Solar power is one of the most exciting and promising technologies of our time. According to information released by the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2017 alone, solar power produced 17 billion dollars for the American economy. With the solar market booming and the price of solar technology as low as ever, there is no better time to get on the solar energy bandwagon. Here we’ll take a look at a few ways you can take advantage of this compelling new technology.
Rooftop solar is becoming increasingly feasible for schools and businesses across the United States. There’s a reason why you see solar panels almost everywhere you go these days. It’s because solar technology is powerful and cost-effective. However, there are several things that you’ll need to consider before having solar panels installed. First, you need to consider how much shade your area gets. Solar panels will be useless if you have trees casting long shadows over your school.
Where you’re located in the country will also play a role. Whether or not solar energy is feasible for you will partially depend on the current electricity prices in your area. Don’t worry too much if you live in a cloudy area. Contrary to popular belief, you can still take advantage of solar power even if you aren’t in a sunny climate. Solar isn’t always the best option for everyone; speak with an expert to get the best possible advice on your unique situation.
While there are various ways to finance solar panels, one popular method is the power purchase agreement. Under a power purchase agreement, you buy the solar energy rather than the entire system. In other words, another company owns the panels on your roof and you purchase the energy that is collected from them. This is a good option if you’re wary about the initial investment of buying a solar power system.
One way to implement solar technology on a small scale is to install exterior lighting that runs off solar power. Think about how much sunlight your parking lots and outdoor areas get. If this energy could be harnessed and stored in exterior lighting such as streetlights, this could potentially help you save a large chunk of cash on the electricity bill. Luckily, such technologies exist! The beauty of exterior solar lighting is that you can take advantage of that extra solar energy that otherwise would have gone to waste. Not only will you be saving money with an energy efficient solution, but you’ll also make the property around your school safer for nighttime pedestrians.
It sounds like a trivial measure, but the truth is that when it comes to energy savings, every little bit helps. Many companies offer solar powered calculators, which can be a handy solution for students and staff, who won’t constantly have to replace batteries. You might also consider encouraging the use of solar chargers for devices such as laptops and cell phones. Having these types of gadgets can teach students about energy efficiency at an early age. In addition, it will make them appreciate the fact that their energy doesn’t just come from nowhere.
At Energy Optimizers, USA, we help school districts develop cost-effective and energy efficient solutions. To learn how we can help your school save money, please feel free to contact us. Our experts can help you determine the best energy efficiency solutions for your particular situation. By taking advantage of the many benefits of solar energy, not only can you save your school district money, but you’ll also be setting a good example to students and to the community at large.
The U.S. Department of Education today released the names of the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.
Across the country, 35 schools, 14 districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to address the three “Pillars” of the program: reducing environmental impact and utility costs, improving health and wellness, and ensuring effective sustainability education. A state education official is also being recognized for his efforts to advance school sustainability in the state of Minnesota.
“I want to congratulate this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School honorees,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “They have truly embraced the challenge to create healthy, safe, sustainable and efficient learning environments for students, faculty, and staff. Their innovative approaches to learning will help students prepare for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century.”
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. The selectees include 25 public schools – among them, three magnet schools and two charter schools – as well as 10 nonpublic schools. Thirty-six percent of the 2019 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.
The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 53 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.
One of our greatest accomplishments has been the implementation and sustainability of our Graham Middle School all-female “Energy Team”. This team was created due to the overwhelming vocational need of females in STEM careers.
The energy team has won multiple awards for their leadership and project implementations of green energy practices across the state and region. They have received grants from the Ohio Energy Project where they attended a week-long conference and built an energy bike to be used for education.
This team of sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade girls took their learning and developed lessons, for their peers and elementary students. They travel to the elementary and teach on energy conservation, green practices, and STEM careers to Kindergarten through 5th grade.
The team also plans and leads an energy education fair for their peers and the community each year to demonstrate and educate about green practices. This past year the team participated in the Dayton Area “Bring Your Green” Challenge. A yearlong challenge to earn points by participating in “Green” challenges, energy monitoring, and education. Graham Middle School won this competition for 2017 and collected more points than any other school or business in the region, beating out over 600 other facilities. http://drg3.org/bringyourgreen/leaderboard
The students won a prize of $3,000 and have already made plans to invest the money into more projects to become more “Green.”
Congratulations to the Energy Team of Graham Middle School!
Your school serves hundreds, potentially even thousands, of students and teachers every day. It takes a lot of energy to keep things running effectively. If your energy bills are getting out of control – or if you, like most schools, need to find new ways to cut some of your operating expenses so that you have more funds for other important things in your daily schedule – one great way to accomplish your goals is to have an energy audit. Does your school really need an energy audit? Check out these key signs.
