The University of Arizona

To Unplug to Not to Unplug: UA Tool Helps Measure Energy Use On and Off Campus

UA Residence Life | February 4, 2014

The UA is one of a handful of institutions in the country to offer "virtual room" software, and the first known college or university to include an off-campus living space.

A tool developed by the University of Arizona to help students and employees measure energy consumption in residence hall rooms and campus offices has been expanded to allow apartment-dwellers and homeowners to use it too.

Through EcoPower – Residence Life's "virtual room" software application – users explore their electric footprint by creating a virtual space representing their personal energy habits. The tool then provides an estimate of how much electricity everyday items use and how that amount varies when they are turned on, off, or unplugged altogether.

Whereas the dorm room and office include items commonly found in those spaces – such as mini-fridges and overhead lights in the former and computers and printers in the latter – the apartment environment measures the electricity usage for things like air conditioning units and full-sized appliances.

The UA is one of a handful of institutions in the country to offer "virtual room" software, and the first known college or university to include an off-campus living space.

"People across the country have used it," said Jill Ramirez, coordinator of sustainability education for Residence Life.

With only a few clicks, users can customize the room to fit their energy habits by changing how long items are on, choosing Energy Star-rated appliances, or adjusting the temperature. As changes are made, the software continuously updates how many kilowatt-hours the setup would consume. Kilowatt-hours are then translated into cost and compared with average energy usage, all while electricity reduction tips scroll on the page.

EcoPower also reports a collective "Carbon Paw Print" – the environmental impact that would result if other UA students and employees used energy in the same way.

Residence Life launched the first version of EcoPower in March with the dorm and office environments. After receiving requests from students who lived off campus as well as employees, Ramirez sought funding to enhance the tool to include apartments and houses too. The project won funding from the UA Green Fund to finance the expansion, which was developed by employees as well as students.

"We are very proud of this project, and the true collaboration between students and staff," Ramirez said. "The EcoPower expansion was made possible in large part because of the dedication and creativity of our students."

Contacts

Jill Ramirez

Residence Life

520-626-9179

jillramirez@life.arizona.edu