Schools Good Subjects for Efficiency Projects
August 3, 2009
As school boards and superintendents develop programs to utilize recent U.S. economic recovery stimulus funds, projects focused on improving energy efficiency can result in long-term savings for school districts, reports the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The group says its “Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings” can help HVAC professionals help schools earn an A+ in achieving that efficiency.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed by President Obama on Feb. 17, provides significant funding and financing opportunities to modernize, renovate, and repair public schools, the society pointed out. Under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, up to $48.3 billion can be allocated to schools. An additional $25 billion in eligible bonds also have been authorized.
ASHRAE and other building industry organizations developed the guide to provide recommendations for achieving 30 percent energy savings over the minimum code requirements of ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-1999. Estimates show that a full 16 percent of school districts’ controllable costs are spent on energy.
“Beyond energy savings, by implementing the recommendations, schools may benefit from an improved learning environment, reduced operating costs, reduced environmental and climate impacts, and enhanced teaching opportunities on the environment,” said ASHRAE president Bill Harrison.
The recommendations in the guide allow those involved in designing or constructing school buildings to easily achieve advanced levels of energy savings without having to resort to detailed calculations or analysis, stated ASHRAE. “All of the energy-saving recommendations for each of the eight U.S. climate zones are summarized in a single table. Additional recommendations point to other opportunities to incorporate greater savings into the design of the building.”
More than 14,000 free copies of the design guide were sent to school systems in the United States last spring.
CONTRACTOR'S SOLUTIONSOn the cutting edge of efficiency applications, Linc Services, Houston, recently started implementing a bundled energy solutions project for the Harris County (Pa.) Department of Education (HCDE) that is expected to save $5.4 million over the next 10 years.
“In today’s economy, public schools are facing many challenges to operating their facilities,” said Linc Network LLC president and CEO Scott Giacobbe. “This project shows how Linc can help customers in the education market save money and improve comfort for students and faculty. Our solutions are very green and environmentally friendly as well.”
The project was presented to the board of education in December and began in January. It will reduce energy consumption in nine county buildings, the contractor said. The scope of work covers the installation of new HVAC units, centralized control systems, and high-efficiency lighting, as well as water-saving technology and solar energy solutions. Linc will also provide the necessary energy reduction to help the HCDE comply with state House Bill #3693.
The program also includes monitoring, recording, and posting utility consumption on a customized Website. During the 10-year life of the project, the county is expected to save more than 36 percent on its existing utility budget, and more than 29 percent on the HVAC operating budget. The upgrades are being financed through the existing operating budget, thus eliminating the need for new taxpayer funding.
“We are very excited to be providing this self-funding program for HCDE,” said Linc Services senior vice president Doug Smyers. “Since the project pays for itself using the existing operating budget, there are no additional costs to the taxpayers and no risks to the county,” he said. “This program is a win-win for everyone.”
Before starting the project, the contractor’s energy experts surveyed county buildings to analyze existing HVAC, controls, lighting, and water equipment. They also collected utility bills and compiled operating costs to compare them with national benchmarks. This process enabled the contractor to present the county with a comprehensive energy program, which helps to ensure that the savings can pay for the infrastruc- ture improvements.
“Going green is an objective toward which all schools are striving, and now we’ve put a project in place that will help us achieve that goal,” said Les Hooper, executive director of Facilities Support Services for Harris County. “The age of the equipment in our facilities was not allowing for peak operational efficiency, so we’re looking forward to the energy and operational savings that Linc will provide with newer systems.”
Linc Mechanical also plans to help the county achieve certification from Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy, that works to protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. The program scores the energy performance of commercial and industrial facilities on a scale of 1-100, with those facilities achieving a score of 75 or higher being eligible for the Energy Star distinction. Earning this certification means that a building is among the top 25 percent of facilities in the country for energy performance.
Based in Houston, Linc Services LLC is a member of the Linc Service® Network, an organization of mechanical contractors with more than 150 members across the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico.
