When looking for ways for your school district to operate more efficiently, the “rock” to turn over with the greatest amount of savings is most likely energy management. All around us, embedded in every building is a vast, untapped energy resource: efficiency. Many times, this resource is hidden, ignored, or misunderstood by school districts that are sitting on the potential.
Today, school districts in the United States spend about $8 billion annually on energy costs alone, which is more than the cost of textbooks and computers combined.
Every year, K-12 facilities waste millions of dollars in excess energy consumption. Those dollars may take the form of lost heat through walls, windows, doors, and roofs. Every dollar used to pay an unnecessary high energy bill could be put to a much greater purpose – educating students.
By being intentional about cutting utility costs, school districts can easily reap savings that can be used to help fund greater needs within the district. Excess funds that districts are sending to the local utility companies can either be invested back into the facilities to address deferred maintenance issues, or possibly a new source of funding for other pressing instructional needs.
Excess funds could also be reinvested back into a district’s current facilities to work towards a zero net-energy environment. With zero net energy the total energy used by the building is equal to the renewable energy created on the site.
Some of the Top energy wasters include:
- Inefficient Energy Managements Systems – a poorly configured energy management system can waste 20% – 25% of your gas and electricity dollars.
- Lack of Central Plant Optimization – The typical workhorses of your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system are boilers, chillers, pumps, and cooling towers. If these systems are not properly optimized they can be very costly to operate.
- Postponed Preventive Maintenance – Even the most routine maintenance, like changing filters, can greatly enhance the energy efficiency of a building system.
- Inefficient Lighting Systems – Lighting systems have made tremendous advances in technology and efficiency in recent years. Systems with built-in occupancy control, daylight sensors, and automatic dimming are cost-efficient ways to reduce electricity consumption and demand.
- Wasteful Boiler Systems – Boilers are sized to meet the greatest potential demand on the system. Unfortunately, this means that for 90% of the year they are oversized.
- Outdated Plumbing Fixtures – K-12 facilities are large consumers of water. Installing water conserving plumbing fixtures can result in significant savings.
Start saving money now:
- The money to make the appropriate modifications is already available in your current budget, if you are willing to find it. One of the tools to help you find it is an energy audit. Conducting an energy audit of your school facilities will help you will find inefficient systems, infrastructure, and equipment that is costly to operate. By gaining a deep understanding of how these systems work, how people interact with them, and keeping the focus on improving performance great savings can be achieved.
- Providing proper equipment training to your maintenance staff will often pay for itself. When maintenance staff know how and when to provide maintenance and modifications building equipment and the energy management system, it results in energy savings.
- Many times, the cost to upgrade HVAC systems, lighting, windows and roofs, can be paid for over time with the saving generated in your monthly utility bills.
- Don’t just pay the utility bills – track them. Ensure that you have developed an energy baseline before you start your projects so you can track your savings. Also, when you track utility bills, be sure to benchmark your utility consumption against other K-12 facilities in your geographic area so can compare how you are doing.
- Find a professional energy services firm that can help you integrate the process.
About the author – Paul Harrell is a business development manager with Navitas. His background as a Certified Public Accountant and 33 years of experience in the education sector help him bring a practical approach to developing strategies for school districts wanting guidance in how to manage their overall budget and utility costs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-344-0049