Saving for the Holidays - By Turning Off the Heat

Total Savings from 2016 Holiday Shutdowns

total savings from winter holiday shutdowns exceeds $49,000

Every year, three, long administrative holidays – Thanksgiving, Winter and New Year – leave the campus pretty empty. Once the campus clears out, Facilities Management shuts off the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This practice has been going on for years. For the first time, the Energy Conservation Office (ECO) in Facilities Management crunched the numbers to quantify just how much energy the campus saved by shutting down the HVAC systems in administrative and classroom spaces (laboratory and animal spaces are always excluded) over those 12 days. The grand total was more than $49,000 and enough energy to run the Student Community Center for over 6 months. According to energy engineer, Sam Cole, “you wouldn’t leave your home’s heating or cooling systems on while you go on vacation. They would continue to run as scheduled and be an utter energy waste.” The same would happen on campus as our building’s heating and cooling systems would keep conditioning air for hundreds of empty offices and classrooms.

Great! Now What?

Fine-Tuning Our Buildings

hvac system

Similar to a car, a building can be tuned up for maximum performance and some buildings have better technology than others. For example, newer HVAC equipment is connected to a central system allowing for constant monitoring of its operation and adjustments made remotely. The older systems don’t give technicians the same ability to adjust air flows, close dampers, control set points, respond to occupancy changes and other system programming that maximizes the renewable energy we do generate.

The energy savings was significant, leading Facilities Management to decide it will also start shutting off the HVAC systems in administrative and classroom spaces over the campus’s other seven administrative holidays. Starting on Cesar Chavez Day, Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2, the campus HVAC systems will also be enjoying a deserved break.

The savings harvested by this decision are according to Cole, the “lowest of the low-hanging fruit,” in the campus’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. While the campus is making significant investments in renewable energy, like solar, improving the efficiency of our existing buildings is a critical, strategic first step and the focus of the ECO team. Its staff spends a lot of time collecting and analyzing energy data and occupancy trends, that lead to actual projects that assist the campus in using energy (renewable or not) in a smarter manner. Our aging campus infrastructure means there’s a lot of equipment in buildings that has surpassed its useful service life. Facilities Management has funding and a plan to address campus deferred maintenance and ECO’s data helps their technicians realize those projects in a way that maximizes their individual contributions to overall building efficiency. However, energy manager and ECO director, Joshua Morejohn reminds us that, “turning things off is still the easiest way to save energy.”

How this Differs from a Normal, Two-Day Weekend

On a typical weekend, HVAC systems in administrative and classroom spaces can either be shut off completely, run fewer hours, or programmed to let temperatures “drift” a little more before applying heat or cooling. These administrative holidays leave the campus mostly empty and offer Facilities Management the opportunity to extend our energy savings by another day each time one rolls around.

The Nuts and Bolts

Sixty-eight administrative and classroom buildings will have their HVAC systems shut off starting Friday, March 29 through Sunday, April 2. If you have already notified Facilities Management that you have an event in your building, the space will be automatically excluded from the shut down. If you’d like to have your building excluded from the shutdown for other reasons, please ask your building’s designated facility manager to submit a no-cost work order to the Customer Support Center.

How ECO Measured the Savings

The process of accurately measuring energy savings is an evolving practice in the energy industry. Our team followed industry standard methods and guidelines (IPMVP option C, standard R^2 and CvRMSE limits) and adapted them to a larger scale for our campus.
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The process for quantifying electricity savings can be summarized in the following steps:

· Create a building energy model for any building with adequate utility data for heating energy and electricity using Universal Translator 3 ©, and only use models with sufficient accuracy metrics (R^2 and CvRMSE).

· Use models to calculate daily savings by comparing actual energy use to predicted energy use during the holiday period.

· Extrapolate the daily calculated savings to all shut down buildings, based on total building area.

· Create a campus-level energy model for electricity, and calculate campus-level energy savings based on the difference between actual energy use and predicted energy use.

· Compare the extrapolated and campus-level results to ensure result accuracy.

The process for quantifying steam savings was more straightforward, and consisted of only using the campus-level model in Step 4 to quantify total campus savings.