RHA raises watt waste awareness

Following Tech’s trend of sustainability innovations in practice and building design, the Residence Hall Association’s (RHA) improvement committee has announced this year’s round of Wasted Watts — a competition between residence halls to lower their power consumption.

“One of the biggest issues that we’re looking at is how to get people to use sustainable practices in their daily lives and apply that on a larger scale so that small drops in the bucket are a valuable contribution,” said Parul Kapur, second-year ME and RHA vice president.

The goal of Wasted Watts is to educate and build student interest and support in sustainability, as well as improving transparency with energy usage on campus.

This is the second Wasted Watts competition, and the key improvement this year is electronic measurement; last year, power consumption was recorded manually by reading the meter on each building.

This year’s competition is still in the planning and development stage, they are still primarily in the process of optimizing the back end (facilities and administration cooperation), but RHA has set April 1-22 to be the time frame for the competition.

Each building’s hall council will compete with each other in lowering their per capita power consumption.

The students coordinating it will determine the energy usage per resident per building by reading data from Department of Facilities’ computers.

“We look at the percentage reduction over the three weeks, and since we have access to data from all the buildings and we know the number of residents per building, [we find] an average per student,” Kapur said.

“Our floor already turns off the hall lights during peak hour, but I’ll probably be making door hangers to remind everyone about the event with tips about ways to reduce power usage,” said James Slack, second-year ID and Glenn Hall Peer Leader, “I leave my own light off unless I absolutely need to turn it on, and I make sure to use the cold water cycle when I wash my clothes.”

An important component to the competition on the students’ side is the feedback pages on RHA’s website. Since on-campus students are otherwise unable to gauge their energy usage, the feedback page will allow them to see the impact of their effort.

With a feedback system, residents will be able to see the impact of their effort and hopefully have more motivation to save energy.

“It would be better if we promote this kind of program more often and from a higher, campus-wide level. The ways are not to hard to follow or find. It is just matter of making it as habits,” said Jinhyun Kim, first-year CS, “I would participate [in Wasted Watts] and turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and I would always consider choosing eco-friendly, energy saving electronics,” said Kim.

Consumption statistics — interpreted as totals, percentages and graphs — and rankings will be posted every other day on RHA’s website.

Power consumption includes wall outlet usage and lighting in the halls, kitchen, lounges and individual rooms.

The winners will be will be notified by email, and it will be announced at Tech’s Earth Day ceremony on April 22; the reward is anticipated to be four hours of free use of Tech Rec for the residents of the winning building.

RHA hopes to eventually have live, automatic tracking of power consumption, but the facilities’ system’s API is too complicated to have time to enable that this year.

Kapur also believes that once their fundamentals are in place and possibly determining actual per student power consumption – as opposed to the average, as currently measured – merging efforts or working with other organizations would be very beneficial.

“[The reward] isn’t a big incentive for me, but I’ve always been eco-conscious as a kid and have always remembered to switch off unnecessary power, and that continues at Tech,” said Kali Kishore, second-year ME, “If you’re trying to bribe students, it might as well be something better like free food.”

Some suggestions that coordinators have made for saving energy are not packing the refrigerator after it’s 60% full, cleaning the lint filter and using dryer balls when drying clothes, connecting appliances to a power strip and turning it off when not in use and closing the blinds during winter nights so heat does not escape.