SYSTEM SOLUTIONSEfficiency solutions that are suitable for schools come in a variety of sizes and degrees of sophistication. Choosing a packaged rooftop unit with an intelligent direct digital control (DDC) unit controller can improve operational effectiveness and energy savings, to help schools and businesses enhance their bottom line, said Mark Hess, Lennox product manager for commercial controls. By providing diagnostic information that allows technicians to quickly identify and solve problems, he said the unit controller can enhance overall performance, improve comfort, increase energy savings, and reduce labor costs.
He offered up a few tips to help contractors guide administrators toward choosing a smart, user-friendly unit controller to help save money and improve efficiency:
1. Select a factory-mounted unit controller developed specifically for that piece of equipment. Many generic controllers available on the market today can control a wide variety of equipment types; however, a controller designed to control a specific model of equipment can optimize that unit’s operation, said Hess.
2. Choose a controller with a user-friendly, intuitive interface. It’s critical that the controller have an intuitive control interface to ensure proper configuration, installation, and troubleshooting of the equipment, Hess said, regardless of a technician’s level of knowledge or experience. The interface should provide the flexibility to make changes at the controller itself, or by using software when a computer interface is required.
3. Purchase a unit controller that can easily integrate with other systems. Building owners often want to tie in multiple systems to achieve centralized control, as well as leverage operational costs across those systems. Hess advised selecting a unit controller that is available from the factory using an open, standard protocol such as BACnet® or LonTalk® to communicate with a building automation system.
4. Look for simplified diagnostics and problem solving. With simple, easily accessible diagnostic information, Hess said, technicians are able to quickly identify and address problems. The result can be a significant reduction in labor costs and less equipment downtime. Automatic alarms and diagnostics enhance the ability to quickly identify and/or prevent problems and troubleshoot the unit, Hess said.
5. Look for the ability to connect to the unit controller locally and remotely. It’s vital to minimize costs while keeping equipment up and running, Hess said. With remote access capability, many problems can be addressed without having to dispatch a technician to the site. If an onsite visit is necessary, the technician can be familiar with the problem and come prepared to deal with it, Hess pointed out.
The recently updated Integrated Modular Controller (IMC) from Lennox, he said, includes a variety of features that significantly reduce troubleshooting time, easily integrate with open protocol networks, and enable local and remote access. And it’s standard on all of the manufacturer’s premium rooftop units.
CONTROLLABLE COSTSAfter salaries, utility costs are typically the second-largest budget item, and the most controllable expense confronting schools. That’s why administrators are trying to reduce energy consumption and better predict future needs, said Honeywell. At the same time, a growing awareness about the effects of global warming has many schools looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions and serve as models of energy conservation.
As a global energy services provider, Honeywell is working to help on both fronts, providing a broad range of services and technology designed to shrink schools’ utility bills and environmental footprint. This is possible through infrastructure upgrades (such as high-efficiency boilers) and more solutions like wind turbines and solar panels.
“Energy and operating costs drain money from budgets - money that would otherwise go directly toward the classroom,” said Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions. “However, districts rarely have the capital to overhaul their facilities. Our programs help schools boost efficiency without a significant upfront investment.”
The company works with schools to develop strategic plans to cut energy costs and emissions, and increase the comfort of classrooms. The company employs a mix of traditional and renewable conservation measures to that end.
Examples include Perkins Local School District in Ohio, which is erecting three 20-kW wind turbines to complement a variety of conventional energy-efficiency measures. The turbines will provide more than 10 percent of the electricity for the middle and high schools. The overall program is expected to reduce expenses by more than $190,000 each year. The district used the Honeywell Renewable Energy Scorecard, a selection tool that helps a school identify the right green solution for its needs.
Honeywell also installed solar arrays for school districts in Dixon, Pleasanton, Poway, and Riverdale, Calif. These projects are expected to save the districts millions in energy costs. They also are expected to cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 4.3 million pounds and nitrous oxide emissions by almost 4,000 pounds. According to figures from the U.S. EPA, this is equivalent to removing more than 460 cars from the road, or planting 575 acres of trees, Honeywell explained.
