Malmstrom stresses energy conservation, fuel efficiency this winter season

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eydie Sakura
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
(Editor's note: This is the second article in a two-part series on energy conservation and Malmstrom's role in the Air Force's journey toward energy efficiency). 

The high temperature the other day was minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chill advisories reaching as low as minus 36 F. The frigid air sweeping across Montana will keep furnaces and electric heaters on constant alert this winter season. These below zero temperatures make for increased consumption of energy and fuel to keep the home-fires burning. 

President Bush challenged the country to wean itself off foreign energy supplies and the Air Force has created a vision for all Airmen to make energy a consideration in everything they do. The base energy manager thinks Malmstrom has been ahead of the game for years and has been working toward an energy efficient vision. 

"We are leaders in energy efficiency in base housing, saving more than 70 percent in heating energy fuels and utility costs," said Kent Seaton, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron. 

"In building new homes on base, we assure continued energy efficiency because most of this, which is minor in gain compared to our prior successes, comes from improvements in technology of slightly better furnaces and insulation materials." 

Malmstrom is currently in the process of renovating and building more than 1,220 housing units on base. The new units are designed and constructed to the latest Air Force design guide for housing and the Unified Facilities Criteria which both stress energy efficiency, Mr. Seaton said. 

"The base has worked very diligently for many years to update our housing units approximately every 10 years with the latest building materials, such as siding, insulation, roofing, windows, doors, furnaces and plumbing equipment," he said. 

Winterizing the home 
Energy conservationists on base stress the importance of people winterizing their homes, whether they live on- or off-base. People should seal off any drafts around windows and doors with caulk, insulating rope, or with door sweeps, because they can leak cold air and let warm air escape. 

"Keeping your drapes and blinds shut, and operating your furnace wisely by turning down the thermostat when you are not home or during the night, can save energy as well," Mr. Seaton said. 

He also said people should have their furnace maintained by a qualified technician for optimum performance, and should replace and clean furnace filters frequently. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says cleaning and maintaining a home's furnace is vital in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. 

According to the EPA's Web site,, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, it can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. 

The cause of carbon monoxide comes from unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke. 

Worn or poorly adjusted and maintained combustion devices, such as boilers and furnaces, can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected or is leaking. 

"Just by setting your hot water heater to 115 degrees, it could save more than $8,500 a year on base," Mr. Seaton said. "People can also start using energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, and washer and dryers to consume less energy." 

Fueling the fires
"The coal-burning process in our plant is very clean burning, economical and efficient," said Joseph Beard, 341st CES heat plant foreman. "Burning coal instead of natural gas has saved millions of dollars in fuel costs to the government without any violations to Malmstrom's air quality permit." 

The heat plant keeps approximately 70 buildings on base warm during the winter. It receives five to six shipments of coal via railcar, burning more than 8,000 tons of coal each year. The high temperature hot water distribution system pumps 350 degree water and 300 pounds of pressure through 21 miles of pipe on base to heat the buildings. 

"The heat plant burns natural gas about one week during the eight month heating season," Mr. Beard said. "For clean coal burning, we spray the flue gas with lime and water slurry that chemically reacts to remove the sulfur and then the flue gas goes through a filtration bag house to remove the particulate." 

Electrically charged rides
Other fuel efficient recourses saving the Air Force money are the six electric cars on base driven by the civil engineer squadron inspectors, engineers, computer technicians, and the funds and real property staff. The electric vehicles were purchased using energy rebate money obtained from a program offered though two Montana electric companies. 

"They travel a maximum of 25 miles per hour and have a range of 40 miles with normal usage," Mr. Seaton said. "They are plugged into a standard household outlet for eight hours to fully recharge. We drove approximately 1,000 miles last year in them and, at present motor fuel prices, we saved about $700 each car per year." 

The base facility manager also encourages people to plan outings to limit the number of trips per day and reminds people they should not leave government-owned vehicles running unattended. 

"We as taxpayers are paying for the fuel, and also, our fuels must be used wisely since they are a national resource," Mr. Seaton said. "[Energy consumption] plays into our national security." 

To learn more about resources for energy conservation, visit