The Effingham County Board of Education has saved 19 percent in energy costs over the last eight months, and the savings have come since the board implemented a new energy policy and began working with Energy Education.
“The primary goal is to maintain the comfort and safety in occupied areas,” said Eric Harris, school system energy manager. “The key word here is comfort and safety, but occupied is the other piece of the puzzle that a lot of people don’t understand. We want to monitor everything so the equipment is working efficiently as it was designed to maintain comfort while we’re occupied.”
He said maintaining comfort goes away when students are not in the building.
“If the students are in there learning, we need it to be comfortable — we need everything to be running as well as it possibly can,” Harris said. “When the children leave, I need it to get as uncomfortable as we can maintain it and get it back comfortable when we need to as fast as possible.”
The system’s second primary goal is to eliminate wasted energy. Harris said eliminating energy waste goes with maintaining comfort only when the buildings are occupied.
“We’re not going to run our buildings when there’s nobody in them,” he said. “We’re not going to have it be 70 degrees in the middle of August because somebody might come in. That’s not a good stewardship campaign to save money and use resources efficiently.”
He said in order to eliminate energy waste there are building audits and energy consumption is tracked and analyzed.
“I’m looking at the power bill and I’m comparing them to last year, meter by meter, to see where we’ve made changes, where we’ve added things and how efficiently those things are being added, what they’re doing for us.”
Harris said there are diagnostic loggers in the classrooms that monitor temperature and humidity.
Another top goal is saving the school system money.
“For the board, I’m sure when they were establishing this program that was their primary goal was to save some dollars,” Harris said. “It’s one of those things that happens when we do the other two, when we keep it comfortable for the students, and we keep things running efficiently, and then we turn it off when they leave then of course we’re going to be able to save some dollars.”
Harris said his goal for savings is not a dollar amount, but a percentage of use.
“My personal goal is 20 percent every month,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t as a district versus our base year save 20 percent every month.”
He said in order to check for energy savings individual meters are compared to the same meter in the base year. Adjustments are made for weather changes such as the change in humidity that would occur from a hurricane.
The bills are compared to the base line year but differences in the billing cycles are taken into account to make a per day basis.
“Our actual usage is hopefully always going to be less than our base line usage,” Harris said.
In reference to a graphic showing the reduced usage per month in the system, Harris said schools need to look at the May and June usages. He plans to talk with the board and with school principals to discuss summer school and summer shutdown schedules.
Harris said the board may want to consider having summer school classes in the more efficient buildings and possibly changing the summer schedule from a five-day work week to a four-day work week.
He also said there are environmental benefits of reducing energy consumption.
“There are people in the community who are interested in this more than we might be,” Harris said. “There are a lot of environmental impacts that go unnoticed when you just look at cost and use. We’re taking out 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air per one kilowatt of electricity. Our organization has saved 2.36 million kilowatt hours of electricity in eight months.”
He said with the reduction in electricity and natural gas there are 1,827 metric tons of carbon dioxide not going into the atmosphere.
“It’s the same as taking 328 cars off the road,” Harris said. “So if we have all these cars driving around you just took 328 cars off the road by saving the amount of electricity we’ve saved.”
Taking that many vehicles off the road is equivalent to planting 46,733 trees and growing them for 10 years, according to Harris.
“That’s how much carbon dioxide they would take out,” he said.