Southern California’s Fontana Unified School District is only midway through a rooftop unit retrofit project and has already achieved $210,000 in annual energy savings, an amount that’s expected to double in summer 2019.
The $10.4 million project installed 201 high-efficiency rooftop units (RTUs) at four schools, with another 200 slated for next summer. The initial installation was an important step in overcoming cost and comfort challenges for the district, according to Robert Copeland, director of maintenance and operations for Fontana.
“We spent a lot of time visiting classrooms trying to figure out how to cool them down during the hottest times of the year,” Copeland says. “It was not an ideal classroom environment for our students.” - Robert Copeland
The success of the first phase of retrofits was recognized by the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance as part of its Advanced Rooftop Unit Campaign. The campaign shares best practices, evaluation data and technical expertise with participants to help identify cost-effective upgrade opportunities.
Fontana was recognized for having the highest number of RTU installations that met or exceeded the challenge specifications, which included single package air-cooled DX mechanical cooling units with a minimum IEER of 18 and an AFUE of 80 (or, for smaller units, a thermal efficiency of 80%). Costs for older commercial RTUs add up quickly, as they can waste $1,000 to $3,700 annually.
The school also benefited from financial incentives included in the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, also known as Proposition 39. This law allocates money to improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools.
“The project would not have been possible without the state of California making the investment in our energy modernization projects,” says Errol Glenn, Fontana Unified School District’s Director of Grants and Funding Development. “It’s a reminder of how vital energy conservation projects are to California taxpayers.”