Success Stories

Middlebury Turns Down the Heat
Middlebury made only a slight adjustment to their campus central thermostat during the winter of 2006-07 but it resulted in a huge reduction in heating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. All residential hall thermostats were lowered from 70 degrees to 68 degrees. This two degree change, applied only to a small percentage of the campus buildings, saved Middlebury $48,616 in fuel costs between November 2006 and March 2007 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 800,500 pounds during the five month period. The project was started by a group of environmentally conscious students who proposed the idea to Middlebury’s president after extensive surveying of the campus. The survey asked people how far they were willing to lower their thermostats. Seventy percent responded with upwards of 60 percent agreeing to a 2 degree change. With this information in hand, the students were able to convince their facilities and president to lower the dormitories’ temperature to 68 degrees from the usual 70 degrees. The only drawbacks to this project were the occasional room being too cold, which was easily remedied with sweaters and hot tea or facilities adjusting individual rooms’ thermostats.

For more information on this success story: Middlebury's Midd68 Campaign

Hamilton College Geothermal System
In 2004, Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, renovated its 84-year-old residence hall, named Skenandoa House.  The effects of the green design implemented in the refurbishing of Skenandoa House were vastly positive, so much so that the newly renovated building was awarded Silver LEED® (Leadership in Energy Conservation) Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2006.  Regarding stationary sources (heating and cooling), the residence hall now includes a 16-well geothermal cooling and heating single closed loop ground water source heat pump system; this geothermal system contrasts the natural gas-fired boilers / electrical heat used in the campus’ other residence halls. 

Hamilton’s facilities had an initial idea as to how they wanted to renovate Skenandoa House as a residence hall, but the difficulty with heating the building was that it was low-ceilinged and narrow, so space had to be used efficiently; additionally, no expansion of the building’s physical footprint was desired.  While researching various options, the facilities crew on campus discovered that the geothermal heat pump system used minimal outdoor and indoor space (the mechanical space for the geothermal system inside Skenandoa House is 10x11 ft, the size of a small office).

A geothermal heating and cooling pump system uses low ground temperatures, which are brought to the surface via wells sunk into the ground, to help moderate the 'temperature differential'. The process requires electricity to run both the heat and small circulation pumps (electrical power used in Skenandoa House is completely "green power", specifically wind).  Therefore, there is no carbon footprint due to powering the geothermal system in Skenandoa House.  Skenandoa House’s domestic hot water is heated by a natural gas fired hot water heater, and this is where any carbon footprint from the residence hall comes from (annual emissions for the natural gas fired hot water heater are 17.04 tons).

The geothermal system in Skenandoa House has already proven to be 2 – 2.5 times more energy efficient per gross square foot than the gas-fired hot water boilers in the other comparable residence halls on campus.  Given the energy pricing savings, Hamilton College saved about $6,000 to $8,000 a year, which gives about a four to six year payback.  When given a $46,000 rebate from the Hamilton was able to pay the rebate off two years after the geothermal system was implemented.

This project was a success because of the resulting decrease in Hamilton’s carbon footprint, and because of the economic efficiency and viability that a geothermal cooling and heating single closed loop ground water source heat pump system provides.

For more information on this success story: LEED Certification Awarded to Skenandoa House