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Learning to Save Energy Early

Published October 28, 2019

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and 48 public and private universities. Every year thousands of students flock to college campuses to pursue a higher education. While campuses create an atmosphere of community and is an environment for students to build relationships, they’re also significant energy users. Like many large facilities, campuses are looking for ways to be more efficient and their students can play a role in reducing energy consumption. Colleges and universities in the U.S. spend an average of $1.10 per square foot on electricity and 18¢ per square foot on natural gas annually.  A typical higher-education building that is around 50,000 square feet consumes more than $100,000 worth of energy each year and lighting represents 31 percent and space heating accounts for 28 percent of total energy use. However, you can imagine Minnesota winters mean our heating is more than the U.S. average.

For students living on-campus dorms, they look at the tuition and there’s a line item for room and board. Students don’t have a direct financial incentive like a renter or homeowner because they pay a flat amount whether they are energy efficient or proliferate with their energy use. While many Minnesota colleges are committing towards cleaner energy, our favorite saying at CUB is, “the cheapest and cleanest energy, is energy never used.” 

So where can college students control their energy usage? Where they live is a good start. Students can more actively control how they heat and use energy in their dorms or other campus housing. 

Being energy efficient early can also set students up for success as they prepare to manage student loans, rent, food and of course utilities during and after college.

Here are some ways students can be energy efficient around the dorm (or house).

Unplug electronics: Anything you’re not using should be unplugged. Many devices still use energy even if they’re not in use. If you have an entertainment system set up, consider plugging everything into a power strip. That way while it’s not in use, just flip the switch to turn everything off.

Use LEDs: LEDs use 80 to 90 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs. The costs of LEDs have gone down significantly and while compact florescent bulbs are almost just as efficient, it’s important they are recycled as hazardous waste from the tiny amount of mercury contained in them. 

Laundry: according to EPA affiliate Energy Star, a washer uses about 90 percent of its energy heating up water. Switching your temperature settings from hot to warm can cut energy consumption in half – and shifting from warm to cold can save even more. Also, contrary to belief dryers aren’t widely used in most parts of the world and clothes last longer by not drying them. Cut the hassle and wait by hanging them up.

Shorter showers: A good rule of thumb for taking shorter showers is by playing music and getting your routine done after two songs. This limits the time you spend in the shower and does a lot of good by conserving energy and water. 

Skip the Mini Fridge: If you don’t cook and your mini-fridge only contains a bottle of orange juice, consider unplugging it. With little to no items in the fridge and freezer, it must do a lot more work to maintain the temperature of the space.  

Drafty windows: If your windows are feeling a bit drafty this winter, it’s a good idea to put up plastic up around the windows. Also, rolling a towel up and tucking it flush against the window. Both tricks will help keep cold drafts out and warm air in.

Clear the space for radiators: While you may ask what that old thing is in the corner of your room, it provides you with heat throughout the winter. It’s important that you don’t place other furniture or objects within close range, or they will absorb most of the heat. Also, consider turning down the temperature while you are gone from the room or away for the holidays to conserve energy.

Author: Hannah Hoeger

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