Over the summer, the University installed new real-time energy monitors in dorms as part of an initiative to green the campus. The monitors show students how much energy they use each day in residences such as WestCo, Hewitt, Nicholson, Clark, the Butterfields, Malcolm X House, and HiRise.
“Within a week, I’m hoping we’ll actually have all of the monitors displaying data,” said Associate Director of Utilities Management Peter Staye. “And it will show your daily energy consumption, wherever you are.”
In addition to the monitors, which look at all electrical and thermal energy, a website is also being set up to show students how much energy their halls use in a day.
This idea comes from a program developed by Oberlin College in 2005 to monitor the energy in dorms using real-time energy monitors connected to meters. This is not the first time the University has used an idea originating at Oberlin. The Do-it-in-the-Dark program, a competition in which participating houses try to consume as little energy as possible, was also adapted from a study performed at Oberlin.
“Oberlin did that in one study group, and they discovered that energy consumption in those properties went down around 35 percent,” Staye said. “Then they did a second study group where they put in real-time energy monitors that would connect to meters that said this is what your dorm’s energy consumption is right now. In that study group, they discovered that energy consumption went down around 55 percent.”
After the University successfully implemented the Do-it-in-the-Dark program, which began in 2007 as a competition between only woodframe houses, Physical Plant was willing to test the effectiveness of real-time energy monitors at Wesleyan.
“We went through the Do-it-in-the-Dark competition and noticed we were getting similar results to Oberlin,” Staye said. “So if we do Oberlin’s next part, which is the real-time monitoring, we hope to get the same results.”
“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Sustainability Intern Miles Bukiet ’11. “I’ve been around Do it in the Dark since I was a freshman, and it’s been a limited program because they’ve only had it for senior houses and other than that, the campus has always been metered as one unit. So to bring the metering down to a micro scale and then to also make that information readily accessible is exciting because it offers the potential to show people how much energy is being used and then create a competition like Do it in the Dark to actually drive that usage down.”
The hope is that showing students the actual amount of energy they are consuming will inspire them to use less.
“If you could put numbers to the energy consumption, it could make it more concrete for people,” Bukiet said.
The possibility of expanding programs like Do-it-in-the-Dark and real-time energy monitors, however, largely depends on the student response to the current programs.
“Right now we’re going to see how the energy monitors work,” Staye said. “I think it will be the success of this program which drives any future plans.”
“If Oberlin can do 55 percent, then we can do 60 percent,” Bukiet said.