Harford County Public Schools Scores an "A" in Efficiency

Located about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) is the educational home for more than 38,000 students in grades K–12. School officials there believe that providing students with a 21st century education requires a 21st century learning environment. Perhaps that's why the sustainability of its facilities ranks among HCPS's core values.

Leading its sustainability initiatives is Andrew Cassilly. As resource conservation manager, Cassilly works with the individual facility managers to use resources wisely and minimize operating costs. With the help of BGE's Smart Energy Savers Program®, HCPS recently completed upgrades to improve energy efficiency in 42 schools, a step that will cut energy use by more than 10 million kilowatt-hours and save an estimated $1.2 million annually in energy costs.

Savings at a Glance

Harford County Public Schools upgraded the lighting and HVAC systems in 42 of its schools to reduce energy costs and improve the learning environment for students and teachers.

  BGE programs used: BGE Energy Solutions for Business, Building Tune-up
  Number of BGE rebate applications: 150+
  Energy savings: 10,158,033 kWh/year
  Cost savings: $1,218,964/year
  Incentives paid: $2,479,306


The Opportunity

HCPS operates a total of 54 schools, including elementary, middle and high schools, as well as special and alternative education centers. This includes 2,440 classrooms in which more than 3,600 teachers deliver their lessons. Beyond the school day, these facilities also serve as community centers. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, church groups and other organizations sign out rooms after hours and on weekends for their events. With so many buildings, many with outdated and inefficient equipment, the opportunity for improving energy efficiency was substantial.

"Our first goal was to replace T12s," Cassilly says, referring to the outdated fluorescent lamps now being phased out in favor of more efficient lamps, such as T8s and T5s. "Once we learned about BGE's Energy Solutions for Business Program and the variety of financial incentives available, it became easier and more cost-effective to roll out our plans across the school system." In fact, the T12s were just the beginning.

The BGE Solution

HCPS reviewed its entire portfolio of schools and identified opportunities to upgrade the old and inefficient lighting; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and kitchen equipment in most of the schools. BGE's Energy Solutions for Business Program made the process easy, quick and affordable. Predetermined prescriptive incentives for the lighting and kitchen equipment made figuring out the incentive levels simple and clear cut, as no complex engineering analysis was required.

School by school, HCPS systematically replaced the old T12 lamps and ballasts in classrooms, offices and hallways with energy-efficient T8 and T5 systems, helping lower lighting-related energy use by up to 50%. "We went gung-ho after this low-hanging fruit, maximizing use of the incentive dollars to make improvements across the board," Cassilly says. Fallston Middle School, for example, was among those with the most antiquated lighting. "What really jogged in my brain is that the combination of available incentives and ongoing energy savings brought the payback down to under a year. That's incredibly quick for a lighting retrofit in a large middle school."

Installation of new LED exterior wall pack lighting and motion sensors not only helped reduce energy use but also minimize light pollution, a boon to neighbors and student stargazers at HCPS's environmental education center. Plus, says Christine Langrehr, principal at Forest Lakes Elementary School, "Parents [have] remarked on the additional lighting outside the school with regard to improved safety and security."

Next, kitchen and refrigeration equipment in cafeterias and dining areas was replaced with high-efficiency models. HCPS also added occupancy controls to beverage and snack vending machines, a measure that will reduce related energy consumption by about 10%.

HVAC systems were another target for upgrades. Cassilly's team installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on the HVAC equipment in numerous schools. VFDs control the frequency and speed at which motors operate, allowing energy managers to adjust the motor speed based on occupancy. HCPS also installed temperature controls in classrooms, offices and hallways.

The school system took advantage of BGE's custom program to install a chilled water system. The custom program provides incentives for more complex, site-specific projects. HCPS project managers and engineers worked with BGE’s program staff to complete the proper calculations and submit backup documentation to obtain approval for the project. The effort helped maximize the incentive dollars based on the specific circumstances of the facility. In the end, the custom chiller project qualified for incentives that covered 50% of the costs.

In addition, HCPS is leveraging the technical services element of the program to incorporate energy efficiency into the design for a new building at Magnolia Middle School. Working with an approved technical services provider, the school system is incorporating high-performance lighting and occupancy sensors, as well as a high-efficiency HVAC system, into the plans.

The Benefits

The benefits of these projects are many. One is reducing operating costs. "We're taking money traditionally used to operate our buildings and diverting it to programs that serve the student population," Cassilly says. Another is the improvement to the educational environment. "By upgrading lighting and our HVAC systems, we’re creating a much better learning environment."

The new lighting is perhaps the most noticeable. Principal Langrehr recalls one teacher's comment: "The new lighting creates an energy when I walk through the doors each day that wasn’t there before." She adds that the new lighting eliminated the buzzing sound associated with the older magnetic ballast lighting. Even the kids have noticed a difference: The morning after the lighting upgrade at one school, a student walked inside and asked, "Did we get a new floor?"

The lighting upgrades also solved a couple safety and maintenance issues. For one, new LED lighting lasts much longer, meaning fewer ladder ascents to change out spent bulbs. This is especially important for those hard-to-reach fixtures in stairwells. What's more, the LEDs are sealed, so insects are securely locked out.

The school system's carbon footprint and overall sustainability benefit as well. "We strive to practice what we teach," Cassilly says. "Teachers are now using our energy reduction calculations in their lessons on energy efficiency and alternative energy." Up next, HCPS is looking at other upgrade possibilities. "We're delving into building tune-ups in multiple schools," Cassilly says. BGE's Smart Energy Savers Program was a major factor in helping the school system pursue its energy efficiency goals. "The incentives enabled us to really stretch our dollars and go after more projects."

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