County could save thousands with energy upgrade |

County could save thousands with energy upgrade

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” A recent energy audit of county facilities showed that using more efficient light bulbs and upgrading heating and air conditioning systems could save the county $65,000 annually.

The county wanted to pinpoint the cost and paybacks of various energy-saving measures. The analysis was tied to the work the county did last year with Johnson Controls International on the potential for a biomass energy project, said assistant county manager Scott Vargo.

In the quest to find an economically beneficial use for beetle-killed trees, the county examined a plan to generate heat for the County Commons or the buildings at the landfill with biomass. The project was technically feasible, but it didn’t make fiscal sense.

But the county commissioners said they still wanted to find ways to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and possible save some money in the process.

Vargo presented the findings from the audit to the commissioners last week. Lighting upgrades at various county buildings would bring the most immediate results, costing about $60,000, with a three-year payback, Vargo said.

“It makes sense. It’s a small investment on the front end, and we can realize savings going forward,” Vargo said.

Fixing heat leaks in county buildings with added insulation and other simple measures would cost about $110,000, bringing a 5 percent savings in improved energy efficiency, or about $7,000 in annual savings. The payback period is about 16 years for these “priority 1” building envelope improvements.

More savings could be realized by upgrading the energy management control systems at the community and senior center. That project has been identified as an early action item, Vargo said. An up-front investment of about $72,000 could reap annual savings of about $7,000 at the facility, with a 10-year payback period.

A brief staff report on the audit results spells out the cost and savings of potential upgrades.

The justice center is in need of the most investment, with $33,000 needed for lighting and lighting control systems and $61,000 needed to improve the integrity of the building envelope. But that $94,000 investment could result in annual energy savings of $17,000, with a five-year payback period.

The courthouse needs about $30,000 worth of work. That would result in annual savings of $8,000, with a quick three-year payback.

The energy saving projects were originally contemplated as part of a long-term performance contract with Johnson Controls. But the county can realize even greater savings by managing the projects internally, Vargo said.

The lighting upgrades and improvements at the community and senior center could happen this year with a budget amendment. Other projects supported by the county commissioners would be included as budget request items during the normal budgetin process, Vargo said.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

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