Utility’s Advice Aided School’s Energy Upgrades
The success of a Denver school's consultation with Xcel Energy shows how technical advice from utilities can assist in energy upgrades. Starting with small improvements and considering a building tuneup are among the lessons learned in such consultations.
At Castro Elementary School in Denver, staff and students complained that it was too hot at times and too cold at other times. Because the building was relatively new, it didn't need new equipment, so the Denver Public Schools sustainability department worked with Xcel Energy to determine how the building could operate as efficiently as possible. The answer was recommissioning.
The project showed several opportunities for energy savings, including a VFD retrofit and tune-ups for the chiller and air handling units. Xcel Energy awarded Denver Public Schools a $10,900 rebate for implementing some of the energy efficiency measures identified by recommissioning. If the school moves ahead with the rest of the measures, it will receive an additional $37,095 in rebates.
"By tuning up the various systems in the building and making sure settings were optimal, we could help the school save money but more importantly, provide a comfortable setting for students, staff, and faculty," says Melanie Gavin, Xcel Energy account manager.
Lessons for FMs
Facility managers can take away multiple lessons from both projects, explains Karen Rhodes, Xcel Energy energy efficiency marketing manager:
- Don't wait to start efficiency work. Learn what resources are available in your area in terms of rebates and other incentives, and don't forget about your utility as a potential partner.
- Starting small is OK. Many facilities start by upgrading lighting and installing occupancy sensors. Those measures are a great way to begin.
- Don't forget about building tune-ups and making sure existing equipment is working as efficiently as possible. Optimizing the operational settings on equipment is an inexpensive way to save energy. Operating efficiently also reduces maintenance needs, further saving money.
- Ask experts. Getting an on-site audit and having an energy expert review the building is a good way to determine which projects to tackle first.