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Carroll schools save big on energy

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HILLSVILLE — Carroll County Schools have saved an estimated $1 million in energy costs since 2003 as the result of initiating an energy savings plan.
The school system was spending more than $550,000 a year on energy expenses in 2003-04.
With a goal to reduce the budget cost for energy consumption and save resources, the Carroll School Board hired Energy Education, Inc., to set guidelines and install the “cost avoidance” software to track what was being spent.
Bob Martin, coordinator of energy conservation for the schools, said the first year savings was 18 percent, compared to a goal of 10 percent.
The school division’s budget for energy is now more than $1 million per year, although the schools are experiencing a 19 percent savings per year, Martin said in a schools news release this week.
“We have all sorts of energy expense. Electric, coal, propane, oil, water and sewage bills” — all monitored each month, he said.
“We try to recycle books and reduce garbage. In fact, we have over 100 electric meters that we monitor each month.”
Energy usage is monitored for each facility in the school system, including outlying facilities such as tennis courts, football fields and field houses.
Martin monitors average daily temperature and uses all of these factors to see how much energy is being used and where changes are possible.
“We are going after the big savings. The big things are heating and cooling — electric, coal and oil bills.”
The intent is to keep rooms at a comfortable temperature when in use.
“We are not trying to freeze our employees or make children too hot or too cold. We are designing a program to utilize times to save energy when a building or sections of a building are not being used,” Martin said.
“When a building is unoccupied, you can let it drift to 60 degrees. You can turn the heat back and let it coast.
“For example, if the building is going to be unoccupied at 3:30 p.m. you can turn the heat back earlier as it will take several hours for the building to reach the lower temperature.
During Christmas holidays, heat was set at 60 degrees in buildings that were not used. “The savings from dropping from 72 degrees to 60 degrees over that break will be tremendous.”
Heating and cooling in most of the 11 Carroll school buildings is partially managed electronically, so that rooms or buildings can be shut down when not in use.
Sections can be kept warm for workers, while saving by not heating unoccupied space.
Martin cited a process known as “night lighting” as another substantial energy saver. Lights are shut down at schools in early evening, unless an activity is scheduled. “Night lighting has saved us untold amounts of money on our electric bill.”
Also recently implemented is a “de-lamping” process at night. For example, inside hall lights may now have every third light on all night.
“In the past, to prevent vandalism, school divisions might burn all of the lights, inside and outside all night, seven days a week. Since then, research has shown that there is actually less vandalism on a pitch black campus. Remember, we are speaking here of unoccupied buildings.”
Martin noted that teachers and custodians have helped reduce energy costs by simply turning out lights when classrooms are unoccupied.
“It is estimated that each classroom can save $20 a year in energy costs if the teacher turns out the lights when that classroom is not occupied — lunch breaks, the end of the day, etc.
“We will not save a bazillion dollars doing this, but every little bit counts and all of us working together can make a tremendous difference.”
Estimated savings since 2003 are:
• $200,000 at St. Paul School
• $150,000 at Carroll County High
• $100,000 at Carroll County Intermediate School, Woodlawn School and Fancy Gap School
• $99,000 or less at  Carroll Education Center, Gladesboro School, Gladeville School, Laurel School, Hillsville Elementary and Oakland School.
“We have the responsibility to use monies wisely,” Martin said. “The budget crunch is upon us and we have had to tighten our belts for years and are feeling the squeeze even more now.
“I am just trying to get people to use common sense — do what our fathers told us: if you aren’t using a light, turn it out. If you aren’t in a room, there is no reason to heat it or cool it. The savings will add up. It’s as simple as that.”