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Kadena turns on the heat

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dave Wilder
  • 718th Civil Engineer Squadron
With an unusually cold winter upon us here in Okinawa, it's important for Kadena residents to understand how decisions are made with respect to heating in base housing. The 718th Civil Engineer Squadron activated the heat in housing units serviced by central heat plants Jan. 15, and some base residents may be wondering why this was not done earlier. The answer boils down to a concerted effort on the 18th Wing's part to balance quality of life with presidentially-mandated energy reduction policies.

The Kadena Air Base heating policy for housing units serviced by central heat plants is partially modeled after U.S. Marine Corps Camps "Year-Round A/C- No Heat" policy. The policy was in response to an inordinate amount of "too hot" complaints on 74% of Marine Camp housing serviced by central heat plants. Since homes in Okinawa generally do not have heating systems, this is a prudent approach to energy conservation. This decision has saved $600,000 in fuel costs since 2006, and because of the rising cost in fuel, the savings are expected to be twice as much this year.

Kadena Air Base took a cautionary approach to adopting the "Year-Round A/C- No Heat" policy, instead issuing an interim policy. The interim policy does not "turn off" heat in the 28% of Kadena housing units serviced by central heat plants, but requires heat plants to be activated when the temperature reaches a seven-day average high of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The seven-day average is used to prevent premature heat activation during short-lived cold snaps and to prevent needless activation/deactivation of the heat plants, which take five to seven days to start-up. Unfortunately, this limits our flexibility to react to unpredictable weather.

The reality is that January 2009 has been much colder than the same time period in 2007 and 2008. Kadena's leadership has shown flexibility by adapting to the unusually cold year and approved heat turn-on when the temperature reached a seven-day average high of 60 degrees. This is one degree warmer than our policy stipulates, but this decision was made in an attempt to balance quality of life for our housing residents with our energy saving goals.

Why balance quality of life with energy savings? Presidentially-mandated energy reduction policy requires us to reduce energy consumption by three percent every year. While the unseasonably cool weather has caused us to adjust the interim policy, the real issue is that Kadena has a projected $3 million shortfall in utility bills this fiscal year. That's right... $3 million.

The money to pay those bills could come from unit funds which will affect the mission if we all don't do our part to conserve energy. A balanced approach to energy conservation is what the 718th CES is striving for, and we need everyone's help.

Here are some things we all can do to conserve energy and do our part:

1. For those units that can control their thermostat, set it at 68 degrees for heating
2. Dress for the season. In the winter, it is normal to wear more clothing to retain body heat; this allows for lower room temperatures
3. Seal your doors and windows with material available at Eagle hardware
4. Close rooms that are not being used, an open empty room will only waste energy
5. Open your curtains and blinds during the day to let sunshine in and close them at night
6. If your unit is equipped with programmable thermostat, learn how to program and use it