ThermostatThe university saved $30,000 in nine days last year during the trial run of the Holiday Setbacks program implemented by Facilities Management and Campus Services. This year’s program, which will run an additional 5 days is expected to save the university even more money in valuable natural gas use reductions.

A directive from Jim Alty, Vice President of Facilities, the Holiday Setbacks program allows the temperatures of 75 percent of the university’s indoor space to float between 55 and 85 degrees with no help from air conditioning or heating during winter break.

The indoor temperatures are allowed to “float,” as the process is called. Energy consuming temperature control systems only kick on if the temperature falls below 55 degrees (to prevent freezing pipes) or above 85 degrees (to avoid frying electronic devices like computers and projector equipment). All of the university’s buildings are included in the plan, but any area can apply for an exemption as some 25 or 30 zoning areas did last year. For example, areas containing sensitive equipment such as the Museum of Anthropology of the two data centers in Worrell and Information Systems remain at their usual temperatures.

Despite these exceptions, the university cut natural gas use during this period by almost 20 percent and overall electricity usage by 10 percent compared to data from the three previous years according to Greg Lischke, Assistant Director of Engineering and Utilities Services. “For a relatively low cost, we are seeking a heck of a payback, I believe,” Lischke said.

These changes are only in effect during period of no occupancy to avoid disturbing any member of the university community. The Holiday setbacks are in addition to regular low occupancy setbacks that use less extreme temperature swings for shorter periods of time. Buildings on campus are generally allowed to float between 60 and 78 degrees during periods of low occupancy such as weekends for many of the locked academic buildings. This general floating policy has been in effect for at least the last five years.


Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern