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How Local Schools in Michigan Are Saving Energy This Fall

Let’s Get Back to School…And Save Energy!

Back to school season is here! While we may be focusing on busy schedules, school supplies and new challenging subjects, it’s important to also bring attention to energy use in the building. Local schools have tapped into many of the great offers to help the year’s budget go further.

Efficient Energy, Happier School

Westwood Heights Schools in Flint is in the middle of an energy efficiency project that is already paying dividends for staff and students.

Despite past challenges, including students impacted by the Flint water crisis, school administrators were committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment.

The Michael Hamady Middle & High School more than doubled its student population, from 850 students in 2012-2013 to over 1,750 students in the 2021-2022 school year. By focusing on the future, they are working to rise above unfortunate circumstances to ensure students’ success.

The five-year project is taking shape with $82,199 in anticipated annual cost savings. The project has not only won Consumers Energy Project of the Year, it is also creating a positive environment for staff and students.

Jill Diliberti, Energy Manager at Genesee Intermediate School District, is so excited by their results that she was eager to share their experience.

Why did the school district undertake this project back in 2019?
Prior to that, the school had worked hard to get its energy consumption down and save on costs. The district implemented a program that was behavior based to get everyone involved. The next step was to assess the buildings. A lot of the mechanical and electrical equipment was outdated, and replacement parts were hard to come by. The district determined an energy reduction performance contract with Consumers Energy was the best option to help pay for the badly needed upgrades.

How have things been going? What are challenges and positives that have happened during course of project?
The updates are great! The new LED lighting looks terrific and gives an even and consistent light. They also produce less heat, keeping everyone cooler in warmer months.

We have a building automated system of HVAC controls, which help with ventilation and air quality, in addition to letting our maintenance view and adjust space temperatures throughout the entire building. COVID hit during the project work and everything temporarily came to a halt, but once contractors were able to get back on site the project picked up again. With with the help of the rebate dollars from Consumers Energy, we were able to expand our initial project scope and replace additional rooftop HVAC units, saving even more energy.

Would you recommend the program with Consumers Energy to other school districts?
Yes, definitely! Everyone should be eager to get those rebate dollars. Working with Consumers Energy’s engineers and advisors may help identify other energy efficiency solutions that may not have been considered. It’s an opportunity to receive money back for project work that will help a district be energy efficient and save on energy costs (in addition to enhanced air quality and lighting). These improvements are also beneficial to creating a better learning environment for students and staff. Why wait on something that will save your district dollars and has such an immediate result?

What type of impact has the project had on staff and students?
Air quality, consistent lighting and temperature maintenance have greatly reduced equipment issues and the amount of problem calls maintenance receives.

What does the future hold for clean energy at your school?
The district is very interested in clean energy and has already taken a step in that direction. As we were making the mechanical and electrical improvements, solar panels were also being installed right outside the schools. We currently have solar arrays at three of our buildings, which help to power the district.

Spreading the Word to Other Schools

As a newly appointed energy saving expert, Jill was asked if she would be willing to help share the experience with schools around Michigan. The result: A starring role in a Consumers Energy commercial.

How did it feel to star in the commercial with Consumers Energy? Did you get any feedback on it?
Making the “webisode” commercial was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it! (Editor’s note: Jill was a natural on camera and knocked it out of the park!)

After spending a day on set, there’s an appreciation of the hard work that goes into the production. What was so impressive and what you don’t realize (at least to someone not usually involved in that business) is there are so many different details that come together to make a video. During our production process, everyone was so professional and knowledgeable, so it all came together.

What was it like preparing for the commercial?
Luckily my role was to be an Energy Manager, which I do every day! I just had to be myself. A few weeks before, I was given a script to memorize. I even asked if I could change some wording, and they were very open and receptive to my questions.

Other Ways to Save

Upgraded building lighting and HVAC are two of the many options for schools to save energy, contribute to a cleaner planet and get the most out of funding. Other ideas include:

Invest in Energy Saving Power Strips
Classrooms today are technology heavy. With computers, smart boards, TVs and more, these devices can be a real drain on a school’s finances. And many continue to use energy even when turned off. To combat this ‘vampire energy’, consider discounted power strips that will save energy and your devices if you experience an outage. Shut down routines anytime you leave the classroom can help students learn about the importance of saving energy and become a fun activity before heading out.

Replace Inefficient Appliances
School kitchens, breakrooms and other appliance-heavy systems could be pulling significant energy – more than needed. With our rebates, the investment to upgrade may put this transformation within easy reach.

Outdoor Lighting
You have to be able to see the winning touchdown or goal, which means big, bright lights and a scoreboard to prove it. Consider energy efficient LED options to get brighter options that last longer and use less energy.

Get Students in On the Saving
We offer energy education opportunities for students and teachers. The free ThinkEnergy program even helps teachers earn $100 for the classroom. Each student also goes home with a free energy efficiency kit so families can benefit from reduced energy bills too.