UC Davis Is Like a Small City

The Campus Energy Supply

The campus encompasses buildings of all shapes and sizes, a central heating and cooling plant, a huge solar farm, and much more. The staff members of the Facilities Management Department work around the clock to keep the whole system running.​

The Central Heating and Cooling Plant (CHCP) of UC Davis is where the real energy action happens. From this plant, our energy supply is distributed to the many buildings across campus. 

The CHCP has boilers that take in natural gas to make steam. This steam is piped around the campus and used to heat our buildings. Chillers at the CHCP use electricity to make chilled water, and send it to the buildings via underground pipes, the same as the steam system.

Heating and Cooling

In the buildings, an air handler circulates conditioned air that has been heated (using steam) or cooled (using chilled water). This conditioned air is what you feel as heating and cooling in the spaces.

Trimming Waste at the CHCP

After being used to heat and cool the air, the steam and chilled water return to the Central Heating and Cooling Plant (CHCP) as steam condensate and cold water. This is referred to by campus energy nerds as the campus steam and chilled water loops. By returning back to the Central Heating and Cooling Plant, we're recycling our resources and running a more energy efficient campus. 

See the CHCP for yourself in Joule's Instagram story!

You don't need an Instagram account to see the story.

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Measuring Energy Use

There are over 1,200 buildings on the main campus, and 68% of them are currently metered for their energy use. At UC Davis we primarily measure electricity, steam, and chilled water use in our buildings. Electricity is used for lighting and plug loads, steam is for heating, and chilled water is needed for cooling purposes. On the left is an example of an electricity meter. 



x 3.412

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x (1194-180) / 1000

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Chilled Water


x 12

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thermal unit)

When energy use is metered, it’s measured in specific units depending on the type of energy. For the most common energy meters on campus, electricity is measured in kilowatt-hours, chilled water is measured in tons, and steam is measured in pounds of condensate.

To get a picture of the total energy use in a building, we add up the electricity, chilled water and steam measurements. To do this, we need to convert them into the industry standard unit, the kilo-British thermal unit (kBtu). ​This lovely graph shows all of our energy sources stacked on each other in kBtus. 


Here's a Pro Tip for Energy Nerds!

If you want to sound like an energy expert on campus, let's make sure you have the right pronunciation of kBtu. We've all embarrassed ourselves before. So remember, kBtu is pronounced “kay-b-t-YOU.” Try to avoid “kah-b-TOO”!