Jen's MEM Journey

The Great Energy Efficiency Treasure Hunt
by Jennifer Weiss -- June 20th, 2011

Finding energy savings in everyday places.

When I was a kid, I used to love Easter morning.  Actually, I still do.  Surprisingly, it has little to do with the chocolate bunnies, the jelly beans and the colorful peeps (although I do love peeps).   What I love is the thrill of the hunt – where are all the treasures hiding and will I be able to find them all?

Peeking out of the tornado damaged Student Center towards the Fleming Kee Men’s Dorm

Peeking out of the tornado damaged Student Center towards the Fleming Kee Men’s Dorm

This is the feeling I get every day here at Shaw University.  In my last blog, I wrote of the tornado that hit Shaw last April and dreamed of the many energy saving opportunities that my partner Eliza and I hope to find amid the buildings that date back to 1865.  But, what I didn’t fully realize is how many treasures are hiding in these historic walls just waiting to be found.

Treasures, treasures everywhere!

At this point, it would be really easy for me to say that we are looking for the ‘low hanging fruit.’  I could say something cliché like ‘sometimes the no-cost or low-cost solutions are the easiest to implement.’   I could throw out other energy efficiency mantras, but what I really want to say is … we are enjoying the thrill of the hunt and finding lots of treasures:

  1. Let there be light.  About 80% of Shaw’s indoor lighting has already been upgraded to more efficient fluorescent bulbs (T-8s for us environmental geeks) or CFLs (those squiggly lights for you non-environmental geeks).  But, being the true treasure hunters that we are, we did find some buildings that had not upgraded their lighting.  And, when touring the residence halls, we found that each of the student desks (over 800 of them) had lights that could be upgraded to a more efficient (and more cost effective) lighting solution.  Voila! Treasure #1.
  2. Make a grand exit.  Shaw has over 250 exit signs which are on 24 hours a day.  Switching to a lower wattage LED Exit sign can save up to $20 per sign.  With a $25 price tag and a $25 rebate from Progress Energy, this one seems like a no brainer.  Treasure #2.
  3. Do not overlook the obvious.  Sometimes energy thieves are staring you right in the face and you don’t even need to hunt at all.  We found Vending Machines, PCs and Copiers that were on 24 hours a day.  Utilizing occupancy monitors and sleep modes can reduce the energy costs for these by up to 40%.  Treasures #3, 4 and 5 
  4. It’s too hot to be this cool.  Thermostats are easy to move up and down, but when they get left in the arctic chill range overnight and on weekends, the savings here is obvious.  Treasure #6.

Next up:   Tackling the great energy efficiency challenge – temperature controls and the behavioral consequences of asking people to let the programmable thermostat do its job.

We end this week’s treasure hunt with a look at a true treasure –the recent graduates of Shaw’s Early Childhood Education Center.  To me this was the greatest treasure of them all – our future leaders!

Shaw Early Childhood Center’s Preschool Class of 2011

Shaw Early Childhood Center’s Preschool Class of 2011

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