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4. Conduct energy audits of your buildings.

You need to know your buildings’ energy performance. How much is it costing to heat, cool and light each building? This is usually determined by calculating the buildings’ energy cost per square foot and the energy use per square foot. This can be done on a spreadsheet or with commercially available software.

Next, you need to know the components that are driving your energy costs. Often, experts are brought in to look at each energy-using component of the facility such as lights, heating and air conditioning equipment and computers. They also check the windows and doors for air leaks, the insulation to determine how well the building holds the heating or cooling and the plumbing to determine if fixtures are efficient and in good working order.

By using a diligent energy conservation program, including installing new software and electronic energy management systems, the Socorro ISD in El Paso maintains low overall energy consumption and saves money. The district uses an energy software program to analyze its utility consumption and cost and an electronic energy management system to make more efficient use of energy. The district also retrofitted lighting fixtures to improve energy use. Energy experts estimate the appropriate level for school district energy costs per square foot at $1 or less. Given this benchmark, Socorro ISD has relatively low energy costs of 77 cents per square foot.

Your energy manager should also use this standard when reviewing costs, and target buildings with higher than standard energy costs. For example, if you have three buildings operating at under $1 per square foot and one operating above, you would start with the one that is operating above $1, because this is where you will find the greatest potential for savings.

Energy audits can help identify and prioritize future energy retrofits as well as document projects that are working well. If you do not have a master plan for facilities, you will need to develop one. By revisiting your facilities through the energy audit process, you can update your master plan. Sometimes a building’s performance changes. And, by conducting regular audits, you can prevent any future surprises.

SECO has engineering firms under contract that will, at no cost to the district, conduct a preliminary audit of your building(s) and identify maintenance and operations procedures, projects for retrofit and financing options. These audits often find low-cost or no-cost projects you can undertake immediately to save energy. A district often knows how it is being billed for energy, how much energy per square foot each building is using and how much it costs per square foot. It understands that this data enables them to compare their usage and cost with local and state data in order to flag energy hogs. If one elementary school costs 54 cents a square foot to operate and another of comparable size and orientation costs 94 cents, they know it. An energy audit can help the district find out why.

Low-cost/no-cost projects are initial targets for energy savings and can be implemented before major capital investments are made in energy retrofits. Some districts have used savings from low-cost/no-cost projects to fund capital projects.

Through an energy audit, areas where energy retrofits could benefit the district are identified and prioritized, and estimated costs and savings are identified. These energy retrofits can be used to upgrade facilities and equipment and generally pay for themselves within 8 to 10 years through energy savings and reduced maintenance costs.

Additional Resources:

Below is a list of additional resources you may find helpful. Information in the documents and URLs listed below are not necessarily endorsed by this agency, only provided as a resource.

Energy Management Program Checklist
http://www.window.state.tx.us/tspr/energy/checklist.html

Scheduling an Energy Audit
(State Energy Conservation Office)
For information about how your district can sign up for preliminary energy audits and other SECO and Department of Energy programs: http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/schools&gov.htm

The Energy Star Program
(Environmental Protection Agency)
Benchmarking Tools and other information specifically designed for school districts is provided at: http://yosemite1.epa.gov/estar/business.nsf/webmenus/Schools