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Energy conservation Program helps district save millions on utilities

Turning off heating, air conditioning and lights has had a positive impact on Ector County Independent School District’s bottom line.

Since it began in May 2012 with Cenergistic, a Dallas energy conservation company, ECISD has saved $4,745,580, district Energy Specialist Tony Parris said. The total is from when the program started to about halfway through August of this year, he said.

Parris is teamed with fellow energy specialist Patrick Young. The two monitor 58 campuses and district office buildings.

“Overall, it’s about a 25.9 percent savings since we started the program over what we used to spend,” Parris said.

He added that comes to roughly $1.5 million in savings a year. The funds stay in the district’s general fund to be used for salaries, maintenance issues, teacher supplies and students.

“Basically the way to think of it is it’s money we didn’t send to the utility companies,” Parris said. “It gives the district the flexibility to spend it on anything else that we find beneficial.”

The most expensive part of the district’s utility bill is for electricity, Parris said. Air conditioning tops the list, followed by lights, he said. The district’s electricity provider is Cavallo Energy Texas through the Texas General Land Office. Cavallo provides electricity for government entities only, Parris said.

Many of the district’s buildings date back to the mid-1950s, Parris said.

The common thread in the savings is controlling the schedules for air conditioning and heating more tightly than they used to.

“Before we had the program, for instance, you might have a schedule that runs from 5 in the morning to 8 at night at a campus. Most of the time there’s either nobody there while it’s running, or very few people there while it’s running, so our first effort was to focus on controlling that time schedule, focusing it on when the kids are there or when activities are going on and isolating places where we could,” Parris said.

But Parris added that the program is more about district employees buying in.

“… It’s not Patrick and I. It’s the teacher, it’s the custodians, it’s the principals turning out lights when they’re not in their rooms, turning off computers,” Parris added.

Most of the elementary schools and some secondary campuses have thermostat controls, like you have at home. Parris and Young travel to the different schools to make sure the programs are set correctly.

“Each of those thermostats has an override capability, so we can turn the schedule off at 3 o’clock. Then the teacher has the ability, if they stay, to hit an override control to have air while they stay. Then it turns off after a certain time after they leave,” Parris said.

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With the three new elementary schools, Buice, Downing and West, Parris and Young were able to work with the architects to get LED lighting installed throughout the buildings. Parris said this will be a huge savings to the district over fluorescent lights.

Cenergistic and ECISD have a five-year contract. The firm receives a percentage of the district’s savings, Parris said.

Parris said he and Young are considered district employees. He said the district pays their salaries and Cenergistic reimburses ECISD.

In the first couple of years, Parris said someone from Cenergistic was at the school district almost every two weeks working with Parris and Young to establish the program and protocols.

Parris said Cenergistic had professional engineers, data consultants and others who came to ECISD to work with he and Young. Cenergistic representatives still come through about once a month, Parris said.

Along with cost savings, Chief of Operations David Finley said Parris and Young provide a second set of eyes for the district’s maintenance department because they’re on campuses all the time, talking to teachers and principals. When Parris and Young learn about things that need to be fixed, they can respond quickly, and if further work is needed, a work order can be put in, Parris said.

Finley said Parris and Young have learned a lot about heating, air conditioning and ventilation units. He added that they also are moving toward being to control heating and air conditioning electronically.

“We don’t have all the schools up, but we’re slowly pushing into that and that gives us a lot more capabilities in remote locations to monitor what’s going on. …,” Finley said. He added that this is important for the secondary campuses where events go on all day.

In selecting energy specialists, Cenergistic spokeswoman Jan Noel-Smith said it’s good if candidates have some technical ability, but they also need leadership ability because they’re asking people to change what they normally do.

“We train them … with all the technical detail and data reporting skills,” Noel-Smith said.

The training was important because Parris and Young were educators before they became energy specialists.

Parris was an assistant principal and principal at Ector Middle School and Young was a golf coach and science teacher at Odessa High School. “We both have the educator background, not the HVAC background,” Parris said.

Cenergistic’s primary clients are school districts, colleges, universities and large churches nationwide. Parris said Cenergistic usually picks energy specialists from the district.

This article was written by Ruth Campbell from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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