School Learns About Energy Savings

June 1, 2011

A 2-year energy audit found that energy conservation measures could reduce the energy costs of an Ontario school system by nearly $2.4 million annually.

The measures, presented to the school system's officials, range from recaulking windows, adding insulation, and using more efficient lighting to new investments in advanced heat recovery systems and boilers, and solar and wind generating systems.

"We found that the school boards are already involved in implementing many of the more achievable energy conservation measures at their schools," says Samir Chidiac, professor of civil engineering at McMaster University and one of the lead organizers of the audit. "But they need support and decision tools to install technologies that will generate the greatest savings over the long term."

The audit was conducted by engineering faculty and students at McMaster University. The students first classified all of the schools into groups with similar characteristics (archetypes). The criteria for the archetypes included school size, operation, building envelope, electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilation system properties.

The students then visited a subset of the schools representing the various archetypes to conduct full energy audits. The findings for each school were applied to the rest of the schools in their archetype to calculate savings potential. This method reduced the time that would normally be required to fully audit all schools by 6 years.

"This archetype system can very easily be applied to any school system in a similar climate zone to calculate energy savings potential," explains Jim Cotton, associate professor of mechanical engineering at McMaster. "The opportunities for reduced energy consumption and cost savings are tremendous."

If all of the audit's recommendations were implemented in the school system, natural gas consumption could be reduced by more than 5 million cubic meters per year, or enough to heat more than 2,140 homes, and electrical consumption would be reduced by nearly 2.8 million kWh.

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