TEMPERANCE - Bedford Public Schools' buildings may be "greener" than many Michigan schools, but there's room for improvement, according to a recent state energy audit.
Nicholas Evans, a staff engineer with the energy office of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, surveyed Bedford's school buildings late this summer and delivered his analysis to the board of education last month.
His conclusions: the district could save much-needed money by changing some light bulbs and shutting down appliances when not in use.
Mr. Evans' inspection didn't cost the district anything. It was conducted under a statewide energy-saving initiative called Rebuild Michigan, in which state and local governments and schools are audited to improve energy performance.
"Schools for the most part are very anxious to participate," explained Tim Shireman, the project manager for the Rebuild Michigan Program. "We've got an economic situation where the schools' revenue is uncertain and schools are looking to save any way they can."
Mr. Shireman said the 10-year-old free program has already audited 50 government buildings and school districts the first nine months of this year, about what the program has averaged for a whole year.
"In most schools, their second-largest line items are utilities, right after salaries," Mr. Shireman said. "If they can cut their expenditures in that area by [becoming more energy efficient], they can put those funds right back into their operations."
For its part, Bedford fared better than most schools in the state in a comparison of energy usage per square foot, but none of the buildings achieved a certification for energy efficiency.
Among the report's conclusions:
•The district spent almost $750,000 a year on natural gas and electricity, about two-thirds of which is spent on electricity.
•Douglas Road and Monroe Road elementary schools are the district's most energy-efficient buildings.
•Replacing the district's fluorescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient fluorescent fixtures could achieve a 30 percent or more reduction in electricity costs.
•It would cost less to discard and replace the perishable items than to operate refrigeration units during summer months.
•Installing timers on water coolers and pop machines and removing lighting from vending machines will save electricity.
"The biggest return for us is going to be the lighting," said Ted Magrum, Bedford's assistant superintendent for finance. "We're going to concentrate on those areas [of the energy audit] where the payback is going to be five years or less and work our way through those.
"The report said we look pretty good [relative to other Michigan schools], but there's always room for us to improve," he said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: