So what is involved in getting control of a school’s energy use? Logan said it ranges from getting the staff to turn off their computer screens and light switches to night setback systems that control the entire building. Custodial staff even plan out how a building is cleaned with energy efficiency in mind: They know how long it takes to clean a wing, for example, and the controls are programmed to automatically setback after that section is done. “That’s how detailed they get with controlling the HVAC,” Logan said.
A maintenance technician is stationed in each school along with custodians in Owen County’s decentralized approach, “so they personally take care of that building,” Logan said, even though the technicians work together on districtwide projects. Having one person focused on a building provides a “tremendous advantage in energy savings,” he added.
Now that the district has achieved some savings through building control, that savings can be used for other energy-saving projects, like more efficient lighting, Linder said. But any improvements will be carefully analyzed, Logan said, “to be sure we don’t jump at the first thing that comes by … It’s not just about putting in an energy-efficient bulb and walking away saying, ‘We’re saving money.’ It’s about creating the proper environment for learning as well.”
Superintendent Rob Stafford said being No. 1 in energy efficiency sends a broader message to the community. “Even though you may have people in the district that don’t know exactly what’s going on, that don’t know the numbers, they do know that we try to be a very efficient district. That’s important from my perspective because we deal with taxpayers’ money and we need them to know that we scrutinize every dollar they give us to educate children and we don’t waste it.”
Board View: An unexpected journey into energy management
When he took his seat on the Owen County school board in 2011, Dr. Larry Johnson never dreamed he would be dealing with energy management issues.
Now, he and the board get a district energy report card presented by Director of Maintenance Dan Logan at every board meeting.
“We review that to see where we stand this year compared to the year before, a couple years before. We want to know how we’re doing,” Johnson said. “Most of it is keeping the board informed and seeing the outlay of funds on what we spend on energy and comparing year to year and making projections for the future. That way, the board can monitor things and make sure we’re not getting out of line in one area or another.”
Logan praises the board for making energy management a priority. Board members, he said, “are in tune with what we are trying to do.”