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College Retrofits Dorms With Wireless Energy-Management Technology

March 6, 2015
Kenyon College’s dormitory rooms are equipped with smart thermostats, occupancy sensors, and window sensors from Magnum Energy Solutions.
Kenyon College is 100-percent residential, with more than 1,600 students living on campus.

At Kenyon College, a private liberal-arts school in Gambier, Ohio, students had very limited control over their thermal comfort inside their dormitory rooms, experiencing excessive temperatures. As a result, students left windows open nearly year-round, which resulted in wasted energy and high utility bills. The college tried programmable thermostats, but they proved overly complicated, and students were not receptive.

In 2012, the college implemented wireless, battery-free energy-management technology from Magnum Energy Solutions. Now, Kenyon’s dormitory rooms are equipped with smart thermostats, occupancy sensors, and window sensors. If a student opens his or her window, a wireless signal is sent to the smart thermostat, which then turns off the HVAC system. And when the student leaves his or her room, the thermostat receives a signal from the occupancy sensor and automatically puts the HVAC in eco-savings mode, in which it is allowed to drift to a lower (or higher) setpoint according to the university’s preference.

Magnum’s software and associated access points are employed strategically within the TCP/IP infrastructure of the residence halls, giving the college the ability to configure, monitor, and control the system remotely.

Students have embraced the system.

“The operation of the system is simple and straightforward, and the installation, performed by Ameresco, didn’t impact regular operations at all,” Sustainability Director Ed Neale said.

Dormitory room at Kenyon College.

Neale noted an unexpected-yet-important additional benefit: “In the summer months, dorm rooms were overcooled, and the relative humidity would get high, creating mold problems. With the Magnum system initiating setbacks and thermostat control, the relative humidity is staying where it should, between 51 and 54 percent.”

Eight months after the technology was deployed in 400 dormitory rooms, calculated energy savings exceeded $30,000, putting the college one year ahead of the payback it estimated when the project began. As a result of the energy savings and improved resident comfort, Kenyon expanded the system into additional dormitory and academic buildings across campus.

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