Energy Conservation Tips for On and Off-Campus

September 23, 2010

The U.S. Department of Energy has designated October as National Energy Awareness Month, so the Green Campus Partnership is advising on the top 10 actions you can incorporate into your daily routine that will reduce your energy consumption and, in turn, your carbon footprint.

The release of Penn’s Climate Action Plan has focused many on the news of the University’s ambitious short-term energy conservation goals. The plan calls for a 17 percent overall reduction by the end of FY 2014. Meeting these goals will require a significant effort from every member of the Penn community, especially in terms of behavior change.

Here's what you can do to help conserve energy both on and off campus:

  • Turn off the lights when leaving a room.
    In the average U.S. home, lighting accounts for about 20 percent of the electric bill. Turning the light(s) off when not needed will keep a room cooler, an extra benefit in the summer.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) instead of incandescent bulbs.
    Only approximately 10–15 percent of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs last up to ten times longer, produce 75 percent less heat, and will save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime.
  • Turn OFF your computer and other electronics when not in use.
    Common misconceptions and myths sometimes account for the failure to turn off equipment. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer or performs better if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.

    Putting your computer in sleep mode or using a screensaver still uses a significant amount of energy. Both the computer and the monitor are drawing power to keep themselves in a suspended mode, ready to wake up the second you want to use them again. In fact, they could be wasting as much as a combined 12 watts if left on overnight. If you know you will not be using your computer or other electronic appliances for an extended period of time, turn it off so you do not waste energy.

  • Plug chargers and home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use.
    Commonly referred to as “vampire” or “phantom” loads, many appliances found in stores today feature a standby mode that continues to draw several watts of power even when the device is turned off. Unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance can prevent wasted energy by “vampire electronics.” The same practice should be applied to phone chargers, which continue to waste energy if left in the outlet after charging.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing appliances and electronics.
    ENERGY STAR products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency and provide users with dramatic energy and cost savings. The EPA estimates that it saved about $14 billion in energy costs in 2006 alone through the ENERGY STAR program.

    Devices that carry the ENERGY STAR logo consume an average of 20-30 percent less energy than standard or outdated electronics and appliances. The best part about using ENERGY STAR products is that they do the work of conserving energy for you. All you have to do is make the right decision to purchase them.

  • Wash your clothes in cold water and only wash full loads of laundry.
    About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes: (1) use less water and (2) use cooler water. Unless you are dealing with oily stains, the cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm or cold can cut a load's energy use in half. If you want to reduce your energy consumption even more, air-dry clothes on clotheslines or drying racks.
  • Adjust thermostats to 68 degrees during the winter and 78 degrees during the summer.
    Simply setting your thermostat 1 degree lower in the winter and 1 degree higher in the summer can reduce your energy consumption from 1 to 3 percent. You can save over 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills at home by adjusting your thermostat to dial down when you are not at home.
  • Use curtains, blinds and your wardrobe to regulate indoor temperature instead of blasting the heat or air conditioning.
    In the winter, maximize the potential to heat your room naturally by closing your curtains and shades at night and opening them during the day. Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to maximize use of natural sunlight during the winter.

    During the summer, your air conditioner must work harder to cool hot air from sunny windows. Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house and close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    If you were to walk up and down 3 flights of stairs instead of using an elevator, it would save 15 watts a day (450 Wh a month). That’s enough energy to power a 37" Plasma TV for 3 hours.
  • Report all leaks.
    A leaky faucet can waste over 2,000 gallons of water per month if left unfixed, and a “running” toilet can waste over two gallons of water per minute. Simply reporting these issues will yield a huge reduction in Penn’s annual water consumption, and fixing them at home can save more than 10 percent on your water bill.


A zero waste event is one in which at least 90% of the waste is diverted from the landfill through enhanced recycling and/or composting efforts.

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