Energy loss, not winter, causes your icicles

A new nonprofit organization, Common Sense Energy, encourages students to become aware of their energy habits both in the dorms and in off-campus housing. Engineer Allan Bullis, who calls himself “Energy Al,” began the initiative about six weeks ago with the help of 12 students from the Renewable Energy Workshop taught by Gary Flomenhoft, senior Drew Burkhard, one of the students involved, said. “Al came into class and said ‘I want to do this; does anyone want to help?'” Burkhard said. The organization looks at buildings with excessive heating energy and provides free walk-though energy audits to determine energy loss, according to a flyer handed out to prospective clients. The members of the organization use infrared scanners to detect hot and cold places in buildings. They look particularly at buildings with icicles, which is a sign of heat loss, Burkhard said. “Many people think icicles are just a natural part of winter in Vermont,” the flyer states. “The reality is that a well-insulated and air-sealed attic keeps the heat in the building and little, if any, ice will form.” The initiative hopes to address the challenge of controlling temperatures in dorm rooms, as well. Students often open windows in overheated rooms, an extremely energy inefficient solution, Burkhard said. “That’s something that I think that the Physical Plant should be looking into,” Burkhard said. Burkhard offered a possible solution that he and other students involved in the initiative came up with. “Our solution was to partially cover the heater with a towel or blanket — enough so the room does not overheat,” Burkhard said. “This is safe for steam or hot water heaters, but not for electric heaters.” He also said that the initiative is working on encouraging students to report issues, such as lights left on in areas when they are not needed and areas that are overheated, to the Physical Plant. The organization has yet to get funding from outside sources. “We’re pretty much in the starting stages,” Burkhard said. More than any retrofitting actions, Burkhard said that redefining current energy habits is the most important step in energy conservation. The initiative will have a table set up in the Davis Center once a week where students can learn about Common Sense Energy and set up free energy audits.