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Student Power Demands

More than 225,000 students will enroll for classes this fall at Kentucky’s public and private colleges, universities, and technical schools. More than 15,000 of those students will live in on-campus housing, many in dorms built 30 and 40 years ago when the first baby boomers entered college. Now it’s the children of those boomers who are going off to college—and they’re bringing along boxes and crates of electric appliances scarcely imagined in the 1960s.

Sherron Jackson, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education assistant vice president for Finance and Equal Opportunities, says, “Today’s students are used to a very high level of electric convenience. As our public institutions upgrade their facilities, they look at the electric energy needs and infrastructure on their individual campuses. Their goals are not just to meet the needs of the students, but to do so in a way that is safe and energy efficient, while still meeting their students’ educational needs.”

As associate vice president for Auxiliary Services at the University of Kentucky, Ben Crutcher’s responsibilities include housing for more than 6,000 students on the Lexington campus.

“Many of our dorm buildings are pre-1970 and only have three outlets,” Crutcher says. “Nowadays, students bring a computer, monitor, printer, TV, stereo, microwave, refrigerator, a cordless phone, a charger for a cell phone, electric razor, curling iron, hairdryer, desk lamps—an average of 13 to 15 electrical appliances for each student. Most dorm rooms are for two students, and in the older buildings with only three outlets per room, that’s just not enough.”

Crutcher continues, “We’re trying to increase the number of outlets per room to five or six, but students still have to use power strips and extension cords to connect everything. But the number or placement of the outlets isn’t the whole problem. We have to provide enough electricity so students don’t overload the circuits. That’s why in some cases we are also increasing the size of the service panels in the buildings. We’re also adding transformers in many areas to increase the amount of electricity coming into the building.”

UK students live in more than 25 buildings and complexes scattered across campus; Crutcher estimates that the annual cost for electricity in student housing alone reaches $850,000. That’s why energy efficiency and cost savings get more attention, too.

Crutcher gives careful consideration to the lighting in all campus buildings, from dorms to classrooms to labs and sports complexes.

“As we look at our overall electric usage,” Crutcher says, “we are trying to replace as much of our lighting as possible with more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.”

Kentucky’s private colleges are also keenly interested in electric efficiency.

Jerome Meyer, director of Facilities Management at Centre College in Danville, says, “I have all the responsibilities of a homeowner—but multiplied 63 times because that’s how many buildings we have on campus. A few years ago, we asked our local electric utility to do an energy audit for each of our buildings. Using their recommendations, we did an electrical retrofit on all lighting systems on campus. With some heating and air-conditioning changes, we were able to save $56,000 on our electric bill the first year.”

Meyer continues, “With every remodeling job we’ve done and in each new construction project, we’ve provided about twice as much electricity to each individual dorm room as would have been provided back in the 1960s. When students arrive on campus we also teach them how to distribute the electric load of their various appliances within their dorm rooms in a safe way.”


•When buying new electrical appliances, look for the most energy-efficient models; Energy Star labels mean the item meets or exceeds federal standards

•Read the EnergyGuide labels on items such as mini-refrigerators; they show how much electricity an item uses during a year of operation

•Check with your roommate to avoid duplicating items that can easily be shared

Next month:Line Worker Safety and Training

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