UNH Saves Energy Dollars By “Powering Down” Over Winter Break

Contact: Beth Potier
UNH Media Relations

Jan. 25, 2006

DURHAM, N.H. -- By shutting down computers and unplugging office and lab equipment, University of New Hampshire faculty and staff saved more than 92,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) while the university was closed at the end of December. The 13 percent savings, which amounts to $12,711, represents the amount of electricity needed to power eight homes for a year. Emissions reductions are equivalent to removing 19 cars from the road for one year.

“This project demonstrated that there is no conflict at all between doing the right environmental thing and saving money,” said John Aber, vice president for research and public service and chair of the university’s Energy Task Force, which spearheaded the “power down” initiative.

The initiative, launched in early December, targeted faculty and staff, encouraging them to save energy by turning off computers, lights, equipment, and “phantom” users of electricity like cell phone chargers (which draw significant electricity even after the phone has charged) before leaving for the winter break. Like many universities, UNH closes most of its offices between Christmas and New Year’s; this year’s break was Dec. 23 – Jan. 3.

“The biggest savings on a cumulative basis is probably computers, since everyone has one and they draw a lot of energy,” said Matt O’Keefe, utilities contract manager for the UNH Energy Office. “We also assume that a lot was saved from more awareness to each individual’s working environment.” Electronic equipment and appliances can draw 30 percent of their total energy use when turned off but still plugged in.

During students’ winter break, from mid-December through mid-January, the university sees an annual average 30 percent energy savings due largely to closed residence halls and dining services. The UNH Energy Office calculated this year’s power down savings at approximately 13 percent above the usual winter break reduction in energy.

“I think the effort was a huge success,” said Crescentia True, associate director of the Office of Sustainability and a member of the Energy Task Force. “A long-term success would be if we can get people to think about powering down every weekend as part of their routines.” True added that since powering down can be as simple as unplugging a power strip, it could easily become as much a habit as turning off office lights for the weekend.

The Energy Task Force, created by UNH President Ann Weaver Hart in fall of 2005 to reduce energy costs and improve energy conservation on campus, launched a similar effort targeted at students over the Thanksgiving break. While many of the task force’s projects, such as increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, will take up to two years to net results, the power down efforts were launched very quickly and had an immediate measurable impact.

“It’s great to see an immediate result and an immediate level of interest,” said Aber. “This has always been a campus that is interested in environmental measures, and it showed.”

UNH is a leader in energy conservation, ranked in the top five percent of all research universities for energy efficiency by the U.S. Department of Energy. The university has earned several regional and national awards for its innovative energy conservation efforts, which range from propane- and biodiesel-powered vehicles to its recycling and composting program.