Oh, you’ve conducted an energy audit in the past. You don’t really need to conduct another one now, do you? The reality is, energy technology is constantly changing. What was normal and accepted five years ago is no longer the standard; you may be able to save a substantial amount of money on your current energy bills by having another audit using today’s metrics.
From turning the lights out in the classroom when they leave to shutting down computers and other machines at the end of the day, many teachers fail to accomplish basic energy-saving measures on a regular basis. Typically, they know what they should be doing; the challenge is getting them to actually do it! Unfortunately, many teachers simply don’t want to hear from their colleagues – or even from the administration – that they need to make changes in their routine. Hearing from an official source, on the other hand, can make teachers more eager to take those key energy-saving measures.
How old is the energy technology in your school building? Do you have smart sensors on your light switches that turn off the lights in the room when people leave? What about your thermostat: are you heating and cooling the school when no one is in it, or is it programmed to reduce the temperature in winter or allow it to rise in summer when there’s no one in the building? If you’re struggling to get the funds for energy-related upgrades or you aren’t sure what upgrades will genuinely benefit your business, an energy audit can help you figure out what steps to take next.
Your school should use approximately the same amount of energy from year to year. While energy costs will vary by month based on the current outside temperature and the school’s needs, you should, overall, be able to budget your energy expenses over the course of the year. If you’ve recently noticed a jump in energy use, especially without corresponding rate increases from your electric company, there’s a good chance that there’s something draining that energy throughout the school. An energy audit can help reveal the culprit and determine whether or not that energy use is really viable.
Most schools struggle with their budget at one point or another. Chances are your school, like others, doesn’t have enough funding for vital programs throughout the building. If you’re looking for ways to cut costs, decreasing your energy bill can create a substantial difference in your budget.
Whether you have students actively doing a unit about protecting the earth or you’re just looking for more ways to help contribute to saving the environment, there are plenty of reasons for a school to go green. An energy audit can help reduce your energy footprint, which decreases energy costs and makes your school greener. Often, going green can help attract a different type of parent and student to your school; this may offer unexpected benefits in the future, too.
Do you need an energy audit to help determine where energy is going throughout your school? If so, contact us today to learn more about how we can conduct an energy audit, provide valuable advice, and put your school in a better position to take control of its energy bill.
DAYTON, Ohio, April 17, 2019 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — Oak Hills Local School District, in partnership with Energy Optimizers, USA, will upgrade all interior lighting to LED systems for an expected savings of more than $32,000 annually.
Oak Hills Local Schools
The improvements will be made to the district’s nine school buildings, as well as the administrative and transportation offices. The new LEDs will offer up to 75 percent savings over the existing fluorescent technology. They will also last 3 to 4 times longer, which will help the district reduce long-term operations and maintenance costs.
In addition, LED lighting is easier on the eyes, which benefits students and staff alike. The quality of LED lighting is very close to natural daylight, and LEDs offer improved light distribution and lighting levels. The lighting is also free of the hum and flicker associated with fluorescents, making it an ideal system for special needs classrooms.
“At Oak Hills Local Schools, we take a very conservative approach to how we balance our operational needs against the expectations of our students, staff, and community,” said Jeff Brandt, Superintendent. “This project will enable us to save a tremendous amount of money on our utility bills, which we can redirect into the student programs and classroom activities that make us one of the top districts in the region. And we can do all of this without additional cost to our taxpayers.”
The district used the LED Lighting and Energy Savings Program through the Ohio Council of Educational Purchasing Consortia (OCEPC). This program enables the district to make these cost-cutting improvements at no additional expense to taxpayers while ensuring the best possible pricing.
The project will also enable the district to demonstrate leadership in energy conservation. The energy savings from the lighting upgrade will be equivalent to preserving 302 acres of trees or removing 198 cars from the road.
“We are proud to partner with Oak Hills Local Schools in making these relatively simple yet incredibly cost-effective turnkey improvements to the district’s lighting systems,” said Greg Smith, Energy Optimizers, USA, founder. “The district will be in a position to use the energy and operational savings to fund classroom programs or additional capital improvements, all without cost to taxpayers. That’s what we call win-win for Oak Hills students and the community.”
Welcome back to the second half of our two-part article on why choosing your own power supplier is an important step in optimizing your power bill. Last time we talked about escaping monopoly mentality of local utility companies, the ability to pick exactly the energy plan your facility needs, the benefit of working with a friendly team of energy pros, and of course the financial benefits of shopping around for the best prices and plans.
