This case study describes the installation of 548 ecobee EMS thermostats in 10 elementary schools and 1 District office in the Westside School
District located 70 miles north of Los Angeles, California. With two more schools being built within the District, a total of over 600 ecobee EMS thermostats will be installed at the end of project completion. By choosing the ecobee EMS instead of Building Automation Systems, the Westside School District was able to save approximately 75%. Additionally, the School District continues to see significant energy savings month over month at each location.
The Westside School District has a total of 11 sites (10 elementary schools and 1 District office), and is in the process of building two additional elementary schools over the next 9-12 months. Ranging from 166 to 1,121 students in each school, the school District covers an area of 360 square miles, and each school consists of roughly 40% portables. Classrooms in each school are approximately 900-1000 square feet, and multipurpose rooms such as cafeterias and gymnasiums range from 9000-12,000 square feet.
Originally, 4 of the schools were outfitted with Energy Management Systems, while the remaining 6 were controlled by individual basic programmable thermostats in each of the classrooms, offices and multipurpose rooms. For the schools without Energy Management Systems, monitoring heating and cooling, and managing energy consumption was extremely time consuming, unpredictable, and frustrating for
Administrators had to rely on the evening janitorial staff to check and adjust every programmable thermostat in each of the buildings to ensure the heat or air conditioning wasn’t running all night—or worse—all weekend or during holidays. Not only was it a time consuming process, but it was also not guaranteed, and oftentimes several thermostats would be missed. If teachers came into the facility on holidays or weekends, or if after school or weekend programs were running, sometimes the heat or air conditioning would be left on for days without anyone catching it. Frustrated with the inefficiency, wasted energy and money—Bob Abel, Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services for the Westside School District knew it was time to begin looking into alternatives.
In 2010, Bob began searching for a solution that would allow him to control the heating and cooling for the entire District from one
location—remote access was a must. Located 70 miles north of Los Angeles, the region traditionally experiences extreme weather, so acquiring a system that would send alerts if the equipment and pipes were at risk of being damaged was also essential.
According to the quotations they received, in order to simply update the existing Energy Management Systems it was going to cost an estimated
$45,000-$50,000 per school. Additionally, it would have cost significantly more if they wanted to install new Energy Management Systems in the 6 schools currently functioning on basic programmable thermostats.
Recommended to Bob was the ecobee EMS product. After conducting his own research and realizing that ecobee had the potential to meet all
of the school Districts’ needs—at a small fraction of the cost— the Westside School District decided to move forward with ecobee.
One facility at a time, the Westside School District began installing a whopping 548 ecobee EMS thermostats in the District office and school
locations. The ability to position the Equipment Interface up to a maximum of 1250 feet away from the HVAC equipment made for a simple, straightforward installation. In some cases, the Equipment Interface was encased in a waterproof box and installed directly into the Roof Top Units (RTU’s), and in other cases it was positioned above drop ceilings. Additionally, installing the ecobee EMS thermostats into portables was a breeze because there was no need to run any additional wires.
An ecobee EMS thermostat was installed in every classroom and office, while multipurpose rooms such as gymnasiums and cafeterias each had
several. With 10 schools and 1 District office to outfit with ecobee EMS thermostats, the installation was done after school hours and during the summer months, and according to Bob Abel “was really quite simple and straightforward.”
After installing the ecobee EMS units, the Westside School District has been able to realize tremendous benefits including increased efficiency for staff and significant cost and energy savings.
Time and Efficiency
Prior to installing the ecobee EMS product, District administration staff would have to travel to each school at the beginning of the school year and set programs on each of their basic programmable thermostats. With schools located across an area of 360 square miles, and with thermostats numbering in the hundreds, this was a huge undertaking for maintenance staff—and took up weeks of their time. Now, the heating and cooling for all 10 schools in the District can be controlled remotely from anywhere with an internet connection within minutes with the secure ecobee Web Portal.
Additionally—and in the case of most Schools and School District—statutory holidays, PD days, spring and summer breaks fall on different days year over year, and school closures due to extreme weather conditions cannot be planned for. Now, with ecobee’s easy to use Web Portal, the Westside School District has the flexibility to create schedules according to a 365 day schedule, and making simple changes to account for unexpected closures could be done quickly from anywhere with an internet connection.
Cost and Energy Savings
On the installation alone, the Westside School District was able to save approximately 75% by choosing the ecobee EMS product, as opposed to updating existing/installing new Energy Management Systems.
The ongoing energy and cost savings the school District has been able to achieve are also quite significant. For instance, they no longer have to worry about thermostats being left in “hold” mode overnight, or on weekends or holidays. Each of the EMS thermostats have been configured so that staff can adjust the temperature by 4 degrees to reach their desired comfort level, but the system will automatically revert back to the original program after 2 hours. Now, the Westside School District can be sure that they are always running the right schedule at the right place at the right time. Having the ability to customize the EMS thermostats based on their specific needs through the secure ecobee Web Portal has resulted in significant energy and cost savings.
“Every morning I log onto my ecobee Web Portal to make sure there are no Alerts that need to be attended to. I also look at the HVAC Reports and track the equipment performance history at each of the sites to make sure everything is running smoothly. If there is an issue, I automatically go to the HVAC Reports in my ecobee Web Portal to remotely troubleshoot. That way, I can get a good idea of what the issue is and create a work order based on that information. I can then send maintenance personnel or an HVAC technician out to the site to check out the issue before it becomes a bigger, more costly problem,” said Bob Abel, Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services, Westside School District.