Energy Use and Higher Education

Energy Use and Higher Education
  • Opening Intro -

    Colleges and universities across the United States are significant consumers of energy.

    Dorms and classrooms are heated and cooled, lighting is provided throughout the campus and security systems depend on power.


According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), higher education facilities spend approximately $14 billion annually on energy.

Energy usage is a given for many of us, but it does effect what you pay for your tuition as well as your school’s impact on the environment. At the end of this article you will find a chart on how the nation as a whole consumes energy and what future energy usage might look like. Meanwhile, we’ll take a look at some ways that your college can promote energy efficiency.

1. Make use of natural light. Current building design trends make better use of natural lighting. With improved natural lighting, artificial lighting can be reduced or shut off, saving energy.

2. Measure and monitor energy usage. Just like businesses, colleges can also monitor energy use. Facility managers can look for ways to conserve energy conservation by updating aged windows, turning down the thermostat in the winter, using improved insulation and replacing aged HVAC systems.

3. Schedule equipment maintenance. Colleges and universities can maintain and optimize current HVAC equipment by performing regularly schedule maintenance. Heating and cooling systems should be checked regularly throughout the year to maximize efficiencies.

4. Get the word out. Beyond the internal measures that can be taken to reduce energy consumption, schools can work with staff, faculty and students to conserve energy. This means asking for everyone’s cooperation to turn off lights when leaving a room, keeping doors closed instead of propped open, and alerting facilities management as soon as a problem has been detected.

Making it Pay

The EPA recommends that colleges and universities invest in equipment or upgrades to reduce energy use. These investments include replacing current chlorofluorocarbon chillers, upgrading boilers and brining other system up to current efficiency standards.

Schools can purchase ENERGY STAR qualified office equipment, install window films to reduce drafts, use reflective coatings on the roof, and sub-meter campus buildings to identify and remedy potential waste.

Making a Difference

The EPA has recognized the work of several colleges and universities for their energy conservation efforts. In New York, Ithaca College has a comprehensive environmental policy, one that is geared toward demonstrating environmental responsibility. The college works diligently to maximize its energy efficiency in its current and future buildings and has also embraced a proactive food scrap composting and bio-mass resource program to use waste products responsibly.

Your college may also have an energy policy in place. If so, ask to review it. If not, why not work on being part of the solution by spearheading that effort on behalf of the student body?


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