CASMAN Academy receives energy usage update

MANISTEE — There are occasions when lower is better than higher and that is especially true in talking about energy costs.

For school districts, decreased energy costs are a must, as tight budgets can be impacted in a very negative manner when heating and electrical bills soar.

The CASMAN Academy Board of Education recently looked at energy usage through a new service that is provided by the SEEDS group. SEEDS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established to implement local solutions to global issues at the intersection of ecology, education and design.

“People at Manistee may be familiar with us because our after school programs that we ran here at CASMAN, Manistee High School and at Brethren,” said SEEDS’ Kevin Summers.

He said they also do some energy usage analysis work, which is what they did recently for CASMAN Academy.

“SEEDS recently completed a project with the Michigan Energy Office where they look at rural, school and churches,” he said. “We also give recommendation on what can be done with the energy benchmark report to improve your energy costs.”

He Energy Benchmark is the first step in energy management.

CASMAN Academy may replace the old T-12 lights in the hallways of the school and could actually make money in the process to upgrade to LED lighting. (File photo)

CASMAN Academy may replace the old T-12 lights in the hallways of the school and could actually make money in the process to upgrade to LED lighting. (File photo)

“We look at how much how much you are using now based on 24 months of utility bills,”  said Summers. “So when I look at CASMAN, the energy costs over the past year were $14,630, of that electricity accounted for 42 percent and natural gas accounted for 58 percent.”

He said CASMAN would be be given Energy Star Portfolio Manager, program that is free to the public from the Energy Office. CASMAN can continue to enter its data in the future to monitor how the district is doing on energy costs. Summers said it would be their responsibility now to do that, but ultimately the utility companies should be able to do it.

“Energy Star Portfolio Manager gives you all kinds of graphs and reports to allow you to look at your energy use over the past two years,” he said. “Looking at your electricity now looks pretty stable and the natural gas obviously show you are using more in the winter, but overall doing very well.”

He told the CASMAN board that the Energy Star Portfolio Manager would give them a number that is called an energy star score, which compares the building to similar ones throughout the country.

“So you essentially get a score from zero to 100, and 100 is the best,” he said. “I was surprised at how high yours is, as your baseline first year score is 92. What is better is you have increased your energy efficiency since then, as it is now 97,” he said. “The national median score is 50.”

Summers said CASMAN is doing a lot of things right, but he couldn’t attribute it to one specific area without studying the matter more carefully.

“Your utility usage cost has gone down by 24 percent from your baseline year to the current one,” he said. “Your energy cost intensity, which is energy use per square foot, has gone from 95 cents a square foot to 72 cents a square foot. (They are) impressive scores so you are doing something right over here.”

CASMAN director Shelly VanVoorst said that despite being constructed in the 1950s, the building still is very efficient when it comes to energy. She said other steps have been taken by administration to help maintain lower costs.

“I know a few years ago we changed the ballasts in the lights to have more energy efficient lighting, she said. “We also had Consumers Energy go through, and they told us how to reduce energy costs. We also went through and re-sealed the windows and some of the cracked glass and stuff.”

VanVoorst attributed it to the efforts of custodian Raul Vasquez to keep heating costs in line.

“Raul deserves a lot of credit for that as he does a great job in monitoring that,” she said. “There are times in the winter where we will shut off heat in certain parts of the building that we are not using because we have the radiant heat through the floor.”

VanVoorst said she follows Vasquez’s lead when it comes to heating, and it has worked out well.

Summers told the board another area they should look at is LED lighting for certain parts of the building. He said it could result in savings.

The Michigan Energy Office would pay 50 percent of the cost of LED updates. On top of that Consumers Energy would pay more than 50 percent of the project.

“By replacing the old T-12 lights in the hallways the state will pay half the cost to replace and then Consumers Energy will pay you more than half the cost because you replaced them,” said Summers. “It’s free or you actually make some money off of it, for replacing your light bulbs. All you have to do is cover the janitor’s time to do it.”

VanVoorst said there is an interest in pursuing that.

“We are going to look forward into that grant with Consumers Energy and the Michigan Energy Office,” she said. “I think being able to do it without paying a dime out makes it all worthwhile.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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