8th-grade students uncover potential energy savings at CMS
December 25, 2010
Kaleb Bugay, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, said his eyes have been opened.
"Seeing how much energy and how much money we're spending on lighting just seems unbelievable," Bugay said. "We're spending $19,000 (a year) in lighting alone.
Bugay was speaking of the energy consumption at CMS.
He was among 18 students of Norm Yoast's eighth-grade enrichment program who performed an energy audit on the school from mid-October to early December.
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On Dec. 14, the students presented their findings to the Moffat County School Board. And, on Dec. 15, the students made the same presentation to an audience of parents, teachers and fellow students during a luncheon for members of the school's gifted and talented program.
The students narrated PowerPoint slides with some help from Yoast.
"We did an energy audit on our new building," Yoast said during his introduction. "We were kind of wondering how efficient it was."
The answer, as explained by students, is that CMS wastes energy through an overabundance of lighting, excessive charging of laptop computers, gaps beneath doors, and more.
To uncover theses answers, Yoast said students used electronic tools such as a light meter, an infrared thermometer, and devices called Kill-A-Watt meters.
"We purchased five of the Kill-A-Watt meters, and those are great because you can program them to your current electrical (rate), plug them into anything you have in your home, and it tells you how much electricity you're using per hour or day," he said. "This is where we got most of our data for our computers, the TVs, things like that."
By using the Kill-A-Watt meters, students discovered that the school's computers and TVs were drawing power even when turned off.
Yoast said this type of energy consumption is called phantom draw.
"What we found is computers have what's called a pre-warmer to help everything start up faster," he said. "So, they're always drawing some electricity."
The students determined that the school could save $850 per year by using power strips to cut power to the school's 105 desktop computers every night.
The audit also found that the school's 28 laptops draw power for 16 hours on a charging station every night, when an hour and a half would suffice.
The school could save $3.76 per day by setting a timer on the charging station to cut power after laptops are fully charged.
The big money, however, is lost through lighting. Students found that CMS spends $19,267 per year in lighting costs.
Students used a light meter to assess the light output in classrooms, hallways and other spaces. They determined that the brightness at CMS far exceeds the minimum output required by Colorado state standards.
The standard measurement for light is called a LUX, the students explained.
The state requires a minimum output of 376 LUX in classrooms and 50 LUX in hallways.
However, the students determined that the lighting output ranges from 800 to 1,200 LUX in their classroom, and 800 to 1,100 LUX in hallways.
The students suggested the school could reduce its lighting output by an average of 50 percent across all spaces and still meet state standards.
The savings could equal $8,000 to $9,000 a year.
The students also recommended weather stripping and window blinds to reduce heating costs, and more.
The students said their audit also revealed positive news concerning the school's energy consumption.
The new building was fitted with 90 percent–efficient heating boilers and tankless water heaters, motion sensors in classrooms that automatically turn off lights in empty rooms, a computer-controlled heating-and-cooling system, and more.
Superintendent Joe Petrone attended both presentations by Yoast's students.
"It's very gratifying to see our eighth-grade students have done such an extensive audit of their own energy consumption," Petrone said.
Petrone said the students' presentation will be taken seriously.
"That's the exciting part," he said. "Their enthusiasm, and their inquisitive nature can uncover information that we can absolutely use as we move forward in optimizing our use of energy in the district."
Bugay's mother, Jennifer Bugay, attended the students' second presentation. She said the audit was a worthy exercise for her son.
"This has been more challenging for him," Jennifer said. "It's not just a diorama that they're making, or a book report that they're doing. It's actually putting into practice the skills that they have.
"I think it's good for him, he likes math and science, and he's interested in some type of engineering or architectural degree, so this has really spoken to him and spurred him a little bit to try harder."