Summer is officially under way. While it means fun in the sun for Airmen and their families, it can be an expensive, wasteful time of year for the Air Force. Utility bills on installations often rise drastically as air conditioning units and sprinkler systems work to keep up.
The Air Force spends more than $1 billion a year to power its facilities. Despite a reduction of 16 percent in energy use since 2003 and 13 percent in water use since 2007, there is still much work to do. Federal laws require government agencies to reduce energy 30 percent by 2015.
Jon Caldwell, energy manager, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., promotes conservation at all First-Term Airmen’s Council meetings there.
“Our location on the coast of Florida is a high humidity environment for most of the year, which requires additional energy for air conditioning systems to remove,” said Caldwell. “The best thing an Airman in the dormitories can do to save energy is to keep windows and doors shut as much as possible. This allows AC systems to maintain lower humidity and temperatures for less energy, which leads to more comfortable conditions in living spaces.”
Most installations across the Air Force have established temperature set points which average 76 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter and occupants are encouraged to dress appropriately for these set points.
“We pay $600,000 a month for electricity here,” said Randy Pieper, resource efficiency manager, Peterson AFB, Colo. “Every dollar we don’t spend on utilities can be used toward the mission.”
He said many Peterson buildings are part of the base-wide energy management control system so the temperature is controlled at a central location.
“If you think it’s too cool in your building, the Air Force could be wasting energy,” said Pieper. “Contact your facility manager, the base energy manager or civil engineer customer service so we can check it out and make adjustments if necessary.”
He says the Air Force can save approximately three percent on the cooling bill just by setting the thermostat one degree higher.
Another way to eliminate energy loss is to plug office equipment into smart power strips, according to Steve Kalmer, Air Mobility Command energy and utilities engineering program manager.
“These devices automatically cut power to designated peripherals when the controlling outlet senses a change,” said Kalmer. “For example, when a computer monitor turns off due to inactivity, the task lighting, computer speakers, radio and other peripherals would also turn off if they were plugged into a smart power strip.”
The command used Productivity Enhancing Capital Investment (PECI) funds to purchase smart power strips and he expects to save $2.20 for every $1 invested once the smart power strips are distributed to all AMC installations.
Conserving water is also an Air Force priority, but it can be especially difficult in the summer when irrigation is needed.
Air Combat Command is doing its part by prohibiting use of potable water for new landscape irrigation systems. And, to meet a force-wide two percent annual water reduction goal, ACC bases must also reduce acreage currently irrigated with potable water. Instead, they will use harvested rainwater, grey-water, or treatment plant effluent. Variations are approved by ACC’s director of Installations and Mission Support.
“We’ve reduced our water use 60 percent since 2007 through a combination of leak detection surveys and repairs, water distribution system improvements and a comprehensive plan for unidirectional flushing of our water lines,” said Matt Latham, base energy manager, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. “We also expanded the gray water well, which collects runoff water for irrigating the golf course.”
Latham says only the golf course and headquarters building can use irrigation systems.
The base also uses Bermuda grass, which is native to North Carolina and extremely drought tolerant.
Latham encourages Airmen to avoid using vehicle wash racks during drought or high-heat conditions.
“Our philosophy is that no idea is crazy – we look at everything and do what works,” said Latham.
Airmen who discover an energy conservation opportunity should discuss their findings and recommendations with their base energy manager or submit the idea through the incentive awards office.