Facilities focuses on electricity bills

Washburn University’s response to the issue of both increasing energy costs and being environmentally friendly is something that Washburn’s Facilities and Maintenance department has a multipronged approach for this problem.

It is more than just swapping out light bulbs

Currently, many of Washburn’s heating and cooling systems date from 1966, just after the tornado that destroyed large swaths of the surrounding community and devastated the campus. With their useful service life coming to an end Washburn has sought to work to address the issue

“As we have to change things, we are going Energy Star,” said Bill Glatts, director of facilities.

Washburn as a result is changing out older equipment for new, high efficiency Energy Star rated equipment.  Energy Star is an 18-year old program that designates qualifying products as having high efficiency.  The program is administered by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Another step is installing variable drives on the heating and cooling systems.  These drives allow the heating ventilation and air conditioning motors to slow down when they are not needed, saving energy.

Morgan Hall is a prime example of the work done to enhance efficiency and save energy.  Almost $4 million has been invested in a new air conditioning system.  The new system features four pipes that allow for much more control and flexibility over the old two pipe system.

“The (Washburn) administration is very supportive in trying to save energy,” said Glatts.

The administration has reason to be supportive.  During the hot months of July and August, the two highest electric bills for Washburn in the last four years came in at $187,000 a month.

It is difficult to compare year-to-year costs for Washburn’s electric bill since the rates have increased and Washburn has added so much square footage in recent years.  A more reliable indicator is kilowatt-hour usage.  Washburn monitors its energy usage quite closely, and the kwh usage shows it.

Washburn is running under its budgeted electric bill for this year.  The typical monthly electrical usage for Washburn is about two million kwh.

“Usage is probably down ten percent, you’re talking millions of kilowatt hours,” said Glatts.  Those are big numbers and a positive trend for Washburn.