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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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