Boilers key to Baker University keeping heating costs down
As temperatures drop outside, people are beginning to turn up their thermostats and, in turn, see their utility bills rise. At Baker University, Jeremy Portlock, director of the physical plant, along with other members of the maintenance staff, work to keep energy and utility bills low.
“We use what is called an energy management system,” Portlock said.
The system, which is accessible to the staff through the Internet, manages energy usage by using class and event schedules to set and control the heating and cooling of buildings.
“Before the start of every school year ,we will take the class schedules per building, and the work hours of the faculty and the staff, and set schedules based off of their needs,” Portlock said.
Each building is broken up into zones, and each zone has a thermostat that is set to either occupied or unoccupied.
For heating, the occupied set point is at 68 degrees. The settings allow those occupying the zone to move the thermostat up or down two extra degrees, but the regulated temperature helps to keep the building at a reasonable but efficient temperature for occupants.
When the zone is unoccupied, the set point is about 64 degrees, to keep the boilers from heating a room without people in it.
Portlock said a big part of keeping Baker’s energy usage and utility bills low is the boilers the university uses, which can operate at an efficiency rate of up to 95 percent.
“These boilers gain some of their efficiency because they have an outdoor sensor that sensors the ambient temperature and that sets the low demand for the boiler,” Portlock said. “Right now, this particular system is set up to run automatically. It will disable at 65 degrees.”
That means that when the outdoor temperatures reach 65 degrees, the software will shut off the boiler and the pump. With older systems, the boiler will typically run unless a person manually turns them off.
Routine maintenance keeps the buildings running at the highest efficiency possible, in turn, saving energy and money.
“It’s routine for us to change filters on air handlers and fan coil units,” Portlock said. “The routine maintenance that we do on the equipment is a big thing. We try to reduce the downtime of the equipment; it not only keeps the equipment running, but it helps to increase and maintain the efficiency of the equipment.”
Despite the energy management system, Portlock is unable to control the temperatures of specific rooms in living areas such as Irwin or Gessner halls.
“I can control the floors in the dorms if we have an entire floor or wing that is not occupied,” Portlock said. “I can reduce it down into an unoccupied setting where it would not run unless the temperature got so high or so low, but individually per room, I cannot control the individual room. The students are free to get up and turn the thermostat however they want.”
Because of this, students are urged to use their best judgment when changing the settings of their thermostats.
Portlock said having the temperature set between 68 and 72 degrees is usually reasonable to conserve energy. He also said turning down the thermostat when no one is in the room helps, too.