Join us again today as we pick up where we left off.
Of course, one of the best parts about a deregulated energy market is that there is finally competition. Competition is good for business, even service monoliths like electric power or natural gas. In a healthy economy competition keeps each business honest and striving for the patronage of local customers. While this may add some extra element of challenge for independent power suppliers, it always works out best for customers.
Because power suppliers are competing for your business, it’s in their best interests to focus on positive customer experiences. Unlike the regulated utilities who can do what they want and customers have to put up with it, independent power suppliers are far more likely to have agreeable prices, friendly customer service, and reliably transparent billing, precisely because they want you to stick around (and now that you have other options). In fact, competition has been known to even shape up the old utility infrastructure; forcing them to act more like a normal business with valued customers.
Some businesses build their company culture and their reputation around eco-friendly practices. Office recycling and using recycled products, collecting rainwater to water the grounds, and choosing to work with eco-friendly business partners. In many circles, this is called ‘going green’, though your business may have been green from the very start. Green customers and other green businesses prefer building a world where businesses and the environment can mutually support each other.
For green businesses, energy deregulation is a dream come true. With nothing but the utility company, the electricity your business needs will come from the local power plants. While these can be clean, they often burn fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, and petroleum variants. These are neither renewable nor is the process good for the environment.
With independent power suppliers, you have the opportunity to move away from local power plants; you can contract with a company which gets energy from entirely green sources. With solar panels and wind farms expanding, there’s bound to be several green options for your eco-friendly business.
Shopping for a good power supplier is a lot like choosing your insurance policies. You can find a provider you like and stick with them for years, enjoying the reliable and familiar interaction of paying your bill every month. Or you can bargain-hunt. Like insurance agencies, independent power suppliers are frequently offering special deals for new customers which feature lower prices, better rates, and appealing package options.
If your business tends to optimize costs by doing a little price-comparison on services when renewal-time comes round, don’t be shy to do the same for your energy needs! Even if you’re looking for a long-term power supplier, remember to keep an eye out for unique deals that meet the kind of plan you’re looking for at a good price or rate.
Finally, the greatest thing about having your choice of independent power suppliers is flexibility. With the utility company, you get the prices and plan-options you get, with very little room for changes inside the company itself. But once you start working with independent power suppliers, you will find them not only more receptive to your business needs; but you can also change power suppliers whenever you feel it would be a good move for the business.
Independent power suppliers give you far greater control over your energy needs, from scalable plans to renewable energy. We encourage you to exercise that control by seeking the right energy supplier for your business and keeping your eyes open for ways to improve your energy solution in the years to come. For more energy insights on how to optimize your power bills, contact us today!
Energy deregulation is one of the best things that’s ever happened to Ohio, and other states that have enacted it. When energy is regulated, only a few authorized suppliers are allowed to generate and sell energy. The power plants and providers allowed to participate are unified as the ‘local utility company’. In a regulated state, homes and businesses are required to buy their power from the local utility company at the currently listed prices and available plans. This has become the status-quo.
In our country, it is now normal to assume that you will be dealing with whatever utility company is available. But times are changing, and so are state-to-state policies. Approximately half the states have deregulated electricity, natural gas, or both; effectively opening the market for independent energy suppliers to begin offering a completely new experience: Choice in your utilities.
Not only does this free up your business or school from uniform utility company pricing, but choosing your own energy supplier is also the best way to get exactly the energy plan you need without paying for anything you don’t. Today, we’re here to take a look at eight of the leading reasons to take the time and carefully select exactly the right energy provider for each facility. Better prices is just the beginning.
Most adults know what it’s like to find an unpleasant surprise lurking in the power bill. Maybe you turned up the AC during a heat wave; maybe you threw an event but didn’t calculate for power costs. Or maybe your utility company just tacked on an additional and apparently completely arbitrary fee.
The biggest problem with a regulated utility company is that it has the monopoly. Unless you want to try and generate your own power, you need electricity from the power utility. No modern home or business can do without it. But to get the power, people in energy-regulated states simply have to pay whatever prices the power utility chooses to charge.
They can rack up demand charges, stack on pointless fees, or change your regular rates any time they want. And there is no room for dispute. If you don’t like the prices, you could always stop buying energy. Except that you can’t. That is the first and among the best great reasons to deregulate energy state-by-state and to look for businesses in a deregulated state to seek an independent energy provider.
