2011-01-20 / Front Page

Energy use for island schools in good hands

By Cindy Cingone

Lewis Kitts Lewis Kitts The Jamestown School District has made substantial strides in reducing its carbon footprint, thanks in part to the careful eye of Lewis Kitts.

Kitts has been the director of building and maintenance for both the Melrose School and the Lawn Avenue School for the last 21 years. Soaring energy costs has compelled Kitts to seek and implement new ways to keep the school district expenses under control.

“We’ve stayed level for the past two years,” Kitts said. “This year, I don’t know.” The challenge is to stay informed of all the emerging technologies and then put them into operation.

Kitts accomplishes this by maintaining a membership with the Rhode Island Facility Director Association and is also a Certified Building Operator, which must recertify him every year. He also utilizes the services of National Grid, which performs free energy audits. National Grid will give the school back between 30 to 40 percent of the new fixture costs. That can equal about two years worth of the schools’ energy outlay.

The first energy audit was performed in 1994. Ways to conserve electricity and heat were addressed; certain fixtures were moved and changed. National Grid paid for all of the recommendations.

The second audit was performed in 2001. Recommendations at that time were to change over 3,000 light fixtures, replace 38-watt bulbs with 32-watt bulbs and install sensors in all the classrooms, meeting rooms, bathrooms, offices, gymnasium and wherever else students and teachers would congregate.

In 2007, Kitts attended a seminar given by the Sylvania Company.

Sylvania produced a 28-watt energy saving light bulb, Echo, in florescent that not only reduced energy expenditures, but also contained only a pencil-tip size of mercury. Kitts had this new lighting technology installed in both schools.

Kitts likes to test out the newer technologies before placing large orders. He will customarily purchase one or two light bulbs and either tries them at his workshop at his home or installs a new fixture in one or two classrooms and asks for teacher’s comments.

One such example is the overhead light filters installed in the Melrose School office. The filters come in many uplifting images such as palm trees, blue-sky backgrounds with fluffy white clouds, colorful flowers or butterflies. The filters shield the occupant from flickering lights while eliminating glare from computer screens and outside sunlight. The teachers remarked that the filters had a soothing effect on the students, especially autistic children.

Once Kitts receives positive feedback, he puts out proposals for contract bids in the Press, as well as area newspapers, as another example of keeping school expenditures in check.

Another cost-saving measure Kitts implemented in the school system has been by eliminating overlap lighting fixtures. By extending the distance between ceiling light fixtures in the hallways, students still retain excellent visibility while lighting costs have declined without any school expenditure.

Currently Kitts is reducing energy costs by retrofitting exterior lighting with energy-efficient light emitting diode (LED) lighting fixtures. There are 40 old-fashioned walkway fixtures that will be replaced from 375-watt high-pressure sodium wall-pack bulbs to the 20-watt LEDs, which are longer lasting, more efficient and have a more pleasant light output.

The shelf life of the new LED lights can be as long as 50,000 hours. Five exterior pole lights will go from 400 watts to 100 watts of energy output. Kitts says the new exterior light is great and easy to look at, almost like moonlight. When lighting fixtures are on for several hours per day, the energy savings can be quite substantial. The same is true for interior lighting, which can be on for 16 hours per day. Exit signs are also LED. Eventually, Kitts would like to do away with all florescent lighting.

When asked about solar technology, Kitts commented that solar requires costly maintenance. The Jamestown school system doesn’t have the budget or the manpower necessary to maintain solar equipment.

Lighting is not the only way Kitts has kept the costs of energy down in the Jamestown schools. Jamestown is an island and water is a precious commodity. Substantial improvements have been made in the way the school system utilizes water.

Every male urinal has had a blue EcoDisc placed inside the catch basin. These small disks are eco-friendly, economical and “convert existing flush urinals into nearly waterless flushless fixtures without having to replace existing urinal bowls.”

A non-pathogenic bacteria digests urine and controls odor and scale build up. Kitts says the urinals now only have to be flushed two times a day. This saves the school money by reducing water usage, while protecting the sewer system.

Low-flow nozzles have been installed in all the bathrooms, kitchens and wash stations. The girls and teacher bathrooms have been fitted with a 1.6-gallon flush valve as well as auto-flush valves.

In addition to lighting replacement fixtures and water intervention, many of the classrooms now have new energy-efficient computers instead of outdated, older models.

Kitts was born in Jamestown and attended the Lawn Avenue School when he was a child. There were only six students in his class. He has remained in Jamestown and has watched the Jamestown School District educate his three children.

Kitts’ quest is to make Jamestown more “green” and as energy efficient as it can be while at the same time holding down costs and not increasing the budget.

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