Using dew points to estimate savings during a planned cooling shutdown
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In an effort to save money during the summer of 2003, Northern Illinois University (NIU) administrators instituted a four-day working week and stopped air conditioning buildings for the three-day weekends (Friday through Sunday). Shutting down the air conditioning systems caused a noticeable drop in electricity usage for that part of the campus that features in our study, with estimated total electricity savings of 1,268,492 kilowatt-hours or 17% of the average usage during that eight-week period. NIU’s air conditioning systems, which relied on evaporative cooling to function, were sensitive to dew point levels. Greatest savings during the shutdown period occurred on days with higher dew points. An examination of the regional dew point climatology (1959–2003) indicated that the average summer daily dew point for 2003 was 14.9◦C (58.8◦F), which fell in the lowest 20% of the distribution. Based on the relationship between daily average dew points and electrical usage, a predictive model that could estimate electrical daily savings was created. This model suggests that electrical savings related to any future three-day shutdowns over summer could be much greater in more humid summers. Studies like this demonstrate the potential value of applying climatological information and of integrating this information into practical decision-making.