Powering Down for Break

Before leaving campus for winter break, spring break, and other holidays throughout the year, follow these simple tips to save energy in your office, common areas, labs, residential rooms and spaces.

Powering Down for COVID-19 (March 2020)

How to Power Down Before You Go

Dear Cornell Staff, Students and Faculty,

Before you leave campus for an extended period of remote work, or as you prepare to vacate campus for the remainder of the semester, please take the following actions:

  • Turn off power strips and unplug any electronics plugged directly into the wall. Many devices use electricity even when “turned off,” including TVs, printers, chargers, copiers, coffee makers, microwaves, lamps, and space heaters.
  • Switch off all lights 
  • Shut all windows & shades
  • Close all interior and exterior doors
  • Completely close fume hood sashes in labs. Lab managers should look for additional guidance in the coming days on how to hibernate fume hoods not in use during reduced research schedules.  Fume hoods are responsible for 50% of building energy use on campus.
  • Report facilities issues like leaky faucets, running toilets, overly hot or cold rooms. Questions? Contact: fcsrequests@cornell.edu
  • Remind colleagues and students to take these actions before they leave, too.

Our collective actions help the campus run efficiently in a reduced capacity.  Last year, you saved 1.08 million kWh of electricity during just one week of winter shutdown, equivalent to eliminating 91 homes’ energy use for one year, growing 12,600 trees, switching 29,000 light bulbs to LEDs, or charging 97,300,000 smartphones. The impact is huge.

For more on how to save energy at home, you can browse our Sustainability Life Recipes, which offer tips for how to save money and reduce your environmental impact wherever you are.


Image of beach with text "your electronics need a vacation too"Winter Setback: December 2019

Read the Winter Setback Letter from Rick Burgess, Vice President, Facilities & Campus Services

Before you leave campus for a much-deserved winter break, please join your colleagues in “powering down” your offices, labs, and common areas –your hard-working electronics need a vacation too! Each year, your participation in Cornell’s Winter Energy Shutdown avoids powering unused electronics, heating unoccupied buildings, and lighting empty offices. This collective action saves a huge amount of energy on campus, minimizes the use of natural resources, and reduces our university’s carbon emissions –critical steps towards our carbon neutral campus goal by 2035....

Key actions to take before you leave for break:

  • Switch off lights 
  • Unplug all electronics (many draw electricity even when off)  
  • Turn off power strips
  • Shut down computers in common spaces 
  • Close all exterior doors  
  • Close all windows and shut the shades/curtains 
  • Check thermostat, and if easily adjustable, turn down to 64F (but not off) for winter, or 75F for summer
  • Shutdown non-essential equipment (e.g. printers, freezers, growth chambers, etc.) 
  • Close fume hood sashes (one of the greatest energy consumers on campus) 
  • Report facilities issues (e.g. leaky faucets, broken windows, overly hot/cold rooms) 
  • Share these steps on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram 

Check your building’s energy performance on the Big Red Energy Scoreboard to see how you and your neighbors helped reduced energy use. If you have questions about these actions, please reach out to fcsrequests@cornell.edu.


Colleges and units directly benefit from avoided energy costs, so powering down makes an impact on your college/unit while improving overall campus sustainability.

And just imagine the social, economic, environmental, and academic benefits that are possible when we engage in sustainable behavior year-round. We will save the campus $1.4 million and over 3,500 tons of carbon through major energy upgrade projects completed this year, and Cornell is once again the #1 Ivy for sustainability in the nation because of your efforts.  

Program Savings

Winter Setback 2018:  1.5 million kWh of electricity and $115,000  saved during the shutdown, equivalent to eliminating the energy use of 115 homes for an entire year.

Your actions make a difference! Thank you for your continued efforts to save energy, reduce carbon emissions, and adopt sustainable practices. We can’t do it without you!