Essex Elementary is now a more energy-efficient and comfortable school, thanks to a newly installed modernized HVAC control system. The installation was completed at the end of January, with the contractor working after school hours to minimize the impact on the school day. In July 2021, the Town of Essex won a $140,400 competitive grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Green Communities program to complete improvements to the HVAC system controls at Essex Elementary School. An additional $9,600 in incentives from National Grid brought the total funding to $150,000. Without this funding, it would have taken 12 years for the energy savings to offset the installation costs. In addition to increased energy efficiency, the project improves the interior climate for faculty and students by allowing more dynamic, accurate adjustments to the HVAC system.
"These were really critical improvements," said Avi Urbas, director of Finance and Operations at MERSD. Essex Elementary School is over 50 years old. The original antiquated HVAC system had minimal controls that had been malfunctioning, requiring costly repairs. Town and MERSD staff have been working for the past five years to obtain Green Communities grants and utility incentives to fund phased critical renovations of the HVAC system.
The Town of Essex was designated a Green Community in 2016. This designation requires a commitment to instituting energy-efficiency standards and makes the community eligible to receive competitive grants for energy saving projects. Since designation, Essex has received over $630,000 for projects including: renovation of Essex Town Hall, conversion of town-owned streetlights to LED, upgrading Essex Elementary School lighting, and two previous phases of HVAC efficiency projects at Essex Elementary School.
Together, the upgrades to the HVAC system and controls completed at the school are estimated to have saved $25,866 and 72,988 kwH per year. Modernized digital controls have also been instrumental to MERSD’s COVID-19 response, by allowing the district to manage fresh-air intake efficiently, regardless of changes in outdoor temperatures.
“Phase 1 and 2 of this project allowed MERSD to reopen schools quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic," notes Jason Waldron, MERSD Facility Manager.
Ruth Pereen, chair of the Essex BOS adds "The Town is thrilled to have this opportunity to support the excellence and safety,. It’s been a successful partnership with the School District."