By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
When the Department of the Army’s belt-tightening measures went into place in March, it wasn’t too difficult to live with the lower heat settings in most office buildings on Fort Knox. For most employees, simply donning an extra sweater was enough to offset any discomfort.
But now that the mercury is often busting the triple digit mark, it’s tough to sweat out the restrictive—but energy saving –thermostat settings directed.
Here’s the good news—it’s working!
Even with some difficulty comparing similar buildings, similar months, and factoring in higher energy costs, the checks being written to the power company are getting smaller. According to Pat Walsh, Knox’s director of Public Works, Fort Knox has racked up an impressive $500,000 worth of savings even by conservative estimates. That’s half a million dollars Uncle Sam doesn’t have to shell out for energy costs in the four months since the Army’s guidance was implemented.
But honestly, does that really make you happier? Do you feel better as you watch the sweat drip onto your paperwork on your desktop?
OK, if your patriotic pride isn’t enough, look at it another way.
According to Walsh, when the powers-that-be in Washington were considering 22 days of furlough for civilian employees, it’s likely that the projected energy savings helped tip the scales in favor of cutting the furloughs to 11 days (furloughs have now been curtailed for this fiscal year). So, saving energy may actually help save your paycheck while it stretches Uncle Sam’s budget.
“That savings was in spite of a rate increase from the power company,” Walsh said.
The thermostat settings not only helped on the overall electric usage, but it helped avoid the “demand charge” that is incurred when the power company is hit with peak demand, normally during the hottest hours of the day, between noon and 5 p.m., he explained.
Just like energy usage at home, those hottest hours of the day are the worst time to use high heat-producing appliances, such as the clothes dryer or electric oven. Such appliances not only require high amps to operate, but they throw off heat, requiring your air conditioning to work extra long to maintain the same temperature. By drying clothes in the early morning or late evening, users can avoid the double whammy of high usage combined with additional heat.
Office appliances—like computers, printers, fax machines and copiers—as well as lights also generate some heat, so usage in the off-peak hours would be ideal, but not very practical. However, government employees can help minimize usage by careful placement of those heat-producing machines. When they are located near thermostats, the additional heat affects the thermostat.
Further, all office machines—especially peripherals—and lights should be turned off at the end of the day. Most computers have software that will automatically force them into sleep mode when there’s been no activity for one hour and total shut down if there’s been no activity for two hours. The former policy of leaving CPUs on while shutting off monitors has been superseded by the need to conserve energy; all computers should be totally shut off at the end of the duty day, every day, even if your computers are older and don’t automatically power down.
While the savings of turning one computer off may not seem like much, multiply it by the 10,000 computers and 7,500 peripherals that sit on Fort Knox and those pennies begin to add up. Some old CPUs may use as 600 watts per hour, while newer ones only use 60 watts per hour, but a computer in sleep mode only uses 6 watts per hour.
If you feel the warmer office temperatures are unbearable, R.J. Dyrdek said using a portable fan can make a big difference. The moving air makes occupants feel cooler and a fan’s energy usage is very negligible.
“No one is going to be upset if you use a fan to stay comfortable,” Dyrdek said.
While the temperature controls are being enforced in office settings, the facilities where customers pay to use them have not been affected by the Army directive. Walsh explained that the loss of income for those customers who pay to use Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities would offset any energy savings, so common sense dictated a different policy in those cases. While the physical fitness centers were originally subject to the energy controls, energy managers soon realized that wasn’t practical either as some health issues might arise from the warmer temperatures combined with Kentucky’s high humidity.