Energy manager helps Canfield schools save money

Energy manager helps Canfield schools save money

By Kristine Gill


Evana Delon can hear energy being wasted.

When the Canfield High School teacher walks the halls as energy manager for the district, she’s listening for the hum of a computer modem, the whir of a fan, even the drip of a faucet — anything that should have been turned off as part of the district’s effort to save money on utilities through the Energy Education program.

“When I walk around in a building at night, what I want to hear is silence,” Delon said. “And that’s golden.”

Since beginning the Energy Education program in June, the district has saved $73,218 in utility bills across its four school buildings, the weight room, bus garage and board offices. That’s about a 22 percent savings compared to the same time frame last year.

Energy Education is a national consulting group that targets school districts. In the last 25 years, the group has saved school districts $2.2 billion in energy costs including gas, electricity, water and sewage. Sixteen Ohio school districts have participated in that time, reporting more than $20 million in savings, said Jan Noel- Smith, spokesperson for Energy Education.

Since July, the Canfield district has paid $30,000 to participate in Energy Education, business manager Rich Archer said. That figure includes about half of Delon’s $17,000 annual stipend.

“The whole purpose of this program is to save money, positions and programs,” Delon said.

Those savings were calculated during a six-month time period from July through December of 2009 and 2010 with factors such as weather taken into account. Archer said the district hopes to save $2.6 million over a 10-year period.

Delon and Archer said utilities are the second-largest line item in a school’s budget — salaries being first. Those bills are paid with money from the general fund, and anything that is saved through the program can be put toward other expenses.

As energy manager, Delon has worked with seven consultants based in different parts of the country who visit Canfield often. Delon was chosen from a handful of candidates the district interviewed. Archer said the job is practically full time and has Delon at various buildings after hours, on weekend and during summer and holiday breaks.

“She’s got keys to everything. The police department knows her car,” Archer said. “She’s a valuable pair of eyes.”

Archer expects to employ an energy manager even after the four years of the program are over.

Energy Education promises that every school district will at least break even after 12 months of saving on utilities and will be able to pay for the cost of the program and the energy manager’s salary as well as travel to various training conferences.

After the four years are over, the district will be on its own when it comes to maintaining those practices they’ve ingrained in faculty in staff through a people-driven approach.

“This isn’t about putting in new equipment or retrofitting ... it’s about changing behavior,” Archer said.

Since July, the air conditioning has been set at 74 degrees for all buildings. The heat is never higher than 68 degrees for the high school and middle school. The elementary school is set at 70 degrees in the winter.

Using small data loggers, Delon has been able to pinpoint those classrooms whose thermostats don’t work correctly. She’s also zoned the high school building and can have lights on only in areas where late-night extracurricular activities take place.

The district even worked with Pepsi to disable lighting on its vending machines. Now a sign above them reassures students that they’re functioning properly even though they aren’t glowing.

Because hallways aren’t heated, classroom doors are pulled shut. Most hallways go dark shortly after students board buses home. The main foyer at the high school receives so much natural light from big windows and doors that staff doesn’t turn the building’s foyer lights on most days.

The district has paid for minor repairs to the buildings to help with the program including weather stripping along some doors and light switches, but Delon said the cost for those repairs has been insignificant.

The program has even sparked friendly competition among faculty and staff. Delon leaves sticky notes behind when a classroom has followed the rules during one of her sweeps of a building. She leaves behind reminder forms if a teacher forgets to shut down a computer or set the thermostat correctly.

“Evana has made all of us a little more observant in our walking around,” Archer said.

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