NACS saving energy, world

Initiative conserves millions

April 17, 2018


Administrators are looking into renewable energy on the planned new elementary school. These are installed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo from Creative Commons

Carroll is a big school. With over 2,500 students and a teacher for about every 20 students, the amount of people using electricity and energy in the school is expansive. With lights turned on all day, food services preparing food, heating and cooling systems running, and after school activities going every night, the energy usage adds up.

NACS started fighting against the high school’s excessive energy usage in June of 2009. Energy manager Dave Hey was hired in the summer of 2009 to execute this program, only months after retiring from the position of athletic director, the school realized that they would need someone to run the new energy program for the high school.

“If you can change their attitudes, you can accomplish what this programs all about,” said Hey, speaking about the new energy program.

Habits formed to leave on lights, leave doors open, and keep windows ajar during the summertime are what helped contribute to the massive amount of energy waste before the energy program was implemented.

Hey says that with the help of company Synergistics, the school was able to form a plan to lower the net energy usage of the high school. By using data and statistical analysis, the company was able to form a plan to help the school lower not only the use of electricity and energy, but the heating and cooling bill, the electricity bill, and the excessive use of energy throughout the school.

One way the school is drastically reducing the use of electricity is through the heating and cooling system, which runs throughout the school, but as Hey and Head custodian Jeff Warner explained, a lot more goes into it then just heating and cooling the school.

The school is only heated in the classrooms, so one of the biggest things for teachers to do to save energy is to keep doors shut when not in use. The classrooms are also heated and cooled to only a certain extent, and the school operates on a 70/30 rule, which basically means that when the temperature outside is above seventy or below thirty, that is when the most heating and cooling is used in the building.

Jeff Warner also explained the school is split up into sections, each section being connected only to itself, and can be controlled by just cooling or heating that one specific area. By splitting the systems into sections throughout Carroll’s large area, the specific areas help reduce the use of energy.

For example, some of the systems are only turned on Monday-Friday, and are shut off during the summer time. Warner said the only heating and cooling section turned on all the time, all year long, is the front office and the freshman center office. The reason for this being, there are people all year long working in the office, meetings being conducted, and teachers coming in and out.

A second large factor to the heating and cooling system is summer school, which factors in to which sections of the school are continually cooled during the summertime. It has to be decided early on where summer school will take place, whether it will be contained in one section in the 10 to 12 building, or if it will be in the freshman center. This is an important topic because Warner and Hey don’t want to have to cool the entire building through summer, because of the wasted energy and wasted money that would come from excess cooling.

Most summers, summer school will most likely be in the freshman center. The lighting for this portion of the school year is also important, because some of the systems will turn off, and that is something needed to be controlled before the school year ends.

The problem with the system is the lack of outdoor circulation, something that is important to cleaning the air within the school. The filtering of air is extremely important to the health of students and staff throughout the building. While the school is saving on energy through not opening windows or having blind open, that in turn then traps in bacteria and viruses that the 2,400 students and staff bring in every day.

One step the school could take would be to not only invest in extremely good and efficient air filters can clean the smaller particles from the air, but also having more outdoor air circulation. They could also make it a priority to possibly put some plants around the school. Houseplants and plants in general help clean many pollutants out of the air, the main pollutant being carbon dioxide. The more plants that the school or any household can have, the cleaner and healthier the air. The plants would need sunlight, which requires windows being open.

Teachers are also told to keep their blinds shut during the daytime when the sun is out. This is an important step in saving energy, because this counts as a passive heating system. A passive heating system is sometimes intention, having windows exposed in order to heat homes and businesses, but having excess heat in the building and having heat escape through the windows can cause problems for the school and the heating bill.

AP Environmental teacher Jim Walker says in order to be smart and efficient, the school could invest in more efficient windows in order to trap more heat inside and reduce the amount of air and sun heat coming from outside.

“Closing the blinds forms a gas layer that make it harder for heat to escape than through solid surfaces,” said Walker. “That’s why they have teachers keep blinds closed.”

By creating a bubble of gas between the window and the blinds, it makes it harder for heat to escape during the winter, and by keeping the blinds closed during the warmer parts of the school year, they block the UV light from coming into the school, decreasing the amount of heat the school has in it.

“If the windows that faced south could be opened in the winter, that would be most beneficial for the school,” said Walker. “That would allow sunlight to come in a naturally heat the school, reducing the cost.”

A newer addition to the energy saving program is the lights in the parking lot, which are programed to turn off at a certain time in the morning, and turn on at a certain time at night. This seems like a simple action, but has to be programmed and programmed often, with changing sunlight exposure throughout the school year.

The school has saved a very large amount of money, an amount that has helped the school realize the investment of an energy program benefits them throughout the years they have been implementing the program. This money can be put to use more towards education, instead of spending money on electricity and heating bills.

