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Tiger Talk: Energy efficiency

Pine River-Backus Schools looks for energy efficiency in all projects we do. Here are some of the projects we’ve completed in recent years.

• Heating: The entire district has been equipped with a building automation system that allows room-by-room or building-by-building control with a single computer program.

This system also allows automated shutoff of district exhaust fans after hours and alternating startup times so we can eliminate peak demand in electric usage and cut costs.

The district has burners on the boilers that allow the burner to modulate down to meet demand without large spikes and drops.

• Lighting: The district recently replaced all T12 light fixtures with T8s, which are more efficient. Most classrooms are equipped with motion detectors for the lights. If rooms are left unoccupied for longer than the set period of time, the lights will automatically shut off.

All exit lights were upgraded from incandescent to fluorescent to LED in recent years. The exterior lights and parking lot lights are being converted to LED lights with longer life, higher efficiency and electrical energy savings.

• Building additions: In starting new building projects, like the recent early childhood addition, athletic addition and bus garage, the district tries to install energy efficient systems wherever possible.

The new additions are equipped with variable speed/high efficiency control motors on exhaust fans and water supply systems, T8 lighting with motion detectors and energy efficient windows. The additions have also been connected to the district’s building automation system. The bus garage was built with three stalls all equipped with in-floor heat and individual thermostats, allowing regulation of all depending on need.

• Cost savings and rebates: We are able to offset the costs of these projects by applying for rebates through Minnesota Power and Xcel Energy. The district has also been awarded grants through the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Power.

Over the last five to 10 years this has amounted to more than $55,000 in rebates and grants.

All of these projects are allowing the district to be more energy efficient. Cost savings from any one project are hard to calculate. For every project that saves on energy usage, another project is completed that adds to energy usage — new computer labs, Smart Boards in all classrooms, etc.