PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - As winter block leave approaches, students and supporting civilian staff at the Presidio of Monterey will be afforded the opportunity for a much needed break.

With most military personnel taking a two-week hiatus and many civilian personnel heading out of the office on annual vacation, the Directorate of Public Works is sharing with Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and garrison staff how to eliminate unnecessary heating in unoccupied rooms and offices.

Of the $4 million the garrison spends on energy bills each year, over half of this usage is derived from natural gas consumption. Federal mandates require that installations reduce energy intensity by 3 percent annually as compared to a 2003 baseline. And while Public Works continuously identifies and funds efficiency projects to meet this stringent goal, no better savings opportunity exists for energy reduction than simply turning off the heat when nobody's home.

Barracks pose the largest risk for energy waste during the holidays, using 60 percent of Presidio's gas predominantly for space heating in the form of wall radiators being fed 180-degree hot water. Yet with 20 buildings and ages extending to more than 50 years old, there is no "one size fits all" guidance for service members on controlling these heaters.

Instead, Public Works is coordinating with military unit representatives to tailor solutions to work with the variety of heating controls in place.

Because some students may be staying in their barracks during class break, turning off central heating boilers in the mechanical room is not an option.

However, some newer building's automation allows these systems to be placed in the unoccupied mode with individual room override. For buildings without these modern controls, programmable room thermostats will be setback while students are away.

Even older buildings may have only manual knobs for their personnel radiators, in which case the guidance will be to turn down the temperature before leaving. And in POM's oldest of barracks stock, individual controls are not possible and instruction will be to close windows only, mitigating the heat use by keeping it in the building.

Staff and faculty may also be vacating their buildings during the holidays, requiring additional reminders to check for wasteful heating.

Top natural gas users on post are being contacted to implement heating cutbacks where staff leave is expected. Yet all buildings will be alerted to use judgment in turning down thermostats or shutting off furnaces in the next few weeks, being particularly aware of heating zones that may affect other occupants and warm-up cycles that can bring a building back to a set point after long stretches of inactivity.

Presidio employees are welcome to call DPW staff at 831-242-7815 with any questions they may have on HVAC layouts or controls.

Yet there is no reason to stop at natural gas. Service members in the barracks are also being instructed to empty refrigerators in time for winter block leave to allow for unplugging. Also, electronics like computers and gaming machines should be fully turned off.

Civilians on post are encouraged to take the same initiative to ensure plug loads are minimized during vacation time.

It is important to realize that these measures are not intended to conflict with mission needs, but rather are viewed as being an integral part of any highly efficient military operation.

Preventing energy resources from serving empty spaces is foundational in achieving federal reduction mandates in the ultimate pursuit of the government's Net Zero Energy goals.

And with this recent round of holiday instructions forcing a newfound awareness of their buildings' heating systems, POM service members and civilians can be expected to apply this vigilance for compounded energy savings throughout the year.