Careful analysis can save schools when it comes to energy costs.
The Silicon Valley is known as a high-tech apex and is quickly cementing itself as a leader in the green movement. Located just 15 minutes south of San Jose and Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., is the city of Campbell, home to Campbell Union School District (CUSD).
The school district is following in the footsteps of the Silicon Valley giants by using high-tech and green strategies to save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars annually by slashing its energy consumption. In a matter of just six months, CUSD cut its electricity usage by 20 percent and reduced natural gas usage by more than 45 percent.
Energy consumption and physical plant maintenance are most often the biggest expenses of a school budget, outside of faculty and staff. Ask any facility director or energy consultant and they will tell you that HVAC systems are responsible for more energy usage than any other process within a school district. Recognizing an opportunity to put more of its budget into educating students, CUSD embarked on a mission to drastically cut energy expenses while making minimal equipment and control changes to its schools.
More than a year ago, Facility Manager Dave Radke and Deputy Superintendent Jim Crawford began exploring strategies and technologies that could quickly bring down energy costs. They first identified the challenges they faced so they could better understand the type of solution that would save the most money. Radke and his maintenance team identified several HVAC problems they could solve with the right tools, including:
• Energy consumption
• Thermostat scheduling/programming
• Failing equipment
• Lost man hours
• Staff and student comfort
Many of the problems were intertwined and cyclical. Runaway energy consumption was frequently caused by staff or students changing settings due to discomfort or less than optimal scheduling.
Lacking an optimized HVAC schedule caused equipment failure, such as freeze-ups in air-conditioning equipment. Fixing the problems and resulting damage was costly and consumed additional maintenance staff man hours that detracted from the staff’s ability to tackle other challenges.
Radke knew he needed something along the lines of a conventional energy management system (EMS) to rein in energy consumption through active monitoring and control. He was attracted to the robust features of an EMS, but knew the price was far too high to be a practical solution.
Ultimately, Radke needed system controls at a thermostat price.
“We chose Proliphix for several reasons,” Radke said. “Proliphix offers system controls at a cost lower than any other competitor in the industry. The system is free of unnecessary peripheral components and provides a reliable, detailed control interface.”
Radke discovered that through Proliphix, he could have the EMS features he was looking for at a fraction of the price, and with a much simpler installation. The Proliphix solution entailed a one-for-one replacement of thermostats throughout CUSD, including traditional and portable classrooms, to provide an affordable internet-managed energy control solution. Armed with more than 500 Proliphix NT160h network thermostats and UniVista device management software, Radke and his team installed the solution district-wide, and began managing the entire HVAC system through Proliphix’s UniVista software.
Deployment of the Proliphix solution required less than two hours per thermostat and no additional hardware or infrastructure changes typically necessary with a traditional EMS. With a new Proliphix Energy Control Solution, the district instantly experienced savings. The combination of internet-managed thermostats and energy management software provided improved levels of monitoring and control of HVAC energy consumption.
The Proliphix solution is 366 day-programmable and can be remotely accessed to schedule and adjust temperature settings. The devices also send alarm notifications via text message or eMail to Radke and his staff, instantly notifying him of any problems. Alarm notifications help the facilities team identify problems before they become costly system failures. The group dispatches staff intelligently to fix the situation much faster than ever before.
“Over the last six months, since installing our Proliphix energy control solution, we slashed our natural gas consumption by 45 percent, reduced our electrical usage by 20 percent and saved more than 100 man hours,” said Crawford. “We found an easy-to-deploy energy saving solution that grows with us and saves a tremendous amount of money.”
“The biggest lesson learned here is that there are far more affordable energy saving options out there,” Radke said. “Simple high-tech solutions can go a long way to save energy and reduce expenses.”
Nearly every school is spending more on energy costs than it needs to. By having the means to properly manage scheduled energy use to efficiently maintain a comfortable environment, and being able to quickly identify situations that cause wasteful energy consumption before they turn into serious problems, schools can quickly put significant energy costs back into the education of their classes.
Walter Dray is the president of Proliphix and has more than 30 years of experience in the data communication and telecommunication industries with experience spanning electronic product design and development to engineering and executive management. Walter has a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Lowell in Lowell, Mass., and an MS in electrical engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.