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Irwin council considers energy conservation to save money

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

Irwin officials hope to save money by taking a look at the borough's energy consumption.

Council met with Stacy Richards, the program director for the Energy Resource Center at the Lewisburg-based Susquehanna Economic Development Association Council of Governments, to discuss the borough's energy consumption, costs and ways to save, such as replacing light fixtures and bulbs and repairing structural inefficiencies, which could allow heat to escape.

Richards spent several months examining the borough's utility bills.

Manager Mary Benko said Richards provided her services at no cost to the borough.

“They provided us a lot of information by analyzing two years worth of our bills,” Benko said.

Richards said she analyzed electricity, gas and water bills for the public-works facility on First Street, the borough and police department building on Main Street, and the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department station on Western Avenue.

According to Richards' report, the borough spent approximately $83,570 on utilities in 2010 and 2011. The borough spends 70 percent of its energy costs in powering the borough's street lights — about $58,500.

The borough has 235 street lights, parking-lot lights and outdoor lights on borough-owned buildings and at the park, she said.

“It's not uncommon at all for a municipality without waste-water or water-treatment (plant) costs to have their lighting become the highest cost,” Richards said.

The borough's second-highest expense was attributed to the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department, which accounted for 12 percent of the borough's utility costs, which is about $10,030, Richards said.

She said the department's energy consumption was due to the building's large garage-door openers and constant use of indoor lighting.

Compared to other fire departments, Richards said, Irwin Volunteer Fire Department's consumption was below average.

“Fire departments are notorious for high energy use,” she said. “They tend to use a lot of energy, but I've seen far higher costs for fire houses and municipal garages than I found in Irwin.”

Richards said the Irwin Borough Building leaves the most to be desired in terms of energy savings, even though it used only 7 percent or about $5,850 in utilities.

Richards pointed out several energy inefficiencies in the building, such as out-of-place tiles in the drop ceiling in both the borough offices and police department, along with an open attic door with access to the roof.

In several places, equipment is propped up against the radiator heating system, keeping heat from properly flowing through the room, Richards added.

Repairing the tiles, closing doors to the attic or other rooms not in use, and moving things away from heaters could cut heating and cooling costs.

Richards suggested officials install motion sensors on the lights, so lights automatically would shut off when nobody is around.

“There are a lot of behavioral and simple things to do to save energy,” Richards said. “The borough should form an energy committee.

“There could be some good ideas to help save the borough in utilities.”

Richards also suggested the borough hire an energy assessor to thoroughly study the borough building, including its boiler system, lighting and equipment.

Council President John Cassandro said council would need to review Richards' report further.

“It's a lot of food for thought,” Cassandro said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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