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School system saves money through energy management

COVINGTON --Even with more building space, the Newton County School System is saving money on energy costs -- nearly $125,000 over the past two years -- after implementing several in-house energy management techniques.

NCSS officials recently reported that the system saved $34,767 in fiscal year 2011 and $88,840 in 2012 in energy costs. This came with an increase of 309,808 square footage, or 12 percent, with the addition of new schools Flint Hill Elementary School and the Newton College & Career Academy.

NCSS Deputy Superintendent for Operations Dennis Carpenter told the Newton County Board of Education at last month's meeting that the system looked into energy management with an outside contractor, but a group in the system wanted to try first to see what they could accomplish.

Internally, NCSS has established and monitored system-wide room temperature control set points between 68 and 74 degrees when occupied and 55 and 85 degrees when unoccupied.

Reducing HVAC hours by two hours daily has saved more than 12,000 annual energy hours, according to Jan Loomans, director of Operational Services at NCSS. HVAC systems also are set as unoccupied during school breaks and only are operated in staffed areas of schools when needed, and HVAC units in school kitchens are set to unoccupied set points at 1:30 p.m.

Other energy conservation activities include having all exterior facility lighting turned off after 10 p.m. at elementary schools and after 11 p.m. at secondary schools, which help the police and sheriff's officers monitor schools better, Loomans said. Having all exterior facility lighting turned off on weekends have decreased more than 67,000 energy hours annually.

Disconnecting electrical meters to modular classrooms not in use has saved $12.50 per meter monthly, and Loomans said there is no way to quantify how much has been saved by the technology department shutting down all computers by 8 p.m.

Loomans said that every school except for Cousins Middle School showed a decrease in energy last year compared to 2010. She said they don't yet know why that happened, but the department is investigating the cause. She added that although Alcovy High School is one of the largest buildings, it is the most energy efficient one, mainly since it's newer with newer technologies.

Recently, the maintenance staff inspected 12 buildings, finding prohibited items like fans, heaters, personal refrigerators, microwave ovens, coffee makers and lamps in classrooms, as well as lights being left on after the work day. They plan to inspect more schools in the future, according to Joel Smith, maintenance coordinator at NCSS.

Additionally, Snapping Shoals EMC is conducting an energy audit at Eastside High School as part of a new program.

In the future, NCSS plans to make purchases following Energy Star guidelines and change gym and auditorium lightings to a more energy-efficient kind. They also will request Energy Star vending machines for future replacements, place energy controls on existing machines, de-lamp them and turn them off when not in use, Smith said.

Maintenance staff also are continuing to change fluorescent lighting to a smaller watt bulb and converting emergency exit signs from incandescent bulbs 40-watt bulbs to 2-watt bulbs as they are replaced.