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ETSU takes steps to save big on power during winter break

Rex Barber • Dec 25, 2012 at 5:48 PM

East Tennessee State University will likely save between $40,000 and $50,000 during the break that takes place between semesters.

Bill Rasnick, associate vice president of facilities at ETSU, said the physical plant maintains a skeleton crew on campus during the break, which for most ETSU employees began Friday afternoon and continues until Jan. 2. Fall graduation was held Dec. 14. The spring semester begins Jan. 17.

“We have people that work in the power house because we have to provide heat, and so they work completely through, you know, Christmas Day, New Year’s,” Rasnick said.

ETSU buys electric power through the Johnson City Power Board, but the school produces steam used to provide hot water that is then used to heat the buildings on campus.

Just the electric bill on the main campus alone is more than $300,000 per month, Rasnick said. With the reduction in the use of electricity during the 11 days the campus is closed and the reduction in building temperatures, the savings should be between $40,000 and $50,000, Rasnick said.

“In the past we have calculated that we have saved up to $80,000 during the break,” he said. “It won’t be nearly that much this time. That was contingent on shutting down the chill water system on campus.”

The campus heating system runs on hot water heat but there is a chill water system for dehumidification. There have been special requests made this year to keep the dehumidification going during the break for research and other things, so the savings will not be as much.

Still, the campus will be heated as though it is a weekend through an energy management system that monitors each of the more than 50 buildings on campus and provides alerts for any problems. This management system has occupied and unoccupied modes. The buildings are set to unoccupied mode during the break.

Besides the unoccupied mode saving on energy costs, Rasnick said a notice was sent out reminding people to turn off computers and refrigerators and other things.

“The more of that that gets done, that has a big impact on energy as well,” Rasnick said.

No building is shut down completely, because people are coming onto campus all throughout the break. Research projects often need periodic attention.

“I think most all the buildings you’ll have someone filter in and out during the time period,” Rasnick said. “They know that it’s going to be a little cooler ... in the building than it normally would be in occupied mode.”

In occupied mode the buildings would be around 72 degrees.

Temperatures are somewhat less than this in unoccupied mode but not so low the pipes would freeze.

“We’re always concerned about buildings freezing up if we get any really cold weather during the break. The years that I’ve been here, that’s been our main problem.”

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