It’s ‘lights out’ for Niles SchoolsPublished 12:03pm Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star
Greg Gunder’s job is to turn the lights out at Niles Community Schools.
Actually, any use of electricity that could be avoided to save money: scented plug-ins, digital clocks, pop machine lights, computer monitors … you name it.
“Lava lamps, believe it or not,” he added.
Gunder is an “energy educator” for Niles’ Cost Avoidance Program, which for more than a decade has monitored the schools’ energy use. He updated the Board of Education on the program Monday night.
There are many facets to the program, and many factors that contribute to wasted energy, from cold weather to above-average usage.
“I look for unusually high usage or costs up from a year ago,” Gunder said.
For example, he discovered they were being needlessly taxed by one utility company, and remedied the situation.
The Cost Avoidance Program saved Niles High School alone $62,000 from September 2008 through September 2009.
“I want to use the term ‘savings’ lightly – it’s an ‘avoidance,’” Gunder pointed out.
He explained he also tries to change the staffs’ habits, like encouraging a janitor to leave more lights off while she was working.
“I sometimes leave notes,” Gunder said. If that doesn’t work, he will get on “hands and knees and pull the plugs.”
But his job is not as easy as just making sure computers are turned off at night. Last month was the coldest October since 2000, so heating costs were up. Also, the program requires a monetary investment in energy conservation, like purchasing newer lighting.
“It takes money to save money,” Gunder said.