A Fresno County School District selected Highlands Energy to conduct a Level II energy audit of its facilities in preparation for funding from Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs act aimed at improving energy efficiency in schools. The California Department of Education outlined the importance of these kinds of improvements, stating, “Improving a school’s Overall Compliance Rating to meet health and safety standards can lead to a 36-point increase in California Academic Performance Index scores.” The Level II audit, preceded by a Level I “simple” or “walk-through” audit, included a detailed evaluation of the Level I findings to define a variety of potential energy-efficiency improvements, a detailed analysis of the facilities’ energy consumption as well as evaluations of lighting, air quality, temperature, ventilation, humidity and other conditions that might affect performance. The report also included a concise briefing of a variety of Energy Efficiency Measures and how to fix or improve conditions as well as cost-cutting measures through grants and bonds.
Highlands Energy, a respected company with nearly 30 years experience in assessing, recommending and implementing these kinds of projects, provided its Level II audit findings on July 22, 2014.Here are parts of the findings:
*One of the more appalling discoveries was a non-working forced-air unit in the cafeteria. It was missing the front cover, exposing live electrical wire. Coming into contact with this could easily result in electrical shock and possibly death. It is also a serious fire hazard. Highlands’ surveyors recommended immediately turning off power to the unit and having it red tagged by an HVAC technician to eliminate potential for injury, shock or fire.
*Broken single-pan glass was another hazard discovered. The cafeteria, kitchen and boys and girls restrooms had cracked/broken panes that could lead to serious injuries for staff and students. Replacing the hazards with vinyl Low-E windows would increase energy efficiency and safety.
*Moisture and mold were discovered during visual inspections under forced-air units. The condensation pumps were not operating properly, causing the pumps’ reservoirs to overflow and mold and moister marks to develop in the FAU enclosure. Pools of water were also discovered. The audit recommended servicing or replacing the pumps, checking for obstructions in the condensation lines and sanitizing any surface with mold growth. Failing to address these problems will result in health and structural problems.
*Girls and boys restrooms had leaky toilets and some were continuously running. Some plumbing fixtures, such as a sink in the girls restroom, were damaged and hazardous to students. The fixtures need to be replaced with water-efficient plumbing and hardware.
*There were a number of inefficient light fixtures in and around the facility. Replacing the lamps with more efficient alternatives would save energy consumption and money. Also, replacing some of the outdoor lamps would not only reduce consumption but provide better lighting coverage for increased safety and security. There were a number of other potential improvements that could save the school energy and money, including inefficient water heaters, cooling and heating units and uninsulated ceilings. A management phase was another part of Highlands Energy’s audit. This helps educate and train school district personnel on how to manage their new systems, a requirement for Proposition 39 grants. Highlands Energy tailors each management phase to fit each facility’s specific needs. Maintenance and compliance is also part of the training.
Additionally, as part of the plan’s “Fund Sourcing” section, Highlands Energy provided a case study for the County of Contra Costa, which used two loans from the California Energy Commission and its own funds to retrofit and upgrade heating and cooling systems in eight buildings. The study broke down costs and how much money could be saved annually to show the advantages of such improvements. The ASHRAE Level II Plus audit for this District was 47 pages and provided comprehensive breakdowns of problems, solutions, improvements, costs and funding.