Keller district officials look to compound energy savings

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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While Keller district officials are proud of their track record in trimming energy consumption, they are still looking for ways to cut utility costs.

Since 2008, Keller schools have reduced the amount of electricity used by more than 5 percent despite adding one million square feet in buildings to the utility bill. This year, the district used about 54.3 million kilowatt hours compared to 57.3 million kilowatt hours in 2007-08. Timber Creek High School, Timberview Middle School, Basswood, Caprock, Eagle Ridge and Ridgeview Elementary opened since 2008.

“We’ve done multiple retrofits with HVAC equipment, control systems and lighting,” said John Gann, director of maintenance. “We’re also operating campuses in a more efficient manner and turning off equipment when it’s not being used.”

As chillers and boilers have aged out, officials are replacing them with more energy-efficient models, Gann said. Fossil Ridge is set to receive an ice-cooled chiller that uses ice to cool the building during the heat of the day and a compressor to run the air conditioning and make more ice in the evening when energy costs are lower. Administrators expect the chiller to pay for itself in savings over about 10 years and last for more than 20 years.

District facilities are also getting better temperature controls to keep rooms comfortable. Gann said that the maintenance department had complaints in the past that some rooms would be too cold and others too hot; improved controls make temperatures more consistent. Buildings get thermostat adjustments earlier in the evening because empty rooms need less heating or cooling. During the summer, officials use a higher thermostat setting in unoccupied areas of schools to save money.

Maintenance staff members also are retrofitting lighting systems. With costs of LED bulbs going down, officials can pay for them in conserved electricity in less than a year, Gann said, and one LED bulb can replace three traditional bulbs.

In most school gyms, fluorescent lights have replaced metal halide lighting. The older lights consumed more energy and took longer to turn on and off. As a result, coaches are turning lights off more often, Gann said.

One recent reduction in energy came in 2010 from the elimination of most personal small appliances. A district-wide audit showed about 3,000 personal appliances in use and had staff eliminate personal refrigerators, microwaves, hot plates and candle warmers.

While administrators have made efforts to reduce consumption, utility bills still account for one of the district’s largest costs behind payroll. In the 2012-13 budget, more than $7.8 million was allocated for utilities.

At the June 6 board meeting, trustees heard a report from a firm that promises to save KISD more than 20 percent in energy bills.

Gary Clark, regional president of Cenergistic, an energy conservation consulting company that works with school districts, universities and large churches, said the Keller school district was doing a good job but could be doing better.

Clark said the company doesn’t focus on changing equipment but on changing people. “We establish best practices and change people’s habits and behaviors,” he said.

If Keller agrees to work with Cenergistic, the two entities would split savings 50-50, with the conservation company using its portion to cover all costs of the program. Clark said company officials would train two staff members to become energy specialists and train other maintenance and operations workers, custodians and food service providers in ways to conserve.

“It all comes down to people. If people aren’t using equipment properly, you can save more,” Clark said.

The company also would provide software to diagnose problems, solutions and track usage and savings.

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