Charleston County School District shaves millions off its energy bill

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 3:28 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 8:10 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Replacing a few lightbulbs might not seem like a big deal, but when your enterprise has more than 100 buildings, thousands of rooms and lighting for parking lots and athletic facilities, the costs can add up.

However, swapping out old lightbulbs for more energy efficient ones is all part of a targeted efforted by the Charleston County School District to reduce its overall energy consumption.

Associate of Facilities Management Ron Kramps says the program saves the taxpayer about $5 million a year.

“We spend about $13 million a year on our utility bill, just to power all the computers in the classrooms and the lights and all that stuff that’s going on in the classroom,” Kramps said. “Whatever I can save in the energy program can go back to education programs in the school.”

Lightbulbs are the low hanging fruit according to Kramps, which he says pay for themselves in about two years. The big-ticket energy savers are projects that upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and fix up older buildings.

“We’ll do roofing and window and door replacements that tighten up the facility. So we’re getting a little bit better controlled infiltration or less uncontrolled infiltration of air coming through openings, window and doors,” Kramps said. “I’ve spent about $60 million just over the last five years on HVAC projects.”

Next year, Kramps says the facilities department has about 100 projects in the works. While every project they do will have an energy efficiency component, he says half of them are being done exclusively to reduce the energy bill.

“You’re trying to do a few different things,” Kramps said. “You’re trying to save natural resources at the big picture perspective, burning less coal or natural gas, or what have you to create energy. But really, we’re trying to save dollars and in the school district.”

The efforts are paying off. Throughout the 2021 school year, energy usage per square foot has decreased 4.2%, despite the increased usage of air purifiers to combat COVID.

In the last 21 years, the district’s square footage has increased by 74% while energy usage has only increased by 15%. The practical upshot of which is a total decrease of about 37% of energy used per square foot.

“Certainly, the newer schools are going to perform the best in terms of energy consumption. But you know, you go to a place like Morningside Middle School, which is an older school, we did a lighting project there just a few years ago,” Kramps said. “Generally speaking, the older schools need a little bit more attention than the newer schools, but my capital maintenance program is very much needs based.”

Part of the program is an incentive program that rewards schools for encouraging teachers and students to reduce energy consumption by turning off lights and unplugging devices that aren’t being used.

Kramps says they’ll give out about $350,000 to schools with programs that enhance education around energy conservation. Kramps says they inspect schools seven times a year to see if devices are unplugged, blinds are pulled and lights are off.

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