Lingering warm weather costs WKU

Caitlin Carter

With warmer weather sticking around longer this year, WKU has faced high energy costs, contrary to what people might think, Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said.

Many would believe the situation would be more energy-efficient, because officials haven’t turned on the heat in campus facilities, she said.

“But it’s just the opposite,” Ryan-Downing said. “We’ve had to continue to run air conditioning during this time.”

And air conditioning is much more expensive to provide than heat, she said.

WKU is two weeks behind in turning on heat in buildings on campus, Ryan-Downing said.

“It’s too late in the fall to be running air conditioning,” Ryan-Downing said.

Dale Dyer, plant operations manager for Facilities Management, said the air conditioning is normally turned off in the third week of October, and then the heat is gradually turned on once it begins to get cooler.

“It’s optimal if we have a break where we don’t have to use either heat or air,” Dyer said.

Though WKU has faced high utility costs in the last month, Dyer said some relief should be on the way.

In January, WKU replaced a coal burner with a natural gas boiler, Dyer said.

While WKU didn’t save much money with the installation in the last year, the university became much more sustainable with its installation, Dyer said.

“The biggest and best difference last year was that we burned way less coal,” he said. “This was cleaner more so than anything.”

This year, the university expects to save some money with the boiler in place since gas prices have dipped lower than coal prices, Dyer said.

John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities, said another coal burner will be replaced by a natural gas boiler in the spring.

The installation of natural gas boilers are part of WKU’s Energy Savings Performance Contract with Johnson Controls, Dyer said.

The contract includes $9.7 million in energy-efficient improvements in facilities across campus, Dyer said.

While the improvements made under the contract are expensive, more than $1 million will be saved in utilities annually once the project is completed, Dyer said.

Over the last several years, WKU has made significant progress in making campus more energy-efficient, or “green,” Osborne said.

The money WKU will eventually save by making campus more sustainable is an added perk, he said.

“Cost effectiveness and sustainability go hand-in-hand,” Osborne said.