Crumpler cuts the lights and advocates more conscious energy use
Photo by Dan Addison
|J. Paul Crumpler uses his digital light meter to show that daylight from the windows lining a Chemistry Building hallway make the many fluorescent lights overhead unnecessary. After a few quick calculations, he determines that lighting them only when needed could save as much as $400 a year.
By Matt Kelly
J. Paul Crumpler is an apostle of energy conservation.
He walks the Grounds looking for ways to conserve. He talks about it at parties. At football games, he calculates the energy use of the field lights. His enthusiasm for the topic seems boundless, an advantage for the University’s energy conservation officer.
“Part of this job is education,” he said. “If I can get people on Grounds to turn off the lights, computers and air conditioning when they leave, it will make a measurable difference.” He educates through his newsletter, addressing classes and through employee staff meetings.
“We use $21 million in energy per year on Grounds” in electricity, gas and coal, he said, “Half of that is electricity.”
Simple steps bring tremendous savings, Crumpler said. Turning lights off during the day could save about $50 per year per office. Disabling outside air pre-heaters on air conditioning systems for the summer has saved about $56,000 in one month.
Many lights already have been linked to motion sensors, which extinguish lights if there is no movement in a room.
“Lights are 10 percent of our energy use,” Crumpler said. “When you add a motion sensor, you can save $25 per year, per motion sensor. That may not seem like a lot, but when you multiply it by 6,000, you realize some savings.”
Motion sensors, $75 apiece to acquire and install, are paid off in three years. Crumpler said most are now accruing savings.
“We can save 10 percent to 20 percent of our energy without spending a lot,” he said.
He promotes “continuous commissioning,” or keeping equipment at peak efficiency instead of repairing it only after it starts to deteriorate. “It’s getting ahead of the curve and maintaining things to work at optimal levels all the time” that saves energy, he said.
Crumpler measures the monthly energy use and cost for every building on Grounds and tracks savings.
“But it’s not just dollars,” Crumpler said. “Anything we can do to conserve reduces the amount of coal and gas usage. That improves the environment and reduces sulfur and greenhouse gases.”
A personal mission
Born in Atlanta in 1959, J. Paul Crumpler left high school as a junior to enroll in Georgia Tech, from which he graduated in three years. For15 years, he worked at Michelin and British Oxygen Corp., devising manufacturing equipment and heating and cooling systems. In 1993, he joined the Georgia Department of Pollution Prevention, working with industries to reduce the quantities of raw materials used in the manufacturing process. He then took a job with Georgia Tech as a research engineer working on energy conservation.
His passion for conservation increased when one of his two sons was diagnosed with autism and his wife with breast cancer, a battle to which she lost. “I wondered if there was some environmental factor at work” causing their conditions, he said.
Crumpler took his job with U.Va. last fall, moving here with one of his sons and his second wife, Elizabeth. Since coming here, he has saved the University about $130,000.
Naturally, a key conservation challenge is the human factor.
“We need more intelligent equipment operation,” Crumpler said. “Lights are left on at night, heating and air conditioning are left running, computers [too]. … We do a poor job of turning things off. I have been caught once or twice leaving my computer on at night. Automatic controls take human error out of the equation.”
Computers can be programmed to go into sleep mode when not in use, and heating and cooling controls can be timed. But cognizant people still are essential.
Crumpler was explaining this to a visitor when landscape mechanic William S. Griffin came into his office to request a programmable thermostat in his shop so the air conditioner would only run certain times. “Why cool it when no one is there?” he said. Crumpler agreed.
Older buildings present some of the greatest challenges, such as: leaking windows, steam heat with poor controls, a lack of insulation and window air conditioners that run constantly. About 20 percent of the steam traps, which regulate the flow of steam in heating systems leak,
Crumpler said, and they’re not always easy to find.
In the Chapel, one of the greatest energy-users per square foot on Grounds, Crumpler discovered the thermostat was located above an air conditioning vent. The thermostat always registered that the building was cold. A humidity detector in the ducting was also faulty, giving an inaccurately high humidity reading. The combination resulted in cooling and heating both running through the summer — a wasteful cycle.
“He is very sharp at finding engineering solutions to complex problems,” said Cheryl Gomez, utilities director. For instance, Crumpler determined that the cold outside air drawn into certain heating systems was being preheated too much. By adjusting the equipment, he reduced the amount of energy used in preheating air, Gomez explained. “Within his first month he had saved his own weight in gold,” she said.
Crumpler also works with the Student Conservation Advocates, a volunteer group, looking for ways to conserve energy in the dorms and spread the word to students.
“We all have room for improvement,” he said. “Think big. If we do what we can, control what we have better, we can see a 20 percent reduction in energy use.”
For more on U.Va.’s energy conservation efforts, go to http://utilities.fm.virginia.edu/energy/