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ENERGY-CONSERVATION EXPERT AT U. TRACES THRIFTINESS BACK TO INFLUENCE OF HIS FATHER DURING DEPRESSION

SHARE ENERGY-CONSERVATION EXPERT AT U. TRACES THRIFTINESS BACK TO INFLUENCE OF HIS FATHER DURING DEPRESSION

During the Great Depression, times were so hard that conservation became a way of life. Jerry Zenger recalls that his parents would buy rubber half-soles to patch up the family's shoes.

"I can remember watching my father taking out nails from used lumber and straightening them out" so that he could reuse them, he added.John Zenger's thriftiness had a lasting effect on his son. Today Jerry Zenger is a leading crusader for energy efficiency, fighting to reduce waste in heating, lighting, air conditioning, design, landscaping - even swimming pools.

Zenger is assistant director of the Engineering Experiment Station on the University of Utah campus, coordinating with the Utah Office of Energy Services.

Educated in physics at Brigham Young University, he helped make gamma-ray detectors for the federal government while at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Some instruments he helped design at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, flew on satellites.

In 1973, when the OPEC oil embargo threatened this country's energy sources, Zenger helped organize an energy hotline for Utah. Since then, he became a self-taught expert in energy conservation, conducting scads of energy workshops and more than 500 walk-through energy audits of schools, libraries, hospitals and other public buildings.

Lately, he's reviewed plans to ensure that new school buildings won't leak energy.

"There are so many things that can be done, both in the residential area and in commercial or institutional buildings," he said.

The longer Utah can put off building new power plants, the more money its citizens save, he points out.

"If we can continue with energy conservation programs to keep our demands or our power requirements minimized, it means a little bit to me in my pocketbook. I have to pay a lower utility bill to pay for power, to begin with; then I have to pay fewer taxes to support the schools, the government institutions, that are using energy."

He finds schools frustrating to visit; they're often so wasteful of energy.

"The people who actually have the responsibility for operating the building frequently never see the cost," Zenger said. "School administrators see the bills, but they're not involved in hands-on operations of the facilities."

The janitors and custodians who actually operate the school's boilers and air conditioners "don't know what it's costing them."

Zenger's interest in conservation isn't strictly financial or professional. "It's also an ethical thing," he said.

"I try to be frugal and conservative in my own lifestyle. I don't like to throw away things, much to my wife's chagrin and sometimes anger. I don't throw away nuts and bolts."

As a true son of John Zenger, whenever he has to throw away a piece of equipment, he'll first take it apart, stripping off all the nuts and bolts. "I have a pretty good collection of nuts and bolts and screws and doohickeys."