For full details, go to Cutting back the kilowatt hours: Sustainability efforts save energy, dollars for The Clinic.
Three of the four projects in 2014 intended to save electricity involved interior and exterior lighting, while the fourth – the biggest of the efforts, by far – involved a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Here are brief summaries of all four projects.
- Interior fluorescent lighting upgrade: An older system was replaced with a more efficient one known as “ballast and tubes,” according to Anton Grube, facilities services manager for The Corvallis Clinic. The project essentially upgraded existing tubes to a set of better performing ones, but to accommodate the new ones, a corresponding ballast system was needed in each fixture.
- Installation of better switches: Conventional on-off light switches in all rooms were taken out in favor of motion-activated switches. This way, lights are now automatically turned off in rooms that are unoccupied. Grube said this technology was not only inexpensive, but it also saves electricity and money overnight. He explained that members of after-hours cleaning and maintenance crews would often turn on all lights to begin their shifts and turn them off only when they left. With the new switches, the lights go on and off with the movement of the workers.
- Parking-area lighting upgrade: Incandescent lighting in parking lots was removed in favor of LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs. Grube said LED bulbs use significantly less electricity and they also last a great deal longer than the older type bulbs.
- Installation of technology known as variable frequency drives, or VFD: This system works alongside the motors that push air throughout a building. It lets the motors supply only the amount of air needed to heat or cool rooms, whereas previously the motors would run at full speed – or not at all.
Grube analogized the VFD system to a car. Without it, the car could travel only at zero or 60 mph, but nowhere in between.
“But what if I need to go only 40 mph because I need less heating or cooling?” Grube asked.
The VFD allows such variation, and it also helps prolong the life of the motors. Grube explained that to continually stop and start a motor puts strain on it, so as a result, the system was often left on – at 60 mph – day and night. But with the VFD system, motors can be gradually started up and their speeds changed throughout the day depending on need.
The VFD systems in 2014 were installed in the Asbury Building; Grube said the same technology was installed in the Aumann Building as part of a 1994 remodel.