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: inefficient building systems and unnecessary, unchecked usage.
Yet many schools can reclaim those wasted dollars with some simple changes in behaviors and a few cost-effective investments. Lennox offers some lessons from K-12 schools that are succeeding:
Monitor and track energy usage. Start by evaluating a school’s performance using the same tools used by facilities that have earned ENERGY STAR designation: the Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool available at www.energystar.gov. ENERGY STAR schools use approximately 40 percent less energy than average facilities, and cost 40 cents per square foot less to operate than average schools.*
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.
Today’s HVAC digital controllers – such as the controllers used in premium Lennox® rooftop units – can be systematized for superior control of system monitoring, diagnostics and remote troubleshooting. Systems integration that communicates via LonTalk® and BACNet® programs makes use of the most popular open, standard protocols for building automation.
Bring in plenty of fresh air – but only when class is in session. Appropriate ventilation is vital to a healthy learning environment, but introducing outside air affects the heating and cooling load.
Adding Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) sensors that measure occupancy by relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels allows the system to limit the influx of outside air.
Also, choose 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 will close outside air dampers while keeping the building at a comfortable temperature.
Schedule and perform regular maintenance to protect the efficiency of all HVAC equipment. Systems should be serviced at least four times a year: 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.
Allow 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 eliminate comfort complaints caused by radiant heat losses or gains through walls and windows.
Control mold-producing moisture without overcooling. Turning up the air conditioner to remove humidity simply increases energy bills 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 Humiditrol® dehumidification system from Lennox is available for both rooftop units and split systems.
Think broadly. 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 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.
Lennox’ team of education specialists is available to develop solutions to help your school reduce monthly energy costs while protecting indoor air quality. For more information, please contact Lennox at 1-800-9-LENNOX or visit www.lennox.com.
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