Thermostat Wars: Finding savings by adjusting the temperature

EDF Climate Corps fellow | July 14, 2010

By Jonathan 'J.' Stone, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at News Corporation – Dow Jones, MBA candidate at  Stern School of Business, New York University, Member of Net Impact

Last month, I embarked on a 10-week-long EDF Climate Corps fellowship at News Corp.- Dow Jones. I blogged about the spectacle of its printing facilities in the Bronx, printing millions of copies of the Wall Street Journal and New York Post daily.  At this point, I've officially passed the halfway mark of my fellowship and have taken the plunge into investigating energy efficiency opportunities and deleting costs for this massive company.

I recently ventured over to the Dow Jones headquarters in New Jersey for the public groundbreaking of their solar panel installation.  With the country's attention focused on the BP oil disaster, there's no better time to underscore the importance of alternative energy.  As two US senators spoke about the duality of economic and environmental benefits of such alternative energy projects, I could literally sense the boost in morale of the one thousand or so employees gathered on the lawn to witness their company receive praise for being a leader in the sustainable revolution.  Upon completion, the project will be the largest corporate single-site solar panel installation to date and will generate 4.1 megawatts of electricity.

This experience provided further affirmation of the myriad of benefits companies, employees, and, most importantly, the environment can generate by going green.  It's no longer just the trendy thing to do, but it is becoming a social and financial responsibility. Hence, I returned to my office the next day thinking about ways that Dow Jones and News Corp. could further seize sustainable opportunities.

In this spirit, I started looking into some HVAC changes to Dow Jones's 400,000 square foot printing plant, which is using a great deal of energy to stay cool in this rather brutal New York City summer.  The best study I have found on the topic was produced by the Department of Energy stating that "by turning your thermostat back 10 –15 degrees for 8 hours, you can save about 5 –15 percent a year on your heating bill—a savings of as much as one percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long."  Since the plant is in use 24/7, a ten degree setback would likely result in negative employee feedback.  Therefore, I am proposing a one degree week-long trial period, during which we turn the air handlers up just one degree and gauge our energy usage for that week versus a week under old temperatures. As long as employees are still cool enough in their working conditions, a small change like this could have a big difference in annual energy savings.

In addition to the lighting retrofit I mentioned in my first blog, I am hopeful this HVAC project will garner significant savings for News Corp. – Dow Jones. Stay tuned for my findings. I'm only half way through my fellowship and it is constantly becoming clearer that there is no shortage of the low-hanging fruit that is energy efficiency.

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