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Energy Consumption

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Lighting accounts for about 22% of the energy use at a typical university, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE). Properly designed and implemented daylighting strategies can reduce this number by 50 to 80%. Some tips to reducing your energy consumption through lighting changes include:

  • TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS when you leave a room, including common areas.  The average office is occupied only 8 of 24 hours (33%); classrooms even less.  You might consider assigning the last person to leave the office the job of turning off the lights in all common areas, such as break rooms, hallways, and workrooms.
  • Use Energy Star Compact Fluorescent Light (CFLs) bulbs wherever possible. Energy Star rated CFLs use 75% less energy than normal light bulbs and last 6-10 times longer.
  • Open shades to make use of natural lighting.


According to the DOE, electronics and other equipment account for about 20% of energy usage at a typical university. This includes computers, monitors, electronic office equipment, and lab equipment.

  • Program computer, fax/copy machines, and printers to their energy-saving settings including “sleep mode.” A screen saver on the monitor does not save energy.  See instructions on how to do this or ask your LAN manager or ITS.

Did you know? The typical desktop computer uses 60 to 250 watts of energy for each hour it is fully powered. In sleep/standby mode this decreases to 1 to 6 watts for each hour it is in sleep mode.

  • When computers are not going to be in use for more than a few hours, turn them off altogether if allowed.  If your department or school requires that you leave the CPU on overnight for updates and backups, you should program your computer with sleep mode settings and turn off the monitor.

Did you know? The typical 17” CRT monitor uses 80 watts of energy for each hour it is fully powered while a typical 17” LCD uses 35 watts for each hour it is fully powered.

  • Whenever possible, unplug electronics from the wall when not in use.  While plugged in, electronics still drain a small amount of energy even when turned off (typically called “vampire” loads).  A surge protector not only protects your electronics but provides an easy way to unplug them all at once with the flip of a switch.


About 40%, the largest percentage, of the energy used on campus goes towards heating and cooling indoor spaces.  Much of Vanderbilt’s campus is heated with steam and cooled with chilled water, while other buildings directly use electricity.   Our energy usage spikes during summer months from extensive air conditioning usage.  Some suggestions for curbing our heating and air conditioning energy usage are to:

  • Encourage your students, staff and faculty to dress for the season, particularly in layers that can help moderate personal temperature, and accept more seasonal indoor temperature settings.
  • If you can control your thermostat, suggested settings for an office, lab or classroom thermostat are 75 degrees F in summer and 68-70 degrees F in winter.
  • If you can control your thermostat, adjust it more radically when everyone leaves for the day since the typical office is only occupied 33% of each day.  Two easy ways to do this are to either assign the duty of adjusting the thermostat to the last person that usually leaves the area each day or invest in programmable thermostats for your area.  For more information, contact Plant Operations (615.344.9615) if you are located on main campus or Plant Services (615.322.2041) if you are located in a VUMC facility.
  • If you do not control the thermostat for your area and think the indoor temperature seems extremely cold or hot, call Plant Operations (615.344.9675) for those on main campus and Plant Services (615.322.2041) for those in VUMC and alert them to the temperature extreme.

For more information on how to conserve energy at Vanderbilt, visit the ThinkOne website.

Click here to return to the Sustainable Department Greening Guide.