“The fact that going green also provided a financial advantage was very attractive to us,” said Elaine Cash, superintendent of Riverdale Joint Unified School District. “Our solar project will maximize our budget resources while maintaining clean, sustainable schools.”
Additional improvements include replacing and upgrading HVAC equipment, installing centralized building automation systems, replacing outdated fixtures with energy-efficient lighting, tightening building envelopes through new windows and doors, and upgrading electrical systems.
The Choctaw County School District (CCSD) in Ackerman, Miss., is implementing facility enhancements designed to improve operations, comfort, and efficiency at its four campuses. TAC, the Building Automation Business Unit of Schneider Electric, said it will complete the work as a performance contract with the district. The company guarantees that CCSD will reduce its utility costs by almost $59,000 annually.
CCSD serves approximately 1,700 students in grades Pre-K through 12 in central Mississippi. Like most school systems, district officials were alarmed by recent high energy costs. Other problems included the lack of centralized control of mechanical systems and ongoing food spoilage due to cooler outages.
“For a small district such as ours, big spikes in energy costs are very difficult to manage,” said Donna Nail, superintendent of CCSD. “Our performance contract with TAC enables us to make needed improvements to increase the energy efficiency of our facilities, as well as to effectively manage our mechanical systems and maintain our utility costs at affordable levels.
To improve the energy efficiency of the district’s buildings, TAC installed several energy conservation measures (ECMs). A districtwide energy management system (EMS) will provide the operations staff with a single interface to monitor and control the mechanical equipment and systems at all the district’s campuses. A complete lighting retrofit across the district replaces the existing lights with efficient lamps and ballasts. New cooler/freezer monitors and alarms will immediately alert facility staff, even during extended school breaks, when there is a refrigeration failure, allowing them to take appropriate measures to preserve food supplies.
Johnson Controls’ York® Predator® split systems, a new line of environmentally friendly, EPAct 2010-compliant and economical commercial split cooling and heat pump systems, are available in 7.5- to 20-ton capacities. The systems use R-410A and feature a compact design based on the platform of the Predator line of packaged rooftop products. MicroChannel condenser coils on the cooling units help provide superior heat transfer while using less refrigerant, and scroll compressors ensure both high efficiency and reliability - both key considerations in the school market.
All models in the line include Simplicity® microprocessor controls, designed to facilitate setup and programming by the installing contractor and provide alarm monitoring. Single or dual (two- or four-pipe) refrigerant circuits provide redundancy and a variety of application choices, including one outdoor unit matched with two indoor units.
Vertical discharge condenser fans direct sound upward and away from surrounding structures for quiet operation. Scroll compressors are mounted on rubber isolators to reduce the transmission of vibrations.
The air handlers feature factory-installed standard and oversized motors, techni-coated indoor coils for corrosion protection and a standard 2-inch filter rack that can easily be field-converted to accept 4-inch filters. Designed to operate both cooling condensers and heat pumps, the new air handlers also include adjustable thermostatic expansion valves, liquid line solenoids for capacity reduction, and an adjustable motor sheave to allow airflow flexibility in the field.
Units in the new line come completely assembled, piped, and wired at the factory to provide one-piece shipment and rigging. Each unit is pressurized with a holding charge of R-410A for storage and/or shipping.
THAT OLD BOILERSchool energy efficiency isn’t all about cooling. Many of us up North remember relying on a sometimes finicky boiler to keep us warm back when we were active participants in the K-12 market.
Fulton, a global manufacturer of steam, hydronic, and thermal fluid heat transfer products, is in fact celebrating 20 years of leadership in pulse combustion technology - widely recognized as an efficient way to burn fuel, according to the company. Today, over 10,000 of the company’s pulse boilers are operating in the field. Its condensing hydronic boilers are available in models that range from 300,000- to 2 MM-Btuh input.
