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Lightbulbs Alone Aren’t Going to Save Us 20% by 2020

Photo of an LED bulb

Universities, like homeowners, are saving money on their energy bills by switching to LED bulbs. Kansas University recently replaced 4,500 bulbs across campus, an effort that’s expected to net the institution an annual savings of more than $61,000. And that’s just lightbulbs.

Northwestern University is taking part in the 90-day Energy Star challenge this autumn with an internal competition between five of its laboratory buildings to see who can save the most energy. Turning off lights and closing fume hoods are small steps toward the university’s 2020 goal to reduce it’s energy consumption by 20%.

Identifying the big culprits and eliminating frivolous waste are easy first steps. Research labs can take it to the next level and start replacing aging equipment that sucks down energy, water, and money. This goes beyond LED bulbs in the offices and an Energy Star refrigerator for the break room. Old lab equipment—like deep freezers, centrifuges, and autoclaves—are the energy albatrosses dragging down research last. For example,

In a recent energy audit Stanford University showed that research lab equipment consumes more energy than all other categories of campus equipment combined. As just one example: their campus’ 167 autoclaves were using as much energy as their 19,205 computer monitors—and it’s a lot easier to begin swapping out autoclaves than to replace hundreds of monitors at a go.

[Photo credit: Chris RubberDragon, CC BY 2.0]