Energy initiative to save school district money - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Energy initiative to save school district money


The heat index in Sioux City and parts of the surrounding area topped 100 degrees, Tuesday.

That's the reason students in Sioux City grade schools without air conditioning will get out early Wednesday, for the third day in a row.

Even though the mercury is rising, the school district's energy bill is on the way down, thanks to a new conservation program that could save the district millions of dollars in the future.

"I'm in every building, every week," said the district's Energy Specialist, Jeremy Taylor, as he walked into West High School

He's often in the buildings at odd hours.

"It's during four am on a Saturday when you hear either motors humming or exhaust fans going, that you need to monitor," Taylor explained.

Taylor makes sure the lights are turned off, and the air is turned down, when students and teachers are not in the buildings.

"It takes a physical presence of being out and seeing what's actually in use when it's supposed to be in use, and seeing what's left on at seven or nine o'clock in the evening," he explained.

Since January, the former North High English teacher has traded in his white board for a clip board, helping the Sioux City Community School District save.  Other ways they're saving is by not running the sprinklers when it's raining, and waiting to turn on kitchen equipment.

In ten years, the district expects to get back as much as $4.2 million, by flipping the switch on habits that waste energy.

Something as simple as shortening the time of sensors in hallways and utility closets, is showing the district a big energy savings.

"Sometimes sensors are on for 20 minutes when somebody walks in, when they need only be set to two minutes," Taylor pointed out.

Raw data shows some buildings have cut costs by 30-65%.  That's information the district will use as they design future schools.  A source of those savings are the air conditioning units, which are now scheduled to stop operating when the building is empty.  Over the summer, MidAmerican Energy called Taylor, surprised when the meter drastically dropped.

"This conservation program has done that," he asserted.

Taylor uses a color coded system to monitor every building in the district.  A school that's red needs immediate attention, yellow means classrooms are hovering above the ideal temperature of 74 degrees (78 is the maximum threshold), and green is good to go.  Taylor says schools usually get in the red as a result of an equipment failure, and can be back in the green the next day. 

However, some parents and teachers have expressed concern that the classrooms are warmer than usual because the district is shutting down the air at night.

"It's incumbent upon me to make sure that the learning environment was maintained, and I've received calls on that, I've made sure that we are putting that first and foremost, even before the energy savings," said Taylor, who has two children in the district's elementary schools.

He said during the past week, the district has pulled back on its aggressive air conditioner schedule, and even kept the system going overnight, to ensure the rooms are cool when kids get to school.

Taylor said the program's success is predicated on the school staff adapting to this new conservation culture, something he says many are willing to do.



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