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Ferro: Weber State helps heat, cool Utahns sustainably

By David Ferro - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Nov 23, 2022

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David Ferro

Empower Northern Utah, a program led by Weber State University Sustainability, is offering Davis and Weber county residents free or discounted Nest Thermostat E’s to increase energy efficiency and cut utility bills. Weber State has a long history of helping the community save money while helping to save our lungs and environment.

WSU’s Sustainability team has partnered with like-minded organizations to bring the Nest Thermostat E to the community at a discount. Utah Clean Air is a statewide partnership to bring individuals, communities and businesses together to improve the air in Utah. Utah Community Action HEAT Utility Assistance Program helps families in low-income households pay their bills, along with crisis assistance. Utah Clean Energy works to accelerate Utah’s transformation to clean energy. The Dee Foundation strives to benefit the Ogden area through charitable giving.

This is the eighth year that WSU Sustainability has offered sustainability-focused community programs aimed at helping residents save money, energy and improve the environment. These programs have included the Susie Hulet Community Solar, Drive Electric, LED Light Bulb Exchange and Mow Electric programs. Collectively, these programs have served thousands of households and community members.

Starting in 2019, the Light Bulb Exchange has helped over 480 households exchange 6,500 CFL and incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs at no cost. Another 2,000-plus LED bulbs have been distributed along with almost 500 smart thermostats since then as well. In 2018, WSU helped over 1,250 people exchange their old internal combustion engine mowers for electric mowers at a substantial discount. In 2016, the university helped 28 people swap their ICE vehicles for electric vehicles. In 2015, the Susie Hulet Community Solar program helped 140 households and the Ogden Nature Center install over 2,000 total rooftop solar panels. Mine was one of those households. While it looked like a steep cost initially, the tax deduction helped, and I’ve been enjoying paying only the connection fee to Rocky Mountain Power ever since.

WSU Sustainability estimates that they have saved community members hundreds of thousands of dollars. The environmental impact of all the programs has probably removed the equivalent of over 8 million miles of ICE vehicle miles traveled.

Weber State also has been investing in energy-saving efforts across campus and has seen millions of dollars saved as well. The goals include making the buildings on campus as energy-efficient as possible and reinvesting the savings to go totally carbon neutral by next decade. This includes electrifying all energy used, since that opens possibilities to remove fossil fuel use. Weber utilizes on-site generated solar power and works with Rocky Mountain Power to generate the remainder sustainably. Heating and cooling of buildings utilizes three geothermal fields hooked into a campuswide network. Through these efforts, WSU has made 13 buildings — including my own newly opened Noorda Engineering, Applied Science and Technology Building — capable of carbon neutrality.

Weber State is offering the Nest Thermostat E at $67 instead of the normal $167. Additionally, low- to moderate-income households are eligible to receive the thermostat for free. Apartment dwellers are also eligible to own the Nest and, with a landlord’s permission, can install it while they occupy the apartment. By cutting heating and cooling bills, and saving you an average $130 a year, the thermostat pays for itself in half a year. It also means you use less electric or natural gas and help keep Utah’s wintertime air cleaner, especially during inversion season, by lessening emissions.

The Nest thermostats are designed to easily install yourself in less than an hour and save you money without you even thinking about it. They are simple and attractive on the wall. They save money on your energy bill by utilizing weather conditions and recognizing when people are and are not in the home. They can adjust temperatures depending on who is in the house. They also monitor for issues in the heating and cooling systems and, through an app, can tell you how much energy you use and why. They can be adjusted remotely through a smartphone or a smart speaker like Alexa. They do require some teaching of the system, but that usually works fairly quickly.

You can check the compatibility of the Nest Thermostat E at nest.com/works and register to receive one at weber.edu/empower. It might make a good holiday present, especially with rising energy costs, for someone who likes saving energy and money — and the environment while they’re at it.

Dr. David Ferro is dean of the College of Engineering, Applied Science & Technology at Weber State University. Twitter: DavidFerro9

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