Energy Orb Installation

Energy Orb Installation (2011)


In the fall of 2011, the Green EDGE Fund allocated $8,000 to fund the total cost of installing 16 new energy orbs in Oberlin College residence halls. These new orbs are an expansion of the Campus Resource Monitoring System and the energy orbs that were installed in six residence halls in 2008. The Campus Resource Monitoring System website can be found at

Background premise:

Developed by Professor John Petersen and students of Oberlin College, Energy Orbs make basic electricity use information visible to residents by translating a building or floor’s current level of consumption into a spectrum of colors. The glowing colors display how much a building is consuming at that moment relative to what it normally consumes at the same time of day. The orb glows red if a dorm is consuming double or more of its normal electricity use, and shifts toward yellow as consumption approaches a typical rate. The color of the orb further shifts towards green as consumption approaches half of its normal electricity use.

In spring of 2008, energy orbs were installed in the lobbies of six Oberlin College residence halls (Asia House, Dascomb, Fairchild, Langston, Saunders, and Talcott) just in time for Ecolympics’ Dorm Energy Competition. Since then, controlled research has established clear reductions in energy consumption for dorms with energy orbs. Surveys found that residents viewed the orbs regularly and that the orbs motivated conservation and improved understanding, interest and awareness of electricity use. The installation 16 additional energy orbs in residence halls will spread these benefits to more dorms and residents on campus.

Cost-benefit estimation:

A sustainability grant of $8,000 was allocated to the installation of 16 additional energy orbs because the project does not have a clear and timely financial payback but will increase the sustainability of natural resources. This funded expansion of the energy orbs will create an improved environment for promoting environmental awareness and stewardship. Depending on the quantification of the data from the controlled research previously mention, the Green EDGE Fund may find it feasible to convert this project to an efficiency loan in consideration of calculations of monetary savings attributed to energy orb installations.

Additional benefits:

The presence of Energy Orbs in residence halls can foster a sense of communal awareness of electricity use by a community and teamwork in reducing consumption. In this manner, the orbs have helped students increase reduction efforts during the annual Dorm Energy Competition.