Campus Initiatives: Energy Use

Since FY 03, Elon has increased its square footage over 50%, yet overall the campus’ energy utilization index (Btu per square foot) has decreased 30%. Take a look at Elon’s progress chart for energy consumption.

Click here for Elon's Energy Conservation Policy.

Energy Conservation Efforts

A geothermal system is the primary source of heating and cooling for the Colonnades Neighborhood. The system consists of heat pumps that utilize the Earth’s nearly constant temperature (between 50° and 60°F) to heat and cool the residence halls. They transfer heat from the ground into the buildings in the winter and reverse the process in the summer.

Elon was a recipient of federal grant money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that helped with the installation of solar thermal panels for heating water in Colonnades Dining Hall and 4 residential buildings. Eighty-two solar thermal panels were installed and are expected to prevent 49 tons of carbon emissions each year.

The geothermal system and solar thermal systems reduce the need for fossil fuel based energy.

Several energy conservation measures have been implemented on campus: the energy management system’s set back times have been revised, programmable thermostats have been installed, automatic operations of steam heating valves have been added, more efficient ventilation systems have been installed, compact fluorescent bulbs have been installed, T12 bulbs have been replaced with more efficient T8 bulbs, some LED lighting has been installed, more motion sensors have been installed to control lighting loads and older appliances have been replaced as needed with Energy Star qualified units.

Electric Sub-metering

Elon completed an electrical sub-metering project in 2009, which included 50 of Elon’s buildings or 78% of its building square footage. This project allowed the Physical Plant to more closely monitor electricity consumption and optimize performance. It is also what allowed Elon to provide real-time energy consumption information through the Building Dashboard. As new buildings are built, they will be added to the Building Dashboard system. In addition, many of the recently constructed buildings are metered for electricity and natural gas, as well as water.

Engagement & Awareness

The Building Dashboard site allows users to view current and historical energy usage for a total of 61 campus buildings. Energy consumption can also be viewed in more familiar units such as compact fluorescent light bulbs or dollars.

Elon holds a residential energy competition, Phoenix Cup, in the fall to facilitate the development of energy conserving habits.

Another step taken to promote energy conservation is the creation of Energy Star residence hall rooms containing Energy Star qualified equipment. There are a select number of rooms for which students must apply, and these rooms are shown on Admissions campus tours. 

Through campus tours members of Elon can learn about the Solar Farm at Elon.


British Thermal Unit (Btu)
A British Thermal Unit (Btu) is defined at the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at one atmosphere pressure.

A unit of energy equal to 100,000 Btu's.

Kilowatt hour (kwh)
A unit of energy equal to the work done by a power of 1000 watts operating for one hour.

Heating or Cooling Degree-Day
The number of degree-days for a specific day is calculated as the difference between 65 °F and the average of the high and low temperatures of the day. If the average of the high and low temperatures for a day are greater than 65 °F, then those would be cooling degree days. Conversely, if the average of the high and low temperatures is below 65 °F, the difference would be heating degree days.
For example:
High temperature = 65°F Low temperature = 35°F
Average of high and low temperature = (65 + 35)/2 = 50°F
Heating degree-days = 65°F - 50°F = 15 degree days