Utility providers often offer a small selection of plans that they feel are appropriate for locals. There may be a fixed versus variable rate option, business vs residential, or you might even be able to pick a demand charge profile. But you only get to pick what the utility company chooses to offer. And of the plans available don’t suit your needs or budget, too bad.
In a deregulated state, independent energy suppliers drastically change the status-quo. Because they are not part of the greater state utility company and share neither power plants nor profits with the local utility company, independent energy suppliers have every reason to offer a unique selection of plans. And each new supplier may be offering a different and more appealing plan than the last.
When you are shopping for an independent energy provider, you finally have the freedom to choose an energy plan that works well for your business, not just the best of several bad options.
Another inconvenient side-effect of the utility company monopoly in regulated states is poor customer service. The problem is that a regulated utility company doesn’t have to win your business or keep customers happy. Because everyone needs electricity and they are the only local authorized providers.
You may have had some first-hand experience with utility company customer service. They may have an automated phone tree, a seldom-answered email address, or even friendly people on the phone who simply have no power to actually to actually do anything. The problem often continues even after a state deregulates because that is how the utility company has always done things.
But as a business, you need more than an energy supplier that sends power through your lines and a bill at the end of each month. With an independent energy provider, you have the opportunity to seek out a team of managers an customer service techs who you actually enjoy working with. Whether you’re updating your plan or reporting an outage, a great energy support team is now within your grasp.
We mentioned earlier that utility companies don’t have to explain their prices to anyone and take a brutal ‘Take it or leave it’ stance on whether or not you pay what they say you owe. Part of the major problem here, the reason so many people are dissatisfied by utility company services, is that there is no transparency. Maybe you get lucky and your local utility is consistent on charges and fees, but maybe not.
Utility company prices are whatever they say, and their process can be completely opaque because they have a captive clientele. Independent energy companies don’t have that freedom and, unlike regulated utility companies, they function like normal businesses. This means that customer satisfaction and transparency about charges is the best possible approach.
So when you switch from the old utility company to an independent energy supplier, expect to be pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices and transparent billing items. In fact, you might even choose base on what invoices look like and how transparent each design is for you.
Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article on the other four reasons why choosing your energy supplier is an important step for any business and school to make. For more energy insights and ideas on how to save money on running your facility, contact us today!
Welcome back to the second half of our two-part article on managing your HVAC power usage even when the weather drops well below freezing. Last time we talked about lighting, insulation, thermostats, and maintenance. Join us today as we pick up at a company-wide blanket policy to help lower your school’s energy bill.
Even with considerate and careful temperature maintenance inside the building, there will always be people who wind up in an unusually cold section of the building or are more physically susceptible to cold than their classmates or colleagues. For students or staff that are struggling to remain comfortable during the winter, you can implement special winter policies that encourage everyone to stay warm while keeping the energy bill down. Relaxing the dress code to include fluffy warm sweaters is a great starting point; and by encouraging teachers to keep a cabinet of blankets or even serve hot drinks in classrooms, you can reduce the cost of personal space heaters throughout the building.
Many businesses don’t expect to worry about their windows for the entirety of the winter season. After all, there’s not a lot to look at out there other than snow and bare trees. However, you can recover a notable portion of your energy bill from sunlight whether or not you have solar panels. By allowing windows to let in a little warming sunshine, you can keep external rooms and offices a little warmer; but only if your windows are clean enough to actually let the light in. Consider getting a professional window cleaning to make sure that every channel for sunlight has the best possible chance for warming your hallways and classrooms.
Of course, due to the shorter daylight hours and the occasional bad weather, it can’t be sunny all the time. Everyone knows wintertime darkness can suck the heat out of absolutely everything; even your energy bill can give you the chills. For the dark and stormy times, closing a thick collection of thermally insulating curtains can keep the cold from pouring in through your window glass. This ensures that your students and staff in external rooms don’t immediately turn into icicles when the sun isn’t shining.
Most modern classrooms feature an efficient tight-weave carpet in understated patterns. Carpet is fantastic for the wintertime because airflow through the loops prevents the floor from holding either heat or cold. Tiles, on the other hand, can hold and spread cold with great efficiency. (This depends on the material of the tiles and if they are insulated underneath from ambient cold between floors.) In the coldest parts of your school with tiled floors, consider throwing down a few large area rugs. This will increase insulation and reduce the chill in these rooms (and lower your energy bill).
The amount of power your HVAC unit requires to maintain a comfortable temperature depends greatly on the amount of space you need to heat up. This means that every room you warm contributes to the effort and cost of heating the entire building. Fortunately, there’s a quick and easy way to make sure unused rooms don’t take up hot air they don’t need. Simply close the vents. This will keep hot air flowing through the ducts until it finds a room with open vents to warm up.
