Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Students reduce energy consumption in Kill-A-Watt competition

The contest was a big turn-off, which made Kill-A-Watt a big success.

University residence halls and apartments competed last semester in a monthlong challenge to reduce their energy usage by at least 10 percent. When the results were tallied, the students had achieved 107,222 kilowatt hours in energy savings.


First held in fall 2011, the Kill-A-Watt competition is a student-organized event, in collaboration with University Housing and funded by the Planet Blue Ambassadors Program. Kill-A-Watt volunteers and the Planet Blue Student Leaders engaged residential students in a variety of energy-saving strategies that collectively reduced their community’s energy consumption.

From Oct. 17 to Nov. 16, 2012, the contest monitored energy use in 11 campus residential facilities: Betsy Barbour, Bursley, Fletcher, Helen Newberry, Martha Cook, Mary Markley, Mosher Jordan, North Quad, Northwood III, South Quad, West Quad.

The Kill-A-Watt Planning Team started the competition with a light bulb exchange in all participating communities. Residents could trade their incandescent bulbs from desk lamps for compact fluorescent bulbs, which use up to 75 percent less energy. More than 150 bulbs were traded and each bulb is likely to last throughout the students’ college careers.

Planet Blue Student Leaders ran various programs throughout the month at which residents could learn energy-saving strategies. The Kill-A-Watt Planning Team also created incentives for participation by awarding residents with “enthusiasm points.”

The planning team compared the energy use of each building to its own usage a week before the competition started. Weekly readings of the communities’ energy use were measured electronically by Scott Wells of Plant Operations and sent to the planning team, or read manually depending on each facility. The data were reported back to residents each week on banners, posters and social media.

At the end of the competition, Kill-A-Watt hosted a zero-waste, low-energy concert at which the winners were announced. With an estimated energy use reduction of 13.8 percent over the month, South Quad won the Energy Saving Award and the Kill-A-Watt Trophy.

Other communities that reduced their energy consumption by at least 10 percent were recognized: Northwood III (12.6 percent) and Helen Newberry Residence (10.4 percent).

North Quadrangle and West Quadrangle won the Enthusiasm Award for outstanding programming and resident participation.

Katherine Plumhoff was selected for the Individual Energy Saving Award from among 10 students who posted their personal energy-saving efforts on the Kill-A-Watt Facebook page.

Collectively, the students reduced energy consumption by 107,222 kilowatt hours, an increase of 47,000 kWh savings from the first competition. According to the Office of Campus Sustainability, 107,222 kWh is the equivalent of weekly energy usage in 436.5 homes. Based on the energy rate paid by the university, the competition saved an estimated $9,000 in utility costs.

This year’s Kill-A-Watt competition also attracted participation among residents in halls that were not being monitored, as well as off-campus students.

“We increased participation at events by framing the programs in an informal, rather than strictly educational, setting,” said Executive Director Lexi Targan.

“Desserts in the Dark” was a popular event, which ran in three different halls. Residents came to a common area and enjoyed desserts in a low-light setting. There were energy facts at each food table where students could learn about energy loads of common appliances. Two halls hosted “Zero Energy Hour,” during which residents participated in various programs while all of the appliances in their rooms were unplugged and the lights turned off to promote collaborative energy saving.

“We also launched a new version of our website that included an online pledge for students to take that listed specific behaviors of how to save energy,” Targan said. “And we followed up with them midway through the competition.”

In addition to the competition, the Kill-A-Watt student organization also participates in campus events throughout the year and sponsors presentations in the winter term.

“Kill-A-Watt’s mission is to involve students in energy and sustainability issues while reducing energy use for the environmental and financial benefits. We hope to make energy use more visible and convey the relevance of sustainability to all students,” Targan said.