School district looks to hold down energy costs
by Albert Lin, Russell County News
A project commissioned by Unified School District 407 is underway to upgrade the control devices which regulate the operation of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units in each of the district's six school buildings and it\'s central administration office. These new electronic controls will enable the operation of the buildings' existing HVAC systems to be substantially more energy-efficient, thus helping the school district hold the line, as much as possible, on future utility costs. Additionally, the new controls will enable the buildings' HVAC units to provide a more even and balanced temperature environment that was possible with the buildings' old thermostats.
Discussing the project, David Couch, Unified School District Superintendent, said, "The main reason we started looking into it was the escalating cost of natural gas, electricity, and so forth."
Couch noted, "Last year, when (the USD 407 board) started thinking about capital outlay, that was one of the main projects the board decided to pursue."
As a result, about a year ago, Couch researched several companies which could provide the desired upgrades.
EPM Inc., of Fulton, MO., is the company which the school district selected to manufacture and install the upgraded temperature controls. The company has a Wichita based office facility and work crew.
The new controls have been installed at Luray-Lucas Elementary School; the installation work is almost completed at Bickerdyke Elementary School; and the upgrade work is currently underway at Russell High School.
Couch said it is uncertain when the work at all the buildings will be completed. EPM will provide the USD 407 board with monthly progress reports.
Ben Trout III, Wichita, Assistant Vice President of EPM, said the total price of the bid for the USD 407 project is aout $692,000. This price includes the cost of the engineering studies which planned the work needed at each of the school district's buildings.
Couch said the money to pay for the project is being provided by the school district's Capital Outlay Fund.
Trout discussed USD 407's estimated cost savings. He said, assuming the costs of utilities remain about what they have been recently, "we are looking for a 47-month pay-back. We're looking for a total savings in the first year to be $285,000. We're looking for $140,000 (in total district-wide utility-cost savings) every year after that."
Further explaining the predicted savings, Trout said, the new computerized temperature control systems will provide a total, district-wide 21-percent reduction in utility costs. He also noted that the higher the base cost of utilities, the higher the cost- savings which the the 21 percent will represent.
Trout, in his discussion of the new system, said, "It accomplished these savings by improving temperature control, reducing tenant complaints, and operting the equipment intelligently (through the use of computer software)."
Trout said the total savings include the money saved from the reduced costs of utilities, and the money saved because the old pneumatic, compressed-air-powered mechanicl systems which regulate the school buildings' HVAC systems do not have to be completely replaced.
Couch said the school district's utility billing rates probably will continue to increase. However, he commented, "This (upgrade project) is just another thing to save on our costs."
"It's more a matter of conservation and usage, rather than (energy) costs. We can't control (energy) costs, but we can control usage."
Each building's existing HVAC units will continue to be used.
Couch said "We still don't have central air (in the school disctrict's buildings); we still have window air contitioners."
In each building, EPM is replacing the thermostats and the compressed air hoses which formerly governed the operation of each building's HVAC units. These old thermostats and hoses are being replaced by state-of-the-art computerized control systems. The existing mechanical systems which physically activate the HVAC units in response to the old controls are being left in place, because these systems are still good or repairable condition. However, these mechanical actuators will be regulated by EPM's computerized controls.
Trout said each room on a school district building will have a temperature sensor with an adjustable control-dial which can be operated like a home thermostat. This control-dial enables a person to adjust a room's air temperature.
Additionally, Trout said, "The systems in each school will link together, for the purposes of maintenance, using the school's existing fiber-optic network. If a fault occurs with the mechanical equipment and/or the computerized temperature control system, the (network) will automatically notify EPM engineers and (USD 407) maintenace (personnel) electronically."
EPM is training some USD 407 staff members to use the new systems.
Russell County News - Friday October 3, 2008 - Volume 60, No.64 - Page 1, 20
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