The energy crisis is affecting everyone here in the UK, and although the magnitude of the rapidly rising costs is out of our control, there are ways to marginally reduce our personal liability. Multiply this by a communal factor such as the UKs student population and the figures become much more significant.
Many students’ rents include bills, but if what I read in the student press is true, several providers are reneging on this agreement and increasing rent or writing energy costs out of their contracts.
This is not a short-term problem. Higher energy costs are going to become the norm for some years to come, so behavioural change is one focus that can help to reduce the consumption of energy in this sector.
Encouraging room occupants to reach for an extra layer of clothing rather than the thermostat control is ubiquitous across ‘Energy-saving tips’ lists, but it is a cost-free, beneficial piece of advice. Likewise, boiling the amount of water needed for a hot drink, rather than filling the kettle each time, is another tip, that if adopted universally, would make a significant impact. In the kitchen specifically, the capacity of fridges and ovens is another consideration. Keeping the fridge well-stocked means, it doesn’t have to work as hard as it would keeping empty space chilled. Additionally, using air-fryers or microwaves will save, compared with heating a large oven for a small tray of fishfingers. Using an appropriately sized pan for the hob ring, also has an impact on the amount of energy that is wasted while cooking.
These are all within the capabilities of the resident, but how best to ingrain these habits into the minds of young adults is another issue!
Up to 80% of the energy used in student accommodation is for room and water heating, but this is somewhat easier to manage.
Back in the day, it would have been necessary to try and encourage people to turn the heating off when they leave their room; to remember to turn it down when they are warm enough; to not open windows to cool the room, while the heater is still on; to reduce the temperature over night when they are sleeping.
When thinking of water, the control of heating is where savings are made. Heating water when tariffs are lower; spending a minute or two less in the shower; monitoring water tank performance, so that it maintains lower temperatures, while still complying with water safety plans; all help towards substantial savings.
Engaging with technology.
Human intervention is no longer a requirement in controlling efficient use of energy for space and water heating. Ecostat2 and Irus from Prefect Controls are two systems that ensure energy isn’t used unnecessarily – and save of up to 40% on energy costs.
Both use the same principle of the 3-stage student profile – Setback, Boost and Frost modes. A default temperature, or Setback mode is programmed. This is engaged unless external factors affect the control units. For example, if the Boost button is pressed the temperature will rise for a pre-determined time, after which Setback will re-engage. If the occupant leaves the room during a Boost period, heat input will be reduced. If a room is left unoccupied for longer periods, heat input is reduced further to Frost level, this is the minimal temperature required to avoid damp forming or frost damage. If windows are opened, heat input is again reduced.
The 3-stage Student Profile.
These systems are always striving to reduce energy consumption.
Each Ecostat2 control unit is programmed with a dedicated infrared handset making the system tamper-proof. There are several models to suit applications such as communal areas and corridors, and individual room controls with or without PIR and variable user adjustment.
Irus is a centrally controlled building energy management system controlled via any device with internet connectivity. The secure Irus Portal provides access to programming times and temperatures in individual rooms, remotely, without ever having to set foot in them. Data on space and water heating and environmental conditions are logged and displayed giving managers a complete picture of real time activity, and reports with which they can maintain their energy strategy and monitor consumption.
Keeping the lights on.
The behavioural changes outlined here are good habits to adopt, because the cost of energy is only the start of the energy crisis. The rate of demand for power is increasing year on year, and we are on the backfoot when it comes to energy production, so using only what we need, to keep the lights on, must be a good idea!
But, if we can also be sure we are not wasting a greater amount of energy, and use cleverly simple technology to achieve this, then we can be confident we are doing all we can to make the future sustainable.