Conservation Roles

The Role of Students, Faculty, and Staff in Energy Management

Many actions taken at the University of Washington to save energy are invisible to occupants of facilities. Examples of such actions are efficient operation of the central power plant boilers, installation of high-efficiency lights and motors, installation of digital control systems on heating and ventilating equipment, and the quick repair of malfunctioning steam valves.

While these actions save energy invisibly, the effect will likely be noticed by building occupants. We all participate in the conservation program by dressing appropriately for reduced heating; thermostats are set for a minimum standard of 68 degrees.

There are other ways in which building occupants can contribute to conservation efforts. Most of the time individual steps entail only small changes in work habits or accepting minor changes in the work environment. Students, faculty, and staff can assist in achieving greater energy efficiency in:

  • Computer use
  • Lighting, equipment, and building use
  • Laboratory fume hood operation

Personal Computers - “Green Computing”

During the last ten years, the number of personal computers being used in UW facilities has grown at a staggering rate. Personal computers now represent one of the largest aggregate electrical loads on campus. According to one recent estimate there are more than 26,000 personal computers and nearly half that number of printers now being used in UW facilities. Although it is difficult to estimate, personal computer operation may account for over 10 per cent of all electricity now used by the University. In addition, paper consumption has increased dramatically as computers have gained popularity.

At the end of their useful lives, CPU’s and monitors are recycled - the ultimate step in “green computing”. To date, the UW has recycled over 8000 monitors and 6000 CPU’s.

There are a number of simple actions we can all do to reduce the environmental impact and energy costs of personal computer use. The cumulative effect of these measures can be substantial.

  • Do not leave your computer running overnight or during weekends unless you have been given other instruction by your technology advisor. Also, wait until you are ready to use the PC before you turn it on each morning.
  • If your computer is going to be inactive for more than 15 minutes, consider turning it off. A modest amount of turning equipment on and off will not harm the computer. If turning your computer off is not practical, then use some of the power management options available in most newer computer systems.
  • Turn your monitor off when not in use. The life of a monitor is more related to the amount of time it is in use than the number of start and stop cycles. Flat-screen LCD monitors use less energy than CRT monitors.
  • Try to plan your computer-related activities so you can do them all at once, keeping the computer off at other times.
  • Do not turn on the printer until you are ready to print. Printers consume energy even while idle.
  • Do not print out copies of e-mail or other documents unless necessary.
  • Purchase equipment with the “Energy Star” logo.


In most buildings, lighting uses a significant amount of electricity. Most of the lighting fixtures on campus have already been replaced with energy efficient fluorescent lights and ballasts. An environmental bonus…when the fluorescent tubes reach the end of their long and efficient life, they are recycled; the UW has recycled over 10,000 tons of fluorescent tubes to date. The following is a list of actions that building occupants can take to reduce the amount of electricity used.

  • Turn off the lights in classrooms, offices or restrooms when the rooms are not being occupied. The energy saved by doing so will far outweigh the slight reduction in lamp life.
  • Report any lighting problems to Maintenance (Upper Campus phone 5-1411, South Campus 3-3010). This includes burned-out lights, defective occupancy sensors, or flickering bulbs.
  • Consider using fluorescent desk lamps (task lighting) and reduce the overall brightness in the room. In addition to saving energy, this change can sometimes result in a more restful and comfortable environment in which to work.
  • If you spend a lot of time working at a computer, consider reducing the overall brightness level in your room to enhance CRT screen visibility.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce lighting levels in areas that seem to be over lighted (without creating safety or security problems).
  • If your building has areas where occupancy sensors are being used to turn lights on and off (such as in conference rooms, restrooms, and hallways), cooperate with their use by being patient if the sensors do not function perfectly.
  • Turn off advertising signs or display case illumination at night. Avoid use of decorative lighting.

Other Equipment and Building Use

  • Do not use electrical space heaters. Electrical space heaters are prohibited in University facilities. They can overload circuits; they are a fire hazard; and they are “energy hogs” (one electric space heater uses as much electricity as 45 fluorescent light fixtures).
  • Unplug AC/DC adapters when not in use.
  • Turn off or unplug other equipment when not in use.
  • Where possible, consolidate schedules to reduce the number of hours a building is occupied. This will allow Facilities Services to reduce ventilation during off-hours in non-laboratory buildings.
  • If you use a building after-hours or on weekends, do not expect the heating/cooling systems to be in full operation.

In the Laboratory

Research laboratory buildings use at least twice as much energy as an office or classroom buildings. Although much of this energy usage is dictated by health and safety requirements, it is still possible for occupants to reduce energy use in these facilities:

  • Fume hoods operate by continuously drawing room air into the fume hood and then exhausting that air out the building’s exhaust stack. In almost all laboratories on campus, all the room air being exhausted through the fume hood system must then be replaced with 100% fresh outside air. Outside air must be heated during the winter or cooled during the summer. Heating or cooling these large volumes of air uses energy. You can easily conserve some of this energy by lowering the sash (the glass window). This reduces the amount of air being exhausted from the building. Fume hood sashes should not be left wide open in any circumstance.
  • When using running water for cooling or condenser systems, use only as much water as necessary and be sure to turn off the tap when finished. If possible, use a cooling system with a re-circulating pump as opposed to running tap water to the drain.
  • Turn off all equipment when not in use. This includes everything from hot plates to computers.
  • Keep the hallway door shut as much as possible. This is not only a safety measure; it helps balance the building air system.
  • When using automatic glassware washers, wait until you have a full load before running.