As Halloween approaches, beware of energy vampires

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They suck energy, money from URI, add to carbon load

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 26, 2015 – You leave your cell phone charger in the outlet even when your phone is disconnected. Others leave their computers on when they go to class. Another person rushes out of the office at night, leaving the printer on.

These are the energy vampires at work–stealthy, barely noticed energy drainers.

The University of Rhode Island President’s Council on Sustainability reminds all campus community members that energy vampires suck thousands of dollars out of the University each year and add to the University’s carbon impact. As Halloween approaches, council members say now is a good time to rid the campus of energy vampires.

A recently completed survey of faculty and staff run by the University and its energy consultant, NORESCO, showed that 99 percent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “URI should conserve energy.” Of that group, 75 percent were in strong agreement. Ninety-eight percent said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I should help URI conserve energy.”

This year’s survey of faculty and staff conducted in September and a separate one taken by students each year are part of the University’s yearlong focus on energy conservation. Results from the student survey are being tabulated now.

“Clearly at URI, many people believe energy conservation is important,” said Marsha Garcia, the campus sustainability officer. “And many are already doing plenty, including turning off the lights when they leave a room and shutting off and unplugging their devices. But we also notice many people falling prey to energy vampires around campus.”

David Lamb, URI assistant director of Facilities Services for Utilities and a member of the President’s Council on Sustainability who has been working with NORESCO since 2005 on energy conservation measures relating to University infrastructure, said URI has made great progress.

But the council wants students, faculty and staff to remember that as they prepare for the fun of trick or treating and costume parties, the energy vampires lurk.

“You might not think leaving that charging cord in the outlet or keeping your phone connected even after it’s charged is a big deal, but it is,” Lamb said. “Shutting off printers, flat-screen TVs, as well as your office power strips at night can save considerable energy. Facilities Services will continue to look at infrastructure changes, like improved lighting, smart light switches and efficient heating systems, but we need help from every individual on a continuing basis to make URI truly sustainable.”

While nearly all respondents in the faculty-staff survey said URI should conserve energy and that they should play a role in that effort, only about 67 percent said conservation is important at URI. Only about 65 percent said shutting off the lights instead of relying on sensors could save energy.

“We have more work to do in educating people about the University’s role and their personal role in energy conservation,” Lamb said. “The fact that only 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “conservation is important at URI” means that a significant percentage still need to be convinced that URI is committed to conservation.”

In addition, 43 percent of respondents observe lights on after hours in vacant areas, and about 59 percent observe computers left on when not in use. A little over 42 percent said they see fans, radios and printers on when not in use.

And yet, about 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “my personal actions, in combination with others, have a significant affect on the environment” and about 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that their energy consumption affects budgets and the URI community.

“It is fantastic that the majority of the URI community values energy conservation and sustainability, however our goal is 100 percent, and so we will continue our outreach efforts on campus to encourage full participation.” Lamb said.

Top Energy Vampires you should shut off and unplug after using

In the bathroom: Hair dryers, curling irons, or electric shavers

In the kitchen: Coffee makers, small kitchen televisions

In the living–common room: Older set-top cable boxes and DVRs. User power strips or wall outlets to shut off.

In the residence hall, office or classroom: laptops and tablets, printers and fax machines.

And one of the most villainous vampires in any setting: Space heaters, not only huge suckers of energy, but also great way to start a fire.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy