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Lower utility costs the plan for Plymouth

August 27, 2010

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth School Corporation could be paying approximately $500,000 less for utilities for 2010 than in previous years.
Superintendent Dan Tyree said they needed to find ways to cut the school’s budget when the state made major cuts to the schools’ general fund this year and last.
Tyree gives much of the credit for the decrease in utility costs to Maintenance Director Dave Schoof. Schoof has been in the director’s position for the last 18 months and has been in the maintenance department for five years.
“The largest use of energy is at Plymouth High School,” Schoof said. “They have 46 percent of our energy use, so they became our largest target.”
He said variable speed/high efficiency motors have been installed at PHS.
Lighting in the varsity gym was replaced at a cost of $73,600, according to Schoof. However, the annual utility savings is approximately $51,255.
“We made up the difference in about a year and a quarter,” Schoof said.
Thermostats are set at the lowest possible setting at night now, according to Schoof. He said they have also spent time commissioning equipment to work as designed at peak efficiency.
He said, “We are very carefully managing the equipment and managing the facility.”
The have also taken a close look at the expense of using the chillers that provide air conditioning. “We have minimized the times for using the chiller to only if they are absolutely necessary,” Schoof said, adding that the chiller provides A/C for the entire building as opposed to the ability to have A/C in certain areas with a few exceptions. “Our goal is to increase the level of comfort with fewer calls.”
Educating the staff at the various schools in the system is also paying off, he said. “We keep the staff informed about what it does cost (utilities).”
Teachers are now logging off of computers when they are not needed and shutting off lights, he said, adding, “Nine cents a kilowatt hour doesn’t sound like much, but it really adds up.”
At one time, the school board was considering hiring an independent company to manage utility cost reductions.
However, Schoof said, “We are very much in line with other schools that are using energy management companies.” At school board meetings in the past, Tyree thanked several local residents who work in the gas and/or electric arena who made recommendations for energy savings. Tyree said, “Bill Langdon was the citizen most instrumental in teaching Schoof about energy savings. Langdon also brought in experts from Goshen College and Purdue University.”
Schoof said, “Things can turn. If we have zero temperatures in December, it could alter our plan and we can’t control rate increases. Right now, we are going on trends from using our data, but we only have a few years of data to compare.”
Tyree said, “Our goal is to save money, help the environment, and to qualify for an Energy Star Award. We have to have three years of data to be eligible for the award.”

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