Energy Smackdown Poster with 2020 datesEnergy Smackdown

Cornell’s annual competition to reduce our energy use and carbon footprint on campus.  Every action counts.

Energy Smackdown 2021 Information

Monday November 1st - November 24th, 2021
Open to all campus community members!

Participate in Cornell's annual energy competition by committing to actions tailored to reducing energy in your home life, work, or lab spaces. Individual actions DO matter, and your impact is magnified when you tell someone about it.

Our competition is based on two simple steps: 
1. Do something.
2. Tell someone about it.

Talk with your friends, family, and colleagues about what you're doing to reduce energy. People are significantly more likely to adopt sustainable behaviors if they know someone who has already adopted the behavior - so your actions, and your words, make a difference. 

landing page of the Energy Smackdown
Check out the Energy Smackdown Dashboard throughout the competition to see which buildings and units are reducing the most energy throughout the competition!

How to Participate:

  1. Learn the Top 3 high-impact actions you can take to save energy where you live, work, and learn on campus (see below). 

  2. Commit to Do something and Tell someone about it.
  3. Check out Cornell's Energy Smackdown Dashboard to see which buildings perform best during the competition and how your building compares.
    This dashboard tracks Cornell's overall energy reduction during the competition, so keep this page bookmarked if you'd like to see our collective impact on campus over time. You're welcome to tab through the Energy Dashboard to find your building's dashboard, and see how its energy usage is changing over time.  Note: Competition results are calculated against how each building is expected to perform during the same time period without behavior change considered.

3 High-Impact Actions

Cornell's Energy Management Team has worked with the Campus Sustainability Office to combine real-time campus data with behavioral change science.  We've identified three, high-impact energy-saving actions you can take on campus to reduce your carbon footprint where you live, work, and learn.  These actions will have the largest overall impact on reducing Cornell's energy use and carbon footprint.

Which action(s) will you commit to doing?

Where You Live

1. Shorter showers, lower water temperature
Save 1.5 kWh for every min you shorten a hot shower and lower water temperature

2. Full loads, cold water
Save 1.5 kWh by washing full loads of laundry using cold water only

3. Plug it in, turn it off
Save 3 kWh / day by plugging items into a power strip and turning it off before leaving / sleeping. No power strip? Simply unplug your electronics instead.

The best way to reduce your energy use in Cornell's residential building is to reduce hot water use and manage your plug load carefully. By lowering your water temperature and reducing the overall amount of time you're running water, you're reducing the amount of energy needed to heat up all that water. If every student who lives on campus reduces their hot water usage by 3 minutes a day (on average), they ALONE would save 1.2 million kWh during Energy Smackdown -- exceeding our 1 million kWh goal. We can do this!

Plug loads and parasitic loads are major energy users in residential buildings. Even when "turned off" most devices like TVs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, video game consoles, and cell phone chargers are drawing energy. By grouping those items together, plugging them into a power strip, and turning off the power strip before you leave your room or go to sleep --- you could save around 15-20 kWh per week, which over the course of the year is the equivalent of carbon sequestered by 1.5 acres of forest.

Fun Fact: Washing your hands in cold water is as effective against germs as washing them in warm/hot water; however, "warmer water may cause more skin irritation and is more environmentally costly." Go cold!

Where You Work

1. Set Room Temperature 1-2 Degrees Lower
Save 1% of your office's energy use for every 1 degree you lower your thermostat in the winter

2. Keep windows closed
If air leaks cause 1/2 of home heat loss in the winter, how much heat is lost from open windows? A lot.

3. Plug it in, turn it off
Save ~15% of your office's energy use by plugging items into a power strip and turning it off before leaving work

The best way to reduce your energy use in Cornell's offices and administrative spaces is to control your temperature, take care of your windows, and manage your plug load carefully.

By lowering the temperature set points in your office and reporting heating/cooling issues to facilities ASAP, you're helping Cornell document and prioritize efficiency updates or building malfunctions that may be causing unnecessary energy use. In addition, make sure all radiators are clear of books, tables, and belongings since radiators cannot work properly without convection.

During cold weather months, taking care of your windows is key. You want to keep cold air out and warm air in. First, ask facilities staff to remove window A/C units to help seal up your space. Then, keep windows closed to avoid ramping up the building's heating system to accommodate the heat escaping from the open windows. Next, close shades and curtains at night to keep warm air in, and reopen them during the day to maximize natural lighting and promote well-being in your space. Lastly, consider asking your facilities staff to install shrink wrap for older windows, which improves comfort and greatly improves energy efficiency.

Plug loads account for around 30% of an office's electricity use. In your own work space, be sure to plug your items into a power strip and turn it off before leaving. Work with your team to set energy saver settings on copiers, computers, and monitors. Identify and unplug electronics that are no longer needed. "Parasitic loads" account for about 10-25% of office energy use -- meaning items are still drawing power when not performing useful work (e.g. TVs, coffeemakers, plugged in laptops (fully charged), desktop computers in sleep mode, microwaves).

Where You Learn

1. Close Fume Hoods
Reduce your lab's air ventilation by 2/3 by shutting the sash every time it's not in use

2. Exit the lab
Cut your lab's energy use in 1/2 when you leave the room vacant and let the lab kick into a preset vacancy mode

3. Raise freezer temps
Achieve big energy savings by raising temperatures in ultra-low freezers from -80C to -70C

Cornell's biggest energy users are our lab buildings (including Statler Hall and Hotel), so recommendations on high-impact actions 'where you learn' are focused on our lab spaces.

The best ways to reduce energy use in Cornell's lab buildings are to lower fume hood sashes, exit labs and work outside labs whenever possible, and proactively manage ultra-low freezers.

Laboratory ventilation is responsible for about HALF OF ALL ENERGY USE on campus. That's huge. One fume hood = 3 households' annual energy usage, and we have thousands of fume hoods on campus (!!)... Thankfully, there are solutions! First, close the fume hood sash every time it's not in use to reduce air ventilation by 2/3. Since occupancy sensors cannot kick the lab into 'unoccupied mode' when a fume hood is open, this action is especially critical in reducing a lab's energy use. Second, hibernate your fume hoods anytime they will be unused for 2-3 weeks or longer. This saves 200 kWh per week per hood ($100 per week, $5000 per year, based on 5ft hood). Simply email to take the fume hood out of service within 48 hours and to restore it within 48 hours. No charge, no problem.

Cornell labs are equipped with occupancy sensors that can kick labs into ventilation and lighting 'vacancy modes' once they are unoccupied (and fume hoods are closed), so one of the best things you can do is simply exit the lab and work, eat, and meet outside of labs whenever possible.

Labs can achieve huge energy savings by raising temperatures in ultra-low freezers from -80C to -70C. Check out resources from the Freezer Challenge, including evidence that -70C is a safe temperature to store many samples.

Can we count on you to do something and tell someone? 
Every action counts. 

Reach out to anytime to share your successes and struggles, and to get answers to your questions.