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Westside School District saves big with ecobee

by on May 8, 2012

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This case study describes the installation of over 600 ecobee EMS thermostats in 12 elementary schools and 1 District office in the Westside School
District in California.  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.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Ranging from 166 to 1,121 students in each school, the Westside 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.

Prior to installing ecobee, administrators had to rely on the evening janitorial staff to check and adjust every thermostat 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, and wasted energy—Bob Abel, Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services for the Westside School District knew it was time to begin looking into alternatives.

THE SOLUTION

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.

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 school district decided on ecobee.

THE INSTALLATION

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.  Installing ecobee into portables was a breeze because there was no need to run any additional wires. One unit was installed in every classroom and office, while multipurpose rooms such as gymnasiums and cafeterias each had several.

PROJECT OUTCOME

After installing ecobee, 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 ecobee, admin 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 the entire District can be controlled remotely from anywhere.

Additionally, statutory holidays, PD days, spring and summer breaks tend to fall on different days year over year, and school closures due to extreme weather conditions cannot be planned for.  Now they have the flexibility to make simple changes to account for unexpected closures.

Cost and Energy Savings

On the installation alone, the Westside School District was able to save approximately 75% by choosing ecobee, 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 thermostats have been configured so that staff can adjust the temperature by plus or minus 4 degrees to reach their desired comfort level, but the system will automatically revert back to the original program after 2 hours.  Now, they can be sure that they are always running the right schedule at the right place at the right time.

Remote Troubleshooting 

“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 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.