In recent years, Eastern Illinois University has taken a number of measures to decrease its energy consumption. These measures have been a great success, as the institution has cut energy usage by nearly one-third, a significant decrease for a university of this size. As a result of this reduced energy consumption, the school's total carbon dioxide emissions have been slashed by almost 35 million pounds over the last decade.
Additionally, the new Renewable Energy Center steam plant will be producing electricity as a byproduct, slashing EIU’s electricity costs. Eastern can get its electricity at around 2 cents/kilowatt-hour, while the standard university rate is 7 cents and the traditional utility rate is as high as 11 cents.
The brand new home of Eastern's Textbook Rental Service boasts a number of state-of-the-art features designed to streamline the textbook pickup and dropoff processes, but it is also home to a number of equally modern energy efficient measures.
The Louis M. Grado Building includes geothermal wells for a ground source heat pump heating and cooling system, along with a white roof and reflective paving designed to reduce heat island effect. Additionally, it has been fitted with high efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors throughout.
Electric heat is very inefficient as electricity generation is only about one-third as efficient. It is also very costly, running $24 per million BTU as opposed to just $10 per million BTU for natural gas. This not only reduces cost for heating, but also decreases the carbon footprint of the campus.
Since EIU’s initial performance contract in 1995, more efficient lighting solutions have been a major piece to the university’s sustainability puzzle. Some of those initial measures included changing out T12 fluorescent bulbs in academic buildings to T8 technology. T12 technology is several decades old, with lamps that use 96 watts as opposed to 300 required for incandescent bulbs. T8, on the other hand, uses only 53 watts to produce the same amount of light. Fluorescent bulbs also replaced incandescent bulbs in a number of campus locations.
Classroom occupancy sensors have been another energy-saving technique, with the first units installed in 1997 and more additions and upgrades being made as late as 2010. This can save a substantial amount of energy, considering the typical classroom is used six hours per day. This can also extend the number of years between changing bulbs, since the bulbs will be off for more hours a day.
The incandescent lighting bars were removed last year and replaced with fluorescent lighting, which consume 4,200 watts at maximum load and 1,600 during non-production time, compared to the 23,000 watts consumed by the previous bulbs. Automatic lighting controls have been installed in Lincoln, Stevenson and Douglas Halls; a nighttime mode for hallway lights turns off three quarters of the lights, while a timer was installed to automate this process during summer months when nobody is present to manually operate the switch. The showcases at the Union Bookstore also contained inefficient halogen lights that needed replacement every three months, but were replaced with fluorescent bulbs using half the energy and lasting 10 times as long.
In 2009, the blue emergency phones around campus were upgraded to accept blue LED lights via retrofitting. While the project was initially designed to pay for itself in 15 months, a grant ended up cutting that to six months. Blue LEDs offer longer life and use 95 percent less energy with fewer parts, making malfunctions less likely. On top of all that, visibility has been reportedly improved. EIU believes it is the first institution of higher learning to implement such upgrades.
Elsewhere on this site, the chilled water loop cooling system is highlighted for the water conservation it promotes. This system is also much more energy efficient, of course. Rather than having 20 buildings cooled by their own individual units, buildings on the loop are cooled by the same unit(s) — units that are running at close to full capacity, which is when they are most efficient.
Energy Star vending machines have been installed across campus, as mandated by the latest campus vending contract. These new machines boast much more efficient lighting as well as more efficient compressors and added insulation. These features reduce energy use by 30 percent over the previous machines installed, representing a savings of over $10,000 per year in electricity costs.
Excess vending machines have also been removed from campus; the machines in University Court were found to not have enough use to justify their maintenance needs. A single machine remained in the complex, placed outside so all occupants would have access rather than just the few in the buildings that contained the machines.
Double-pane windows have been installed in various locations, including the MLK Jr. Union bridge walkway and the union food court. These windows cut down on energy loss substantially, and newer versions have a low-emissivity coating that reduces the amount of solar gain in the summer — reducing cooling load and saving resources.