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And you think your utility bills are high?


We at Heard on the Hill were curious about what the sudden influx of students does to Kansas University’s electricity bill.

As it turns out, the extra bodies, classes, computer use and extra everything else that comes with the beginning of a semester doesn’t demand as much power as Old Man Summer does. (Actually, maybe summer is not old at all, or a man. Summer seems more like a sweat-drenched young person with a sunburn and sand perpetually rolling around in his or her shoes.)

Gavin Young, assistant director of KU strategic communications, checked with Westar, from which KU buys its electricity, for stats on energy consumption at the university. He found that the most energy-intensive month for the Lawrence campus is July, when most of the student population is away.

Average daily electricity usage this July came to 368,475 kilowatt hours per day. That is compared to a daily average of about 316,000 kilowatt hours per day across the year. For the curious, that’s an average daily energy bill of $23,121.

As Young explained in an email:

While most students go home for the summer, we operate buildings for summer classes and research, faculty and staff comfort, and to control air quality. The students coming back in the fall does increase electrical use for lighting, appliances, and other miscellaneous uses, however weather conditions start getting cooler in September and have a tendency to make the overall energy use less in the fall, winter and spring.

So, running the air conditioners in the blazing months of summer requires more electricity than all the added computer use and light flipping during the normal school year.

Although energy use at KU spiked in July, it’s actually come down from Julys past. Monthly use was about 11.8 million kilowatt hours for July 2013, down from 13.4 million in 2012 and 12.8 million in 2011. That decrease is likely due to this year’s July being cooler than last year. Also, Young noted the university’s efforts to reduce energy demand by honing in on lights, appliances, computers and weatherization, as well as a contest among buildings to reduce their energy use called “Lights Out.”

Not that KU asked for them, but I have some additional ideas that could trim the electric bill during the energy-sucking summer:

  • All non-laboratory classes can be held in Potter’s Lake.
  • Designate Wescoe as the state’s largest sauna and rent it out for the summer.
  • Post-apocalypse Preparation Week (because we will all have to learn to live without the electric grid once the zombie invasion comes in October).

But before the power goes out forever, get your KU news tips in to bunglesbee@ljworld.com. The prize: millions of kilowatts of journalistic gratitude.

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  • Comments

    Alceste 4 years, 9 months ago

    The university needs to be compelled to implement a policy which mandates a/c set at 78°f in the summer for offices and such; computer server rooms set at industry standards; etc.

    78° is plenty comfy for indoor workers. The F&O staff who work outside most certainly don't have that luxury.

    Too, individual space heaters need to be banned and winter temperatures set at 68°.

    elliottaw 4 years, 9 months ago

    Wow that's a little harsh, 78 is quit warm when you figure that these people are in business wear and some of the men could be wearing suits, I would say 72 in the summer.

    Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 9 months ago

    Considering the outrageous tuition that college students have to pay these days, I think they have the right to be comfortable. If your suggestions were to be implemented, KU would lose a lot of students.

    jumpin_catfish 4 years, 9 months ago

    I believe space heaters are in violation of city code in a office space but maybe KU is exempt because they are state.

    parrothead8 4 years, 9 months ago

    I know people who work at KU in the summer who would LOVE it if their building was maintained at 78. One former co-worker showed me a picture of a thermometer they keep on their desk that showed their office at 86 degrees in the middle of the day.

    Alceste 4 years, 9 months ago

    Bull roar.....78° is what working people who have a/c keep it at; plenty of regular folks have no a/c: 78° is a lot better than the 95° it is outside right now.

    In the "spirit" of compromise....ok.....let classrooms be 75°; even cooler in the dorm rooms....but raise the dorm rates; the Union is a private deally bob, so they can what they want. Library? It's a grade B library anyway....so 78° is good enough (Grade B due to it not being open 24/7).

    Alceste 4 years, 9 months ago

    jumpin_catfish adds: "I believe space heaters are in violation of city code in a office space but maybe KU is exempt because they are state...".

    Alceste doesn't know about any code but Alceste does have 1st hand knowledge of many city, county, and state workers who bring them (electric space heaters) from home and use them all winter long in their cubicles with impunity...... Once the mini a/c unit is perfected (not a 5" fan, now....), expect to be seeing those as well.......

    Jillian Andrews 4 years, 9 months ago

    I'm a "working" person and I certainly do not keep my house as warm as 78 in the summer. It's at 72 when I'm home, 75 when I'm away. I also work at KU and I could NOT properly concentrate or do my job to the best of my abilities if I am too hot. Our A/C has been out for two mornings this week and nothing got done but panting in front of a fan. Your suggestions don't play out in the real world.

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