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Clarkson students learning benefits of turning off the lights

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POTSDAM - At colleges and universities, students do not have an economic incentive to reduce their energy consumption because they aren’t directly paying for a monthly utility bill.

But a new program at Clarkson University will help teach students the benefits of switching off the light when they leave the room.

Clarkson University researchers have converted several suites in its Woodstock Village apartments into “smart housing” that will provide real-time data on their energy usage.

Sensors have been installed on electrical circuits and water sources throughout the apartments to monitor everything from dishwashing to brushing teeth; researchers are collecting nearly one gigabyte of data per week. A wall dashboard in each apartment provides feedback to the students on their usage.

The data will make students more aware of the energy and water they use on a daily basis and how small actions to conserve resources may have a large effect. This awareness will benefit them in the future, according to Stephen Bird, an assistant professor of political science. In addition, researchers are examining whether data-driven energy decisions can reduce expenses in living facilities across campus.

“This is to help students reduce their energy use and provide them with habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” says Bird.

Clarkson is partnering with the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on the project. The research addresses larger societal concerns about energy usage and will help to inform better policy solutions for addressing these kinds of split incentive problems.

See a video about Clarkson’s smart housing research at http://youtu.be/AkHb0PVFCTE .

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