Manually opening and closing vents can be effective for small schools; but if you are a larger school with many potentially in or out of use vents, you may want to invest in smart vents that can be programmed remotely to open or close at the right times or when a room is scheduled for use.
Keeping your business energy budget within acceptable margins is more challenging than many schools are prepared for, especially during harsh cold snaps. Not only do you need to worry about a bigger energy budget, it’s also time to start thinking seriously about how to make your school much more energy efficient. With the addition of a little extra weatherstripping, window treatments, and energy smart policies, you’ll soon see that outrageous winter energy bill start to drop back down to normal expectations. With these tips you’ll be able to keep your classrooms and offices warm and your energy bill low in style.
For more tips on how to make your school more energy efficient, contact us today!
Over the past 8 years, PLCC has successfully implemented programs to increase energy efficiency, and reduce energy consumption. Recently, PLCC was able to create a new partnership (with Energy Optimizers, USA), resulting in the construction of a 400 kWh solar array. When the array is fully operational, it will provide a clean source of renewable energy for PLCC, while also helping PLCC further reduce annual energy expenses. For PLCC, “Living Green” is not only an opportunity to demonstrate financial and environmental responsibility but also to set a positive example within the community.
No matter how cold it gets outside, the school year must continue. Unless piles of snow are stopping the buses from rolling, your schools need to be kept warm for the health and well-being of both staff and students. However, keeping the doors open and the lights on during a winter this cold can be surprisingly costly. Raising your thermostat even a single degree can equal up to an 8% increase in your school’s monthly power bill. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve the energy efficiency and make the most of the heat your HVAC system generates to keep your winter power bill as low as possible.
There’s one aspect of winter energy efficiency that almost everyone forgets about. It’s the fact that you are dealing with shorter daylight hours. In the middle of winter, your employees could come in before light and leave after dark every day for weeks; if not months. This means you’ll be using more lights more of the time, increasing your power bill more than most would expect. You have several possible solutions to this issue. This includes installing more efficient LED or halogen bulbs; working with motion sensors and timers to ensure that unused rooms stay unlit; and keeping lights off in storage closets and unscheduled meeting rooms by default.
During the entire stretch of time between fall and spring, your furnace is going to get a serious workout. (And so will your power bill!) It will be running constantly throughout the entire winter; alternately keeping your employees warm during the day and your pipes from freezing at night. You want it in top condition to make sure you’re running at optimal power efficiency. You also want to protect your employees from the very unpleasant possibility of coming to work on the day your furnace just happens to give out. Even if you skipped your late-fall inspection, it’s never too late to get your furnace inspected and maintained to improve the efficiency and reliability of the unit for the rest of the winter.
Knowledge is power, and at no time is this more literally true than when you’re monitoring your own energy usage. An increase in data about how you use energy can mean a reduction in your power bill. By installing a smart meter for your total consumption, and local smart outlets to monitor area and appliance use, you can identify your biggest power expenditures and start optimizing in the best ways for your school building. You may discover that older appliances are guzzling more power than they need, or that devices are being left on overnight costing you much more energy than anyone would have realized without monitoring. Speaking of monitors, don’t forget to turn off computer screens at night.
You might be surprised just how much cold drafts affect the comfort and efficiency of your employees, much less your HVAC system. Every school has unused rooms, under-heated areas, and spaces that are closer to outside doors than others. This means that from floor to floor, section to section, and from room to room, you want to prevent drafts as much as possible or intentionally create areas that are uniform in temperature by keeping doors open. Any door that you intend to keep closed from the external doors to doors between offices should be insulated. This not only makes your building more efficient (and your power bill lower), it also allows your employees to isolate areas for personal comfort.
Most schools realize they don’t need the same amount of heating at night after everyone leaves as they do during the day. But you can detail your thermostat use even more than this. You will need the most heating in the morning and evening when employees are still in the building but the sun has gone down, warming from the sun will reduce your need for heat by a certain amount during the day. Make sure your thermostat kicks up to the office’s preferred temperature about an hour before the earliest shift. If it’s a sunny day, your HVAC can give itself a break during mid-day, kick up again in the evening, and finally spin down to just-above-freezing after the last person goes home. If you close section by section, your HVAC can prioritize only the areas that are occupied.
There are a surprising number of ways to reduce the cost of your HVAC system in the winter. Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article; we’ll cover everything from warm blankets to individual room vents. For more ways to reduce the power bill costs for your school and district, contact us today!