How Many College Students Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Electricity Usage in a Dorm Room 2001-2012

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Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index takes a look at student's energy usage in campus residence halls.

"In 2012, the average college student used only 505.74 kwh during that same time frame, a reduction of 343.13 kwh." - Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index.

It’s time to head back to school and as college students across the county migrate to their dormitories, we marvel at the ever-increasing number of electrical devices seemingly needed for life on campus. We also give thanks that we do not have to pay the electric bill for all of those devices!

Wouldn’t you be surprised to know, then, that the average college student has actually lowered his/her energy consumption over the past eleven years? In 2001, the average college student used 848.88 kilowatts per hour (kwh) of electricity during the nine-month period he or she lived in the college dormitory. In 2012, the average college student used only 505.74 kwh during that same time frame, a reduction of 343.13 kwh, reports the Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index.

The most significant decline arose from the simple change of a light bulb. By replacing the standard light bulb of 2001 with a compact fluorescent, the average college student saves 303.75 kwh of electricity. The rest of the savings arises principally from switching from a desktop computer to a laptop, a savings of 76.39 kwh. This switch provides savings in two ways. First, the obvious difference between the energy consumption of the two computers (14.29 kwh). Second, on-demand streaming video capabilities enable the laptop to serve as a television and eliminate the need for a second appliance, resulting in a savings of 62.10 kwh.

What this data demonstrates is that technological advancements are allowing us to have our cake and eat it too. We can conserve electricity and still enjoy a lifestyle with the many benefits that electrical devices provide. Technology is doing the hard work of saving energy for us.

About the Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management

The Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management (CEPM) provides opportunities for scientists, industry leaders, elected officials, advocates, and citizens to shape policy related to the country’s full array of energy sources while working to minimize environmental impact and promote economic growth.

The CEPM’s Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index generates analyses of the nation’s progress toward energy independence and security and translates these analyses into a relatable format that is easily understood so that all parties may use its findings in their work.

Situated atop a wealth of natural resources in Southwestern Pennsylvania, CEPM is dedicated to enriching the civil discussion of the country’s energy future by bringing experts together in a spirit of mutual respect and concern for the common good.

In keeping with W&J’s liberal arts tradition of educating tomorrow’s leaders, CEPM offers students unmatched research opportunities, internships, certificate programs, and hands-on experience that will prepare them to be stewards of the nation’s energy resources.

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a national liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional liberal arts curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent student work.

For more information about W&J, visit or call 888-926-3529.

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Robert Reid
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