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Zephyrhills gets energy audit, looks for greener future

ZEPHYRHILLS — David Sterling noticed light shining through the metal frame of the double glass doors at City Hall. He walked over and ran his hand down the space between them.

"Oh, that's a big leak of air," he said Friday morning during his daylong visit inspecting the energy efficiency — or lack thereof — at City Hall and the city's library next door.

He made a notation on the paperwork secured to his clipboard. That's something that should be sealed up, said Sterling, of the Gainesville office of AMEC, a global environmental energy consulting firm. He is the project manager for the city's energy audit and energy efficiency project that aims to cut down on energy costs and make the city greener by design.

The city applied for a $250,000 federal sustainability grant from the Department of Energy last year and secured it.

AMEC won the city's bid and was contracted for approximately $29,500 in August to conduct the energy audit and design a plan to replace old lighting and air conditioning and heating units with energy-efficient fixtures, as well as address any insulation and plumbing issues at City Hall and the library. The price tag includes AMEC following up after the construction phase, which will be done by another company, to ensure that the city-approved plan was properly carried out. The rest of the funds will go toward construction and adding a hybrid car to the city's fleet.

The first step to energy savings was Sterling's site visit Friday.

Inside City Hall, he learned that all thermostats are manual, whereas digital ones that are programmable are preferred. And making them lockable, he said, would keep the temperature consistent when people are tempted to turn it up or down.

"There's where you can save," he said.

In the library, he didn't even have to get a close-up look at the exit signs to know they're a problem.

"Those are incandescent and those are the worst you can get," he said, adding that replacing them with energy-efficient LED signs is the best option. "And those will pay back fast because they're on all the time."

And the lighting in both buildings is ancient. Most of the fixtures use T-12 fluorescent tube light bulbs, which use a huge amount of energy, Sterling said, and last less than half the time of updated bulbs.

"They're a thing of the past," Sterling said of the T-12 bulbs.

In addition to changing those items out, the recommended to-do list will include replacing the 16-year-old and 11-year-old air conditioning units in both buildings. He will recommend plugging holes around lines and other air-conditioning equipment that run from the inside out and currently don't have insulation, as well as holes in the attic.

Sterling likely won't recommend installing or replacing any insulation in the walls or ceilings, however. The energy savings there wouldn't outweigh the construction costs in a reasonable amount of time, he said.

Still, there is much to do but the prognosis is good in making the city greener and helping out its coffers.

"You want to set a good example and you want to save the taxpayers money. I'd say we'll get a 30 percent savings," he said of the project. "It's good for the economy and it's good for the environment."

The city should have a computerized model and a report showing the most efficient and cost effective design plans within a few weeks. Work could begin as early as October. All grant funds must be used by April.

Zephyrhills is hardly alone in its quest to save money and become greener, Sterling said.

"People have been doing it awhile and it's catching on," Sterling said, adding that some do it for cost, some for the environment and some for both. "It ebbs and flows with the cost of energy."

Zephyrhills gets energy audit, looks for greener future 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 8:41pm]
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