A Merced County School District selected Highlands Energy to conduct the “Discovery Phase” of its energy audit. That included benchmarking existing buildings, walk-through surveys, gathering a comprehensive list of additional funding sources to offset project costs and produce the school district’s Energy Expenditure Plan for submission to the California Energy Commission (CEC). On July 8, 2014, Highlands Energy, with nearly 30 years of experience in assessing, recommending and implementing projects, provided its findings and recommendations to the school district in preparation for fixes and improvements related to Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Highlands Energy started with its Level 1 audit. It consisted of brief interviews with site operating personnel, a review of the facility’s utility bills and an abbreviated walkthrough of the site. This was done to get a quick understanding of the buildings and energy systems in order to identify the potential for energy improvements and how the facility performs relative to its peers. The next two audits were conducted to give more detailed looks at problems, solutions and potential improvements. Here, the school district was informed of all of this and given an economic breakdown of certain work as well as ways to offset costs through grants and/or bonds.
When Highlands Energy sent surveyors to this District, they found a number of potential energy-saving improvements that could be made and some hazardous materials that needed to be extracted. Some of those included:
*A total of six HVAC units were on site, one of which provided conditioned air to the kitchen and gymnasium but was completely inoperable. The recommendation was to replace the six units with 14 SEER-rated systems that run more efficiently, reducing electricity consumption and costs.
*Portions of the duct system had significant gaps that allowed air to escape. Duct tape was not a solution as it becomes brittle and breaks. Instead, Highlands Energy recommended sealing ducts and HVAC systems with butyl tape and mastic for a more secure seal. This eliminates loss of conditioned air and improves air quality. This would save on electrical consumption and costs.
*Chipped paint was found in two rooms over 2,185 square feet on secondary ceilings. It was determined the paint on the ceilings could be lead based, according to the year of construction. Also, the ceiling had ill-fitting duct work and holes. Highland Energy suggested replacing drywall around the duct for a more proper fit, allowing the HVAC system to work more efficiently and rooms to maintain temperature. Also, eliminating any paint from 1978 and before because of lead concerns.
*The buildings had 11 manual thermostats, but replacing those with programmable thermostats allows for better utilization of HVAC systems. Again, this means more efficient consumption and lower costs.
*The 412 32-watt lamps in the school should be replaced with 28-watt lamps to reduce consumption and costs.
*There were 409 square feet of single-pane aluminum windows, and we recommended replacing those with dual-pan Low-E vinyl windows. This helps keep conditioned air in the rooms and temperatures stable, allowing less use of the HVAC systems in order to drop energy costs.
*Replacing two tanked water heaters with tankless water heaters, which on average are 22 percent more efficient.