Filling Budget Gaps with Energy Savings through Building Automation Technology

Filling Budget Gaps with Energy Savings through Building Automation Technology

  • Technology
  • July 9, 2022
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  • 6 minutes read

Many organizations are facing gaps in their budgets right now or will be addressing them in the coming years. For the purposes of this article, I will use Schools as an example of my type of installation; however, the challenges and solutions indicated apply to most types of facilities in all sectors, whether industrial, commercial or institutional.


Here are the top three budget challenges schools will face soon:

  1. The funds of the ESSER (Primary and Secondary Emergency Aid) will have been exhausted
  2. The shortage of educators and competition in the educational labor market requires an increase in salaries and bonuses to attract and retain good employees.
  3. Inflation rate of 8.6% in May 2022
  4. Short-term electricity costs (cost per kWh) are expected to increase by 3% (US Energy Information Administration)

This will cause problems for school districts to find sources of funding for new construction and renovations. It may even be necessary to access emergency funds to complete the year. It will be much thinner than in previous years and will create gaps that will need to be filled. Districts may be struggling to find the money they need to work. Contractors will do the same.

What is the solution?

The filling of the energy vacuum: One of the best sources of “gap filling” is in energy saving. Energy management can help keep a construction program going. You don’t have to go at the expense of suffocating classrooms. Some of the simplest projects and strategies can save a lot of money. If energy can focus on areas of air conditioning, lighting, building envelope, etc., both vendors and school districts can benefit and fill these gaps by saving energy.

There are always the non-LED lights, the single-panel glass windows, the doors, or the old roof unit that needs to be made. Contractors could offer free inspections of buildings and help districts locate areas for improvement by offering energy recovery as a solution. You can find a project that has never been achieved that is still waiting.

The filling of building automation gaps: One of the best tools for “energy vacuum diffusion” is building automation systems (BAS) or energy management systems (EMS). They do so much more than turn things on or off. There are a variety of things that the right system can do that will save you money by filling these gaps. Upgrading a building automation system can lead to huge savings.

The use of time can be a great recovery. SC middle school, for example, only needs to run one whole campus about 2,400 hours out of 8,760 a year. That’s 6,360 hours where you can save. A district can save up to 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply returning the setpoint temperature from 7 to 10 ° F for 8 hours a day from its busy setting (U.S. Department of Energy). This is a great source of revenue, mostly because the average school district spends about $ 2 million a year.

Repair time = Windshield time: Windshield time can cost a lot. Hourly labor rates, high gasoline prices, and even higher vehicle maintenance are a great second place to start looking for gap gaps. Avoiding a service call can save you $ 40 an hour. up to $ 50 / hour. Remote access to the BAS for calls for air conditioning, electricity or even water heaters can help determine if one is legitimate or not. This can also help identify and prioritize “necessary” rooms that are emergencies and others that are not.

Replacement versus repair: South Carolina schools run on two main budgets: general and capital. The best way to transfer money from capital in general is in energy saving. The second best is deferred maintenance costs. With return on investment (ROI) studies, a district is more likely to know which path to take to replace or repair. Lifecycle cost analysis (LCCA) should include energy use and deferred maintenance cost.

Energy can be used to help fill the budget gaps that will challenge schools in the near future. If they were prepared now, the gaps would be smaller and more distant for both the contractor and the school district.

Tony Holcomb is an energy consultant for Harris Integrated Solutions. He is a retired director of Maintenance and Operation of Georgetown County Schools in South Carolina. He served three years as vice president of the South Carolina Association of Energy Managers, won the South Carolina Director of Energy of the Year in 2016, and won the Carolina Energy of the Year Project. of the South in 2013. For Holcomb, his greatest professional success was not having to increase the energy budget of the Georgetown County School District for 14 years, helping to keep teachers busy and students learning.

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