BARTLETT — The Bartlett School Board has been interested in finding ways to make the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School more energy-efficient.
School board member Andrew Light, along with JBES Principal Joe Yahna and local civil engineer Burr Phillips, serve on the Green Committee.
They invited Mike Davey and Chris Roy from Energy Efficient Investments of Merrimack to last month’s school board meeting to share ideas for going green.
EEI has been meeting with the committee once a month since August and provided the board with an initial analysis of JBES at no cost.
Davey said the company works with school districts including Portsmouth, Manchester, Keene and Plymouth, and typically spends “anywhere from a year to a little bit longer than that” working with a community to assess a building and then look at the best way is to improve it.
“Then it’s really up to the community to figure out what the school should have going forward,” he said.
He mentioned fuel as one place where the district could make changes.
“In northern New Hampshire, a lot of us use No. 2 heating oil (which JBES currently uses). But in recent years, it’s been much cheaper to buy propane, and that can be burned more efficiently,” he said. He also noted that “wood heating has become increasingly popular throughout the state and that’s something where there are rebates and grants available.”
Davey said JBES currently has two boiler plants, and it might be more efficient to go with just one.
“Most schools of this size have a single boiler plant, but what happened is during one of the renovations to avoid disrupting the heating of the existing school, a second boiler planet was added out back. They’re both oil,” Davey said.
“It’s not as efficient to run two separate plants,” Davey said, adding, “It also means that there are four boilers to maintain because each set of boiler rooms has to work for redundancy.
“So, in the ideal world, if you were designing this school from scratch, you certainly wouldn’t put in two boiler plants. ... You would have propane heat with 99 percent efficient condensing boilers or you’d look for a wood heating solution with propane backup,” Davey told the board.
Davey said more districts, such as Plymouth’s, are transitioning to wood heating, which is cheaper to operate than propane or oil but also has higher infrastructure costs.
“So you have to buy a silo. You have to buy a separate wood boiler that only burns wood, and you typically would have oil or propane as a backup.”
Board member Scott Grant said he has confidence in No. 2 heating oil.
“I think oil is a very stable financial tool to be used for heating, especially since we were locked in for 18 months at a fixed price.”
EEI also found a few classrooms that did not meet the code required for ventilation.
“It was great technology for its day, but the number of people who can work on it are fewer and fewer,” Davey said. “In my lifetime in this industry, it hasn’t gone in, we’ve all only been taking it out of buildings.”
On the plus side, “the building has been very well-maintained,” he said. “So the taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth out of the systems that we’ve seen.”
LED lighting could be another way for the district to save money, Davey said, noting that “Plymouth went the LED route and its electric bill dropped down 43.5 percent.”
Davey said EEI will provide the board with “an option to go to high-efficiency propane boilers; an option to go to wood heat; an option to continue to maintain two separate boilers or to consolidate into one; to update the lighting controls; to add ventilation to areas that don’t have it, perhaps to add air conditioning, and “then we’ll give you a list and have this in a document that’s called an energy audit, an investment-grade energy audit.”
Davey said that EEI will develop data for an audit to present to the board by April or May and would meet a few times with the Green Committee in June or July.
“The committee typically makes their recommendation by October to the board, then the board in November will decide if (something) would go on as either a warrant article or a long-term budget plan or something else.”
Essentially, EEI hopes that one result of the audit is that the town will choose them to do the work of updating the school’s heating system, should voters decide to go that route.