Since 2005, NC State’s Holiday Energy Savings Initiative (HESI) has safely lowered building temperatures and utility costs in unoccupied campus buildings during the winter holiday period when the university is closed for about 10 consecutive days.
What are the standard indoor temperatures for buildings on campus?
NC State’s Sustainability Standard Operating Procedures state that temperatures for occupied space should range from 68°F to 71°F for heating and 72°F to 75°F for cooling. While unoccupied, building temperature setbacks range from 55°F to 60°F for heating and 80°F to 85°F for cooling.
What does the term “setback” mean?
A setback refers to a scheduled time when a building’s heating or cooling setpoints are relaxed, allowing temperatures to drift downward in winter or upward in summer, during times when the building is less occupied. Setbacks can save a lot of energy while at the same time ensuring that the building is comfortable when needed.
A setback does not mean that the HVAC system is turned off completely. The HVAC system will continue to operate to maintain the relaxed setpoints. Many buildings at NC State utilize setbacks during nights and weekends throughout the year.
Will the electricity be turned off in my building?
No. Except for a scheduled maintenance outage, the electricity will not be intentionally interrupted in your building during the Holiday Energy Savings Initiative or any other campus break.
How cold / hot will it get in my building?
During setback periods, your building could warm up to approximately 80°F or cool down to approximately 60°F, on average. Certain spaces in certain buildings could drift a little further than those setpoints, but indoor temperatures colder than 55°F or hotter than 85°F are unlikely.
Will the domestic hot water be available in the building during setbacks?
Yes, but water in some buildings may be lowered to a more efficient and safe operating temperature.
Why don’t we turn buildings “off” over the break?
There are many reasons why the Facilities Division does not completely shut down buildings during campus breaks. Even if we could be assured that no one needed to use the space during that time, buildings need to maintain minimum levels of temperature control for frost protection and also for humidity control.
Will my potted plants die if I leave them over break?
It is very unlikely. As long as your potted plant is okay at 55°F, it should be fine from a temperature perspective.
What about my research laboratory / animal facility?
Research laboratories and animal facilities typically do not have setbacks. They operate with consistent temperature and airflow setpoints 24 hours, 7 days a week. Many experiments need precise temperature control, and animals need consistent temperatures as well. Also, researchers may use the space during nights and weekends, and the HVAC system is a critical part of laboratory safety.
In the rare case of a research laboratory that currently has a night/weekend setback, the setback experienced during the Holiday Energy Savings Initiative will be the same.
What’s happening with residence halls?
Residence halls that are currently unoccupied already have setbacks in place and will remain that way until the beginning of the spring semester. Residence halls that are currently occupied (Wolf Village, Wolf Ridge, Avent Ferry, ES King Village, Tri-Towers) will remain occupied (and thus not subject to temperature setbacks) over the winter break.
Are Libraries open?
Check the Libraries webpage for up to date information on Libraries hours.
What days does this apply? Is HESI different this year because of the altered academic calendar?
Yes. Please see the calendar on the HESI homepage for more information about the specific dates.
Will exterior lighting be turned off?
Most nighttime exterior lighting (including streets, pathways, parking lots, tunnels, etc.) will remain on during HESI. The exceptions (shown on the parking map on the main HESI page) are a few surface parking lots that are rarely used during campus breaks, and most of the parking decks, which will be closed and unavailable during the break.
I did not submit an exemption before the deadline, my building is in a setback, and now I need to come in to work. What should I do?
There is an occupancy override button in some buildings that can be used. If you do not know where it is or if there isn’t one in your building, please call the Customer Service Center at 919-515-2991 who will be able to get in touch with the correct Facilities Division staff to make the change. Be prepared to tell them the building, room number, and when you need to be there. Please keep in mind that if you are there for a short period of time, then we would prefer that you bring extra layers of clothing.
Will the HVAC system be turned back on earlier than the dates listed on the calendar?
January 4 is the day that the university reopens after the winter holiday. The Facilities Division will begin returning HVAC systems to their normal temperature setpoints in buildings on January 2, and Facilities employees will conduct building walkthroughs to make sure that everything is functioning properly and that conditions are back to normal by the morning of January 4.
Starting January 11, Facilities employees will begin restoring temperature setpoints and ventilation for classrooms and teaching labs. Normal operating conditions, including enhanced indoor air quality measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, will be in effect by the time spring semester classes begin on January 19.
Are space heaters allowed on campus?
According to NC State Law, portable heaters cannot be placed in state-owned buildings as they pose a threat to safety. The only exception to this law is when the building’s main source of heat is inoperative. It is possible to have a heat study completed to determine if the building heating system is adequate. Have your building liaison complete a work request to have a heat study or call the Customer Service Center directly at (919) 515-2991.
See https://ehs.ncsu.edu/home-page-info/fire-life-safety/fire-safety-faqs/ for more information.
Automatically exempt buildings. Which buildings will not be set back, and why?
NC State has a great diversity of building ages and types, and the ability to control the heating and cooling varies from building to building. During the dates of university closure, Facilities is able to set back the temperatures in most buildings, but there are a number of exceptions. The following list of space types and buildings will NOT receive any additional setbacks during winter break.
No Additional Setbacks:
- Research Laboratories
- Animal Facilities
- Tenant spaces managed by University Office of Real Estate
- Athletics Facilities
- Centennial Biomedical Campus (College of Veterinary Medicine)
- DH Hill Library
- Administrative Services Annex
- Lonnie Poole Clubhouse and Maintenance Building
- Price Music Center
- Partners I, II and III
- Gregg Museum and Gregg Museum Storage
- Public Safety Building
- Pulp and Paper Labs
- Robertson Wing
- D S Weaver Labs
- Toxicology West (lab spaces)
- Broughton Diesel Wing
- Broughton Music Wing (Rooms 1402, 1403, 1404, 2405, and 2411)
- Burlington Basement
What is the exemption process?
The exemption process allows the Facilities Division to evaluate individual cases where there is a strong need for regular indoor operating temperatures during the holiday break. If your work can be done from home, or from one of the Libraries, please consider those options so that we can all save more energy on campus. If you truly need fully-conditioned HVAC in your space, then please submit an Exemption Request Form (deadline: Dec. 10) and clearly state the dates, hours and reason for your request. Exemption requests will be reviewed by the exemption review committee and either be granted or declined. Submitters will be notified.
Remember, if you are in a laboratory or animal facility, or in one of the automatically exempt buildings, you do not need to submit an exemption request.
To date, the program has saved the taxpayers of North Carolina more than $5 million. Read more about the program’s success in 2022.
Ways To Save
Here are steps you can take to help maximize energy savings over winter holiday.
- Save and secure. Shut exterior windows and doors to boost security and energy efficiency.
- Hit the switch. Turn off overhead and task lighting before leaving your office, residence hall or lab.
- Pull the plug. Turn off nonessential electronics such as coffee makers, toasters, radios, fans, printers, scanners and other small appliances. Consider also powering down your computer and unplugging desk-side devices or chargers.
- Clear the fridge. If you don’t want to return to a smelly break room refrigerator in January, consider cleaning before you leave for winter holiday. Empty refrigerators can be defrosted and left unplugged for energy savings (be sure to leave the door open).
- Shut the sash. Lab users should close all fume hood sashes and power down non-essential lab equipment. Because labs use more energy than any other type of campus building, small efforts here can make a big difference in energy costs.