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Monday, December 8, 2008

Beneficial Setbacks

While the term setback may imply a negative, in the case of energy savings it’s definitely a plus. For the third year in a row, the University of Florida will carry out holiday setbacks, or more precisely air handling units across campus will be adjusted to unoccupied status. For the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, this means setting thermostats at 68 degrees F. During the summer holiday months the thermostat is turned up to between 80 and 82 degrees F.

The most obvious benefit is monetary, with the savings calculated to be $10,000 per day. But the program doesn’t come without its challenges. Many buildings have essential personnel who work on campus even when the students are gone. File servers, in over 70 separate spaces, require fixed temperatures. And laboratory and research areas cannot tolerate temperature fluctuations.

Some campus locations currently have push button overrides, allowing occupants to set thermostats to occupied status for two hours. It’s anticipated that future monitoring and control programs will allow building managers to review a building’s setback schedule and adjust it as necessary.

But the responsibility for saving energy doesn’t have to fall solely on staff and faculty shoulders. Students are asked to turn off their lights, adjust their thermostats, and unplug their refrigerators before a long break. Even electrical appliances and stereos should be unplugged to avoid the phantom load effect. The US Department of Energy estimates that 6 to 10 percent of a home’s electrical use is for phantom loads, or electronics that are slowing draining electricity to run internal and external clock displays, remote control sensors, and maintain base to unit communications. So unplug your electronics and send the phantom packing during long breaks from school.