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Universities and colleges

BC colleges and universities are major consumers of natural gas, using the commodity for space heating, water heating, cooking and other uses.

To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy, post-secondary institutions in BC have joined the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement. Ageing campus buildings and tight facility budgets may present challenges, but the administrations of BC colleges and universities can work with students, staff and faculty to find creative energy solutions that will engage and motivate the campus community to lighten their footprints.

First steps: simple ways to get started

Be an energy efficient leader

Develop a long-term, campus-wide energy savings program and create a public awareness campaign to support reduced energy use on campus.

Turn-it-down times

Work with campus departments to identify times when buildings are not occupied. Use this data to optimize energy usage (e.g. program set-backs to temperature or turn down the ventilation fans).

 Windows and Doors

Look for leaks

Regularly maintain and replace worn caulking and weatherstripping around windows and doors.

Install double-glazed windows

Reduce noise and heat loss and improve comfort with energy efficient double-glazed windows.

Space heating 


Replace older boilers

High-efficiency condensing boilers use less gas and take up less space. Natural gas appliance incentives from FortisBC are provided to make the switch easier.

Install the right size

An oversized boiler uses extra energy to reach a steady-state temperature. Instead, install a boiler that matches the load, or install a series of smaller, staged boilers, which can lower costs by using automatic controls to shift the load between boilers. FortisBC’s boiler rebates also provide a right-sizing bonus.

Maintain and measure annually

Regularly maintain boilers and associated systems, and measure boiler efficiency at least once a year.

Retrofit with economizers

If boiler replacement isn’t feasible, consider adding an economizer to increase efficiency. This heat exchanger captures waste heat from the boiler’s flue gas to preheat water going into the boiler.

Insulate properly

Insulate valves, flanges and pipes in mechanical rooms and unheated areas. Insulate expansion tanks and heat exchangers.

 Steam distribution system

Check and maintain steam traps

Steam traps, which remove water from the steam distribution system once it has cooled, can become stuck open. A single failed trap can waste more than $50 per month of heat, and some campuses may have hundreds of steam traps.


Annual maintenance

Inspect all access panels and gaskets in HVAC units.

Quarterly maintenance

Clean or replace air filters and dampers to ensure proper air flow. Check for leaks in rooftop HVAC units. Inspect rooftop units to ensure they’re secure, with all screws in place.

Inspect and insulate ducts and pipes

Ensure pipes and heating ducts are sealed properly with approved foil tape.

Install variable-frequency drives (VFDs)

VFDs save energy by adjusting motor speeds to the building’s changing heating and ventilation needs

Reduce fan speeds for unoccupied areas

Turn down fan systems for large areas that are unoccupied nights and weekends (e.g. cafeterias, lecture theatres, classrooms, offices).

Thermostats and controls

Install CO2 sensors

CO2 sensors can tell when a room is occupied and will automatically adjust the amount of fresh air to draw in for heating or cooling a large area. When no one is in the room, the fans run slower to ease the heating system’s load.

Invest in Digital Direct Control (DDC)

DDC systems use sensors installed in the HVAC system to continuously monitor and adjust conditions, such as vent fan speeds. Combined with software, DDC can be controlled remotely by facilities staff.

Water heating

Invest in high-efficiency water heaters

Replace older water heaters and supply boilers with high-efficiency models. New water heaters are more efficient and can reduce energy consumption. FortisBC’s financial incentives can help make switching easier.

Insulate tanks and pipes

​Insulation reduces heat loss.

Fix leaks promptly

One leaky faucet or dripping tap can waste a significant quantity of water per month.

Go low-flow

Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators in washrooms, dorms and recreation centres to save on your hot water bill.

Turn off taps

Post signs reminding staff and students to turn off taps, and consider installing motion-sensor activated taps.

Recycle hot water

Where hot water is used continuously (e.g. showers, dishwashers), install drainpipe heat exchangers. They can save 50 to 60 per cent of water heating energy, shorten payback times, and double or triple the water heater’s first-hour capacity.*

Save energy in recreation centres

For ideas on saving energy in your school’s recreational facility, swimming pool or ice rink, see Recreation Centres.
 *Souce: E Source™ Companies


Turn off fume hoods

Laboratory fume hoods use a lot of energy. Turn them off except when they’re needed for experiments or material storage purposes, or when it is required by code.

Upgrade laboratory air filtration

Choose better air filters that maintain more constant air flow and create less resistance in the ventilation system, even as dust accumulates.

Cooking and cafeteria

Turn off unneeded equipment

Turn off cooking equipment when not in use (e.g. overnight hours or morning start-up), as a significant amount of energy used in cooking is for standby heating.

Limit preheating time

Preheat fryers for only as long as necessary. Cover them during slow periods to retain heat and turn them off completely when not in use.

Install low-flow spray valves

Low-flow units use 6.1 litres of water per minute to rinse dishes; older spray valves may use much more.

Upgrade to energy efficient equipment

When purchasing new kitchen equipment, choose energy-efficient models. Incentives from FortisBC can offset costs.

Shut doors on walk-in coolers and freezers

Train kitchen staff to shut doors to coolers and freezers when they exit. This prevents the loss of cooled air and saves the HVAC system from having to reheat the surrounding area.

Install vinyl strip curtains

If shutting cooler doors isn’t practical, install vinyl strip curtains to keep cool air in. They’re also a great way to maintain temperature in loading dock areas.

Upgrade vending machines

Look for ENERGY STAR® vending machines, which are up to 50 per cent more efficient than conventional ones.

Install “vending misers”

This device uses an occupancy sensor to power down vending machines and coolers when no one is around.

Explore your energy options

Consider alternative energy solutions

Geoexchange and district energy systems are being implemented in many large complexes today, especially new facilities. They save energy, produce fewer emissions, and demonstrate your facility’s commitment to sustainability. Contact an Energy Solutions Manager to learn more.

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