Chilton County Schools saves money through energy program

Published 2:50 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County Schools has saved $428,836 since implementing an energy savings program in 2015.

These funds have been used to purchase Chromebooks and electronic safety entry to schools as well as keep the school system’s funding reserve at a good level.

Mickey Hardwick serves as the director the program. A major component of his job is making sure nonessential equipment is turned off when school is not in session.

Hardwick said he verifies that proper shutdown procedures have been followed, including shutting down electronic devices and adjusting the thermostat.

“It has been an educational process the first two years,” Hardwick said. “Everyone has really done well and is on board now.”

Hardwick said the goal is to achieve a greater energy savings each year, so the “savings is compounded.”

Data is collected from August to July of the following year. The 2015-2016 year served as the baseline for the program.

In its first year, the school system spent $1.29 million for electricity, heat, air conditioning and lights. In 2017, the school system spent $1.03 million for energy.

Hardwick said the school system monitors energy through its monthly bills from Alabama Power and using resources from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs energy division to compare energy use from year to year.

ADECA resources allow Hardwick to compare the same month from different years with differences in weather factored in to explain why there was an increase or decrease in usage.

Converting exterior lighting at each of the schools to LED has brought a cost savings to the system. Lighting inside the schools is also gradually being switched to LED. The most recent project has been LED lighting for Thorsby High School’s gym. Hardwick estimated this would save $1,500 a year.

Shutting down electronic devices when school is not in session has also generated energy savings. Hardwick said it cost 29 cents a day per device to charge and operate the school system’s laptops.

“We have over 6,800 devices in our schools, so we can spend up to $2,000 a day on computers, laptops and Chromebooks —that’s not counting iPads,” Hardwick said. “When we shut those down for a week, we have an additional great deal of savings.”

There are incentives for teachers who participate in the energy savings program.

Incentives for coaches’ participation in the program is included in their supplements. Principals have the energy use at their school reviewed as a part of their evaluations.

Students are also educated on the importance of energy conservation during annual Earth Day activities.

Savings can even be found in the cafeteria. Hardwick said items in smaller refrigerators are transferred into the larger walk-in refrigerators and freezers when school is going to be off for a week, so the smaller units can be turned off.

Aging heat and air systems at the schools are also being upgraded to more energy efficient models. This has saved the system $350 a month at Thorsby High School. Hardwick said this savings will pay off the new unit in about three years.