The company defined pulse technology as one cycle of ignition and combustion of a gas-air mixture in a specially designed combustion chamber. In addition to efficiencies achieved by burning fuel in a pulse combustion boiler, the absence of a power burner or blower motor also reduces electrical power consumption and adds to the boiler’s overall efficiency.
The boilers also are configured to meet low-emission requirements, and a modulation control system provides precise temperature control with infinite turndown capabilities throughout the entire firing rate range. These boilers have no moving parts.
The company has even extended an open invitation to visit its factories and see its manufacturing capabilities.
Details on the stimulus funding for educational facilities can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s Recovery page (www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery). Copies of the “Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings” are available for free download at www.ashrae.org/freeaedg; print copies may be ordered from the ASHRAE bookstore (www.ashrae.org). For more information, also visit www.fulton.com, www.honeywell.com/buildingsolutions/energy, www.tac.com, and www.schneider-electric.com.
Sidebar: Stop School WasteDALLAS - U.S. schools spend more than $6 billion each year on energy; up to 30 percent of it is unnecessary, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star® program. Part of the problem is inefficient building systems and unnecessary, unchecked usage. However, many schools can reclaim those wasted dollars with some simple changes in behavior and a few cost-effective investments, stated Lennox. The company offered some lessons from K-12 schools that are succeeding:
Lesson 1: Monitor and track energy usage. Start by evaluating a school’s performance. One tool used by facilities that have earned the Energy Star designation is the Portfolio Manager, an interactive energy management tool.
Lesson 2: Integrating a building automation system is vital to efficient energy management. With several types of automation systems providing different levels of control, there’s a solution to meet every school’s needs, stated Lennox. Today’s HVAC digital controllers (such as the Integrated Modular Controller (IMC) used in premium Lennox rooftop units) can be systematized for superior control of system monitoring, diagnostics, and remote troubleshooting.
Lesson 3: Bring in plenty of fresh air when class is in session. Appropriate ventilation is vital to a healthy learning environment, but keep in mind that introducing outside air affects the heating and cooling load, the manufacturer pointed out. Demand control ventilation (DCV) sensors measure occupancy by relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels, allowing the system to limit the influx of outside air.
Also, the manufacturer recommended choosing a controller that allows not only occupied and unoccupied settings, but also day-unoccupied, for when students are at lunch or recess, or buildings are conditioned after day or night setback. The sensors close outside air dampers while keeping the building at a comfortable temperature.
Lesson 4: Schedule and perform regular maintenance to protect the efficiency of all HVAC equipment. Systems should be serviced at least four times a year, the company said - at the beginning and in the middle of the heating and cooling seasons. Dirty evaporator coils, condenser coils, and filters reduce the performance of an air conditioning system, increasing energy costs and decreasing the unit’s life expectancy. Clogged condensate drains can cause water damage and affect indoor humidity levels.
Lesson 5: Allow for a comfort range. Rather than keeping all classrooms at a single set temperature, provide teachers with limited temperature control of their classrooms. Allowing teachers to raise or lower room temperature by a few degrees can help eliminate comfort complaints caused by radiant heat losses or gains through walls and windows.
Lesson 6: Work to control mold-producing moisture without overcooling. Turning up the air conditioner to remove humidity simply increases energy bills, the company said, and makes students and faculty more uncomfortable. Incorporating a hot-gas reheat dehumidification option or accessory allows effective moisture removal even on mild days, when the sensible cooling load isn’t as high. It’s more efficient than using one compressor to cool and dehumidify the air and another to reheat the air, the company said.
Lesson 7: While focusing on the HVAC system can provide many opportunities for efficiency improvements, don’t forget to look at equipment that isn’t connected to the building automation system.
Hundreds, even thousands, of computers left on after the school day ends cost schools a significant amount of energy, as does lighting. An off-hours building inspection may turn up several instances of waste that should be communicated to the school’s staff. The manufacturer said its team of education specialists can develop solutions to help schools reduce their monthly energy costs while protecting IAQ.
For more information, call 800-952-6669 or visit www.lennox.com.
Publication date: 08/03/2009