This push to save energy has saved so much money for the school, and although the bills have gone down because of the implementation of this program, Walker says it may be because of something else.

“In the past five to six years, the price of oil has significantly gone down,” said Walker. “This has most likely contributed to the amount of money spent on electricity for the school.”

Because OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, who controls a large percentage of oil around the world) has lowered gas prices and raised oil production, the price for American’s has gone significantly down. The reason for the increase of oil production has not only been because of the demand for oil, but because of OPEC wanting to be in higher demand of other types of oil produced around the globe, such as tar sand or shale oil, produced in Canada and America.

The energy program has greatly reduced the use of electricity throughout the school system, but has greatly reduced the impact of NACS on the environment. Through the implementation of energy saving techniques, the school has saved 1,491,262 tree seedling grown for 10 years, taken the equivalent of 12,116 cars off the road, totalling 58,159 metric tons of CO2 from getting into the atmosphere. This is a huge accomplishment for the NACS community, since CO2 is one of the largest atmospheric pollutants in the world, and NACS has contributed to the decrease of pollution.

“One way we are trying to increase the energy saving is to implement renewable energy in the new elementary,” says Superintendent Dr. Himsel.

Himsel says that in order to implement renewable energy sources for NACS they have to perform a cost benefit analysis for both geothermal and solar energy for the new elementary school. Hiimsel says that they might be okay with spending a little more on geothermal or solar energy because it would not only benefit NACS through costs in the future, but would reduce the pollution levels in the atmosphere, helping get rid of a large amount of climate change causing pollutants.

In regards to the renewable energy sources for the new elementary school, walker says that the best option would most likely be the geothermal source because it would be able to be implemented through the whole school, and be the most reliable to have in the long run. The cost would be large up front, but in the long run it would pay for itself and be usable for so many years that it would save the school a large sum of money.

Since prices for solar cells from imports into the United States have gone up recently, and the maintenance and replacement rates are so high, it would be much too hard and pricey for the school to save in the future. Solar panels also have to have a large surface area to be functional and smart, so unless the school would wants to take up most of the roof or a large amount of land around the school, geothermal would be the way to go.

Another smart option, Walker says, could be to possibly install geothermal heating to just a small portion of the high school, such as the freshman center. A system installed into the already functioning freshman center might be a large investment right now, but would also be a smart and beneficial investment to the future.

The motion sensors in the hallway have played a big part in reducing our energy consumption and bill for the school, but every energy saving system has its own problems. By having motion detector lights, they turn off when there is no motion in the hallways. The problem being, the timer is set to about 10-15 minutes, which means that they will turn off ONLY if there is no motion for fifteen minutes. This creates a tough situation because if one student walks through the hallway every fifteen minutes those lights will not turn off.

The school could reduce the motion sensors for every 5 minutes, but Hey says that could create a safety issue for custodians at night or for students coming in and out of the school. Though reducing the time would use less energy and reduce the bill, safety is always a key factor throughout the school system.

In regards to future plans for the energy system, the school is now working on trying to change all the lights throughout the building to LED lightbulbs. These light bulbs would be a huge investment for the school because not only are the bulbs cheaper for the school to run, the lights run for a longer period of time. The upfront cost of the LED light bulbs are more than normal lights for schools and businesses, but the bulbs run for an average life span of 50,000 hours, and if those are run for 12 hours a day, which is about normal for the school, they will run  for about 11 years.

These bulbs are also 66 percent more efficient than the lights NACS current runs on. This is a huge improvement, because it decrease the amount of energy wasted from excess heat loss, and energy lost just running to the lights.

With student activities happening all over the school, even elementary schools are trying to help elementary students learn about saving energy. There are some teachers that have a “light monitor” who has to make sure all of the lights are turned off when students leave the room. Students in high school can take note of this, says Hey, and turn off anything they see running in classrooms that doesn’t need to be on, or letting someone know if they see something that isn’t right going on in regards to energy or electricity.

Himsel says he is optimistic about the overall energy programs and the future.

“It all starts with a big bang in order for something to take off,” says Himsel.

In order to make the potential for using renewable energy and making smarter choices for the environment through the school system, support from not only the community and the school board, but support for students and staff is needed.

The continual support from staff has helped turn the energy program into a reality from 2010 to now. The school has saved 35 percent of electricity and money within the past 10 years, and hopes to continue the success in energy saving and money savings. This whole program is helping contribute to the decrease in pollution for the environment and the decrease in wasted energy.

Dr. Himsel also says  student lead programs are always welcome, as long as educational purposes are in place and seen as beneficial to students. He said this after the idea of education for younger students about saving energy and how it helps the planet.

“We could not have done this program without not only the teachers, but the lunch staff, the custodians, and office staff,” said Hey. “They have been such a big help.”

If any student is interested in possibly helping start a program for younger students or in learning more about energy saving techniques and how it benefits the world, please send questions or comments to

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