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Energy policy changes the temperature at UNC

Posted October 26, 2009

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— It might be cooler in buildings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this winter, thanks to an energy-use policy adopted in July.

Under the new policy, technicians in the operations center monitor heating and cooling systems around campus and turn off systems when buildings are empty.

The effect is that offices and classrooms are cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.

UNC aims to save energy, money UNC aims to save energy, money

Administrative assistant Gena Everhart said she changed her work wardrobe slightly to make herself comfortable under the new policy.

"You change the way you dress slightly. You get to use to it. You adapt," she said.

Chris Martin, UNC's director of energy management, said the new policy puts everyone on the same page about saving energy.

"We wanted a consistent approach across all of campus with an effort to reach out and educate people as to what actions they could take to save energy," Martin said.

University officials said the energy-use plan is already saving money. They expect that within a few years, it will cut annual costs by nearly $4.5 million.

The policy allows exceptions for places, such as laboratories and holding areas for animals, where it's critical to maintain a certain temperature.

Martin said he hopes the policy also creates habits that employees take home.

"Because I live with it here for most of the day, it's not a problem to do it (at home)," Everhart said. "I do think it's worth it. I think it's a small price to pay for a much larger savings overall."

19 Comments

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  • SaveEnergyMan Oct 26, 2009

    Space heaters are 100% efficient at using expensive electricity. Most campuses are heated with steam from gas fired boilers. A 1,000 W heater costs $0.07/kWh to operate (big customers pay less for power than residential units). The same amount of heat from a steam system costs about half that ($0.80/therm, 80% efficiency). Heat pump heat costs about the same as gas heat (COP about 2).

    Space heaters are great when you have one or two people who generally work in a small area in a large room, particularly when it can't be sealed well - think loading docks or near opening doors. Other than that, they are a costly form of heat.

  • MrX-- Oct 26, 2009

    Studies have found that for an office environment, 76 is about ideal. As you get below that people's fingers get colder and they start to make more mistakes with typing and writing. Mid 60s are fine for a factory floor but terrible for an office setting.

    Hint for anyone in an office affected by this and are not allowed to get a space heater, get a incandescent desk lamp and put it right by your mouse pad (or get two and aim one at the keyboard).

  • Smokin Oct 26, 2009

    Space heaters are a no-no and have been for years (doesn't keep people from bringing them in, though).

    So far, no changes in the lab, but most buildings are way too cool in the summer. We have more cooling days than heating days, so that has to save a bunch of money. Much under 68 in the winter and you're going to see a drop-off in productivity as everyone tries to keep warm.

  • veyor Oct 26, 2009

    Money..money...money. Quality of life doesn't matter.

  • RedStatesManWatts Oct 26, 2009

    "The effect is that offices and classrooms are cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
    WOW, REALLY? I would have never imagined that, LOL!
    Hope and change...hope and change...I am already onboard...I've been hoping for change all year!

  • corbin Oct 26, 2009

    I works in UNC's clinics and with these changes it is WAY to hot under scrubs, surgical gown, mask, glasses, gloves, and hats. Patients don't like it when you have to wipe sweat away from your brow.

  • larieke Oct 26, 2009

    Well the staff can wear their parkas in the winter--Boo, but then they can wear bikinis in the summer--Yay, saves money on clothes too.

  • dcec48 Oct 26, 2009

    Sweaters are one thing, but GLOVES? to keep hands / fingers warm?

  • burnhace Oct 26, 2009

    What temperatures are we talking about here? There is no shortage of speculation and personal feelings in this story, but how about a few facts WRAL? When you start with fact-based journalism on the little stories such as this one, it becomes second nature to base your writing on facts for the big stories. Perhaps you would like to avoid that?

  • gotsomesense Oct 26, 2009

    Leonardo,

    Sorry, but space heaters do waste a lot of energy. They are resistive-type heaters and they pull a lot of current. If they were effective, then everyone would use space heaters in each room instead of putting in a central system at home. They pull so much amperage that they frequently cause circuit breakers to trip, which frequently results in computer systems going down wasting time and sometimes losing unsaved work. A central system is much more efficient for large areas. I have seen office folks turn up the space heaters, get too hot, then open up a window to cool it down, and then start the cycle all over again. They also put a large amount of heat in one area and make a central system "think" that particular zone is plenty warm, when in fact it's probably just that room. Then the whole heat goes off because it doesn't think it's needed. As a former university HVAC tech (ECU) trust me, they're a pain in the rear and cause a lot of problems.

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