GONZALES — Johnson Controls, a performance improvement consultant contracted by local governments, addressed Gonzales City Council on Tuesday Oct. 3, during council's regularly-scheduled meeting.
Johnson Controls writes performance improvement guidelines, supporting new infrastructure, to create efficiency in municipalities.
The firm’s representative, Richard Gibbens, said Johnson Controls can save the city more than $141,000 in one year’s time, which could be used for upgrades, to save even more money and pay for the upgrades.
According to Gibbens, he and his team spent time in Gonzales and found several areas where the city could make money-saving improvements.
One area of interest to his firm was lighting. The city currently has multiple forms of lighting in and outside of all of the city’s building.
“Approximately 40 percent of the energy used in the city is being consumed by the lights,” Gibbens said. “Your city has a lot of old, inefficient lighting.”
Gibbens showed council examples of the antiquated lighting he found, including old T-12 fluorescent lights.
“They don’t even manufacture these bulbs in the United States anymore,” he said. “They run on 77 watts per bulb, where a new LED bulb is 14 watts.”
According to Gibbens, this can add up and cost the city a lot of money.
“So, there is a very good opportunity to reduce energy consumption, with a lighting upgrade,” he claimed.
Gibbens said the city is spending money replacing lights as it is, every time bulbs are replaced, but could go a step further and replace old lighting for new lighting.
“It’s not that you’re not doing it, it’s that you’re replacing light for light and not upgrading toward efficiency,” he said.
Gibbens noted that city staff had done a good job at upgrading the city’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC). He said that most of the old units had already been replaced with energy efficient units.
“The maintenance I saw was a good as any city I have ever been to,” he said. “Your staff is doing a great job.”
According to Gibbens, the city has several old units and no kind of maintenance is going to keep an old unit from wearing out. Showing examples, he told council two of the city’s units have manufacturer’s life expectancy of 15 years, but both had surpassed expectations, having been manufactured in 1998. The units are inefficient and even worse, they use a refrigerant called R-22 which is obsolete.
“Five years ago a canister of R-22 was $90,” he said. “Today it’s $800.”
Gibbens said every time one of these old units break and the city repairs them, the costs are much higher in the long run than replacement.
Gibbens also reported the HVAC controls are dated. He found many of the city’s thermostats are the old mercury switch variety and an upgrade to controls with timers could save a lot of money, by automatically lowering usage in buildings after hours and on weekends.
The firm also looked at the city’s street lights. Gibbens said some of the downfalls are the city has no inventory of the street lights, approximately 80 percent are antiquated with poor light distribution, not compliant with recommendations and a potential source of significant energy savings.
The city’s water and wastewater uses 60 percent of the city’s total energy consumption. Like other areas, the water/wastewater plants have aging infrastructure and could be more efficient with proper upgrades, such as pumps, motors, blowers and diffusers. Gibbens noted the city desperately needs a replacement sludge truck.
Johnson controls also recommends upgraded water metering, sealing buildings and making minor upgrades across the city.
According to Gibbens, under state law upgrades can be made and grants/loans carried on the estimated savings to the city for the life of the warranties on upgraded systems.
Gibbens said the city’s savings across 15 years would be $2,623,786.
“That money is in your budget now,” he said. “It’s just being spent on 77-watt bulbs, instead of 14-watt bulbs.”
Johnson Controls did their preliminary survey in August and September. If the city is interested in moving forward and submits a letter of intent Johnson Controls will write a Business Case Analysis and present it to council. A Project Development Agreement could be reached as early as December.