The installation of 130 new, more energy-efficient water heaters in the Ann V. Nicholson Student Apartments earned Oakland University a rebate of $163,750 from Consumers Energy incentives in October.
“This was a very successful project for housing,” said Siraj Khan, director of engineering and facilities business management. “Working with Consumers Energy to boost efficiency and improve the plumbing system was a good thing to do. It saved gas for them and money for us, so it was a win-win for everyone.”
The original heaters, installed when the apartments were built in 2002, required frequent repairs, resulting in more cost and labor, according to Frank Moss, maintenance manager of university housing.
So far, the heaters, which were installed the last week in August, have increased efficiency by seven percent. He said the design of the previous heaters was better suited for warmer climates, working to provide hot water in addition to fueling indoor heating.
“The old system was wearing out and leaked faster,” Moss said. “We got to the point where we were replacing the water heaters on a regular basis and spending a lot of money and labor to keep the system up.”
When the staff considered installation of new heaters last May, Consumers Energy Business Solutions informed them of the rebates available for eco-friendly updates.
Michael Alberts, project manager and engineer, planned and found the replacement water heaters in addition to filing paperwork to apply for the rebate through the Consumers Energy incentives program. A team of consultants worked to plan the process.
“The rebate helped the cash flow of university housing to allow us to change all the water heaters in one year instead of the planned two-year cycle,” Alberts said. “The result was earlier energy savings and minimizing increases in student apartment rents.”
The results will be more apparent after winter, but there have not been any problems, according to Alberts.
More initiatives to reduce usage are planned, including programmable thermostats, low-flow shower-heads and faucet aerators. With these additions, OU can apply for more rebates in an effort to keep costs down and productivity up, according to Moss.
Getting students involved
The Sustaining Our Planet Earth program is getting involved to teach on-campus students the right way to run appliances and home services like heating, according to Albert.
Albert said members of SOPE will provide training to students for the new programmable thermostats to make them run most efficiently.
Students’ work, in addition to facility updates, adds to the efficiency and overall impact of updates around campus.