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Turning off monitors, lights help to save money

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
Economically tight times open the door to opportunities for everyone to appreciate the little things taken for granted, such as lights and other office equipment powered by electricity. Knowing that it costs money to power lights and equipment—money that could equal one’s salary—encourages us to spare the light to spare a job or program.
MUSC’s Sustainability Program (SP) is the conduit for various earth-friendly practices, including energy-saving campaigns. Sustainability, which operates under Engineering and Facilities, recently re-posted “Lights Off” signs in elevators and in areas that require more attention.
“We have been working on a campuswide energy saving campaign for a few years but this month’s announcement of $17 million in cuts from the S.C. Budget and Control Board has added a new sense of urgency to our work” said Christine Cooley, SP manager. “If everyone turned their lights off for 30 minutes a day, MUSC would save more than $800,000 in a year. The lights-off signs are daily reminders of a habit we all need to create for ourselves.”
For most, it is not habit to turn the light off at work, but it needs to be, Cooley said, adding, “We all need to take responsibility for making this a new habit in our daily routine.”
Meanwhile, nurses' stations have been given special posters with energy-saving tips to remind them to turn lights and TVs off when there is no patient in a room. Other spaces where lights tend to be on all day, include storage closets, staff lounges and conference rooms, deserve special attention. These lights should be off when these rooms are not in use.
SP also has created lights-off stickers for light switch plates, which are available upon request.
In offices with desk lamps, speakers, radios and other plugged devices, Cooley recommends connecting them all into a power strip, which can be used to turn off everything with a single switch.
Switching to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs from incandescent bulbs also is an easy, energy-saving practice. Departments should check bulbs and make sure they can be changed to the more efficient bulb or tube.
An important consideration is that old, compact fluorescent light bulbs must be recycled to ensure the mercury contained in them is handled properly. (Call 792-4119 for bulb recycling information.)
Turning off lights, the radio; allowing the computer to sleep or trading in a space heater for thicker socks may seem like simple adjustments, but they require a commitment on the part of everyone.
Specifically, MUSC’s SP program estimates that about $850,000, representing 5 percent of last year’s energy bill of $17 million, could be saved by reducing power usage, i.e. lights and computer equipment, for 30 minutes out of a 10-hour work day.
Meanwhile, SP shares information with other universities and picks up tips for use here.
Some surprising feedback was shared from a sustainability manager with the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) who offered a snapshot of their comparison between a wasteful office and a sustainable office.
At UCSD, the representative inefficient office included in a survey incurred the following monthly energy expenses on typical office equipment: Desktop computer with monitor: $135; lights on 24 hours a day, seven days a week: $150; refrigerator: $30; space heater:  $35; aquarium: $65; and microwave: $50.
The total monthly energy bill for this particular, small office cost $465 a month to power.
The sustainable, cost-efficient office at UCSD incurred the following expenses: Laptop computer with a flat-screen monitor: cost $70; and a motion-sensor lighting: cost $75
This small office cost only $145 to power each month.
Changes that could drastically reduce power expenses:
--removing space heaters
--removing decorative lighting and accessories
--removing appliances and using departmental kitchen facilities
--using the sleep function on the computer
--purchasing Energy Star equipment
--turning off the lights when not in use
To learn more about how to cut costs through efficiency, visit or call 792-9745. To request stickers, to obtain a printable Lights Off poster, or to learn about how to cut costs through efficiency, visit or call 792-4066.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.