105 kWh).

The big surprise during this exploration was my home theater system.  The whole thing draws about 150 watts, which means that each episode of Parks and Recreation that I watch (currently my favorite show) uses 75 watt hours, and  watching the entire season will use 1.6 kWh.  It may not sound like a lot, but if I were to watch 5 hours per day (currently the US average), I’d be using 276 kWh per year.  That’s about $30 a year in energy costs just for television.  On a larger scale, we spend over $2 billion a year in electricity just on TV as a country!


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Vampire Awareness

With Halloween fast approaching, I figured it might be a good time to talk about vampires.  I’m not talking about the fictitious kind, or even the animated kind.  I’m talking about vampire power.  It’s real, and it’s lurking in classrooms, offices, and even your bedroom.

Vampire power is all the electricity your various devices draw when they’re not in use.  If you want a visual representation of this, turn off all the lights in your bedroom or living room tonight and look for anything that is still lit up.  Those devices (stereos, TVs, laptops) are all sucking up power.  Even things that aren’t lit up, like cell phone or laptop chargers, can draw power when they are left plugged into the wall.  Many new devices are designed to use less than one watt in standby or turned off, but if you’ve got some old electronics hanging around, then you’ve got vampires.

The good news is there’s an easy fix.  You can unplug chargers and other devices when not in use.  If they are hard to reach, you can use a power strip to shut off several devices at once.  There are even smart power strips that can be operated by occupancy sensors or remote controls (or even shut off automatically when you turn one reference device off).  You may have vampires now, but you can banish them forever with minimal effort.

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Metering Madness

One recurring theme I’ve heard from both campuses is that we haven’t done a great job publicizing our energy efforts.  A major accomplishment that isn’t well-known on either campus is the installation of electric sub-meters on selected buildings.  The meters allow us to target our energy efficiency strategies to the biggest consumers.  Our meters not only allow us to see how much energy each building consumes, but also their demand profiles (see the post about Dana Science for an example) and voltage readings.  The demand profile tells us when the building draws the most amount of power. Roughly half of our bill is based on this factor alone (called a demand charge), so it’s a pretty important feature.  We hope to make all of this meter data publicly available and visible to all those who wish to see it (click here to see what Hollins has done so far).

And for the meters, here is the inventory:

Hollins: Dana, Moody, Botetourt, Swananoa, Pleasants, Turner, East, West, Main, Gym, Randolph, and Tinker.

Emory & Henry (these meters are installed, but not reporting data yet): Kelly Library, Chapel, Wiley Jackson, Collins, Stuart, President’s House, M-S Hall, Wiley Hall, Sullins, Carriger, Byars, Elm, Martin-Brock, King Center, Steam Plant, Van Dyke, Hillman French Stuart, and Emily Williams

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It’s Electric

This is one of our new electric cars on the Emory and Henry Campus.  Physical Plant has two that they now use in lieu of gas powered trucks, but the one pictured below belongs to President Reichard  (if you look closely, you can see the “reserved for president” sign).  The ones used by the facilities staff have storage boxes on the back (much like a work truck), and they have been really well-received on campus and in the local media.


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Dana Science Saves

The above graphic may not mean a whole lot to most folks, but as an energy manager it means we’re making some great strides.  This is the electric demand (in kilowatts or kW) for Dana Science at Hollins over the past 2 weeks.  This is a measurement of how much power the building is drawing at any given time.  You might notice that the left side of the graphic is quite a bit different from the right side.  That’s because before last week the building operated like it was occupied 24/7.  After a little bit of work, the folks at the power plant changed some settings so that much of the building shuts down at night.  This little change has saved us about 4800 kWh already, and if this pattern continues we’ll save about 290,000 kWh over the next year.  That’s a savings equal to 2% of last year’s electricity consumption for the whole campus for the 2010.  It’s a great first step, and something we hope to build on in the coming weeks.

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