Desert Valley Elementary School has received an Energy StarTM Award for energy conservation efforts that could be used as a model for schools throughout the Bullhead City Elementary and Colorado River Union High school districts. The award follows a competition among the six schools in the elementary district.
Superintendent Riley Frei presented the award to Desert Valley principal Cynthia Cochran and her staff during a recent Bullhead City Elementary School District board meeting.
Earlier bond financing provided the $1.6 million in energy saving retrofitting for the six schools, with repayment included in reduced energy bills over 15 years or less.
Most light fixtures and some cooling systems were included.
While year-over-year utility bill savings are still being calculated, Desert Valley has already been advised that its carbon dioxide offset is the equivalent of 541 saved trees so far.
Cochran said that some of the energy saving transitions were easy, while others required adjustment from the way things had been done for years. Her “energy awareness” team leaders agreed.
“Any device with a remote control is pulling energy 24/7,” said fourth grade teacher Deborah Kane. “Putting it on a power strip to turn off at night, weekends and holidays saves ‘phantom energy.’ This was the greatest revelation for me.”
Those devices include, but are not limited to, computer monitors, printers and speakers.
Among Desert Valley’s other changes:
- Classroom temperatures are kept between 74 and 78 degrees when air conditioning is used, and 68 to 72 degrees when heaters are used; doors remain closed when heating and cooling units are on
- Unoccupied areas have lighting manually turned off rather than relying on automated switches or timers, which may take longer
- Half-lighting is used in the cafeteria during non-meal times; lighting is still required for student safety because they use the cafeteria to move between some classes.
- Custodians turn on lighting only in areas in which they are working, and use half-lighting in classrooms and hallways
- Reminders have been placed near light switches, and faculty and staff members monitor and encourage each other
- Students are involved in both energy education and energy conservation, including through a “watt watcher” program
- Energy conservation information is posted and updated in Desert Valley’s front lobby
Additionally, trees were planted on the Desert Valley campus as part of Operation Cool Shade, an annual joint project of Mohave Electric Cooperative and the City of Bullhead City. Informational brochures and teaching materials were provided by Unisource Energy.
“What makes the energy savings program work is a change in behavior,” said Frei. “Each of our principals was challenged to create a committee and come up with ideas. It’s been a healthy competition for all.”
Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through energy efficiency. The Energy Star program was established by the EPA under President George H.W. Bush in 1992, as part of the Clean Air Act.