COVID-19 Impacts on Energy at Northeastern
2020 brought many new challenges to our community as well as the world. Covid-19 forced us to make pivots in virtually all aspects of our lives. While some of these changes created great strain, our campus was able to thrive due to the perseverance of our co-workers in Facilities Management. As we changed our routines, how energy was consumed on our campuses changed too. Here, we will highlight some of these big changes that lead to both increases and decreases in energy usage in our Boston area campuses.
2020 Utility Savings
In 2020, energy usage at our Boston area campuses was reduced by 6% as compared to 2019, this is representing over 55,000 MMBtu.
Confined, poorly ventilated spaces increase the likelihood of spreading Covid-19. One of the many actions Northeastern took to make our campus safer was to increase the amount of outdoor air into buildings and install new types of air filters to improve the quality of the incoming air. These measures led to more electricity demand to operate the buildings safely and included:
- Installation of MERV-13 air filters in almost buildings replacing mostly MERV-8 air filters. While these improve indoor air quality, these actions do require more electricity to move air through the more dense filtration media.
- The operation of air handlers that move outside air to the interiors was increased to 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This not only required more energy to operate, but alterations and manual overrides to the building automation systems required for 24/7 filtration.
Despite the significant increase in demand for air systems and other safety measures, there remained a 6% reduction in energy use overall as compared to 2019. Some of these savings are attributed to the following:
- Lighting was down significantly from less demand and new technology. Occupancy sensors installed as part of the full campus lighting retrofit added to these savings. For example, sensors as part of new lighting fixtures in hallways and public spaces reduce lighting levels by 80% when unoccupied.
- Plug loads, such as computers, printers, coffee makers, and other electronics, were reduced significantly, especially with many staff working remotely.
- Water demand reduction from dining and residential halls led to a 28% drop in water consumption. A secondary effect of lower water demand was a reduction in natural gas consumption from heating hot water, especially in spring and summer of 2020.