Colfax school district’s new HVAC controls could save up to 20 percent

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The new controls for heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in the Colfax school buildings could save up to 20 percent on energy costs.

The school buildings have very little air conditioning, but better control of the heating and ventilation systems will result in much more energy efficiency, said Chris Flesher with Bartingale Mechanical during the Colfax Board of Education’s January 15 meeting.

[emember_protected] William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator, said he had invited Flesher to the meeting to give the school board an overview of the new HVAC system.

The HVAC work was part of the $7.2 million referendum projects approved by voters in the November of 2016 election.

Construction at the Colfax school district started last April with the addition to Colfax Elementary, and all of the work was completed by the time school started this past fall.

The controls are electronic now and have replaced the old pneumatic controls, Flesher said.

Every classroom has a new electronic thermostat, he noted.

With the new system, maintenance personnel in the school district can access the system using any computer connected to the network, Flesher said.

Each piece of equipment can be monitored with the computer, and any problems with the system can be spotted right away, he said.


The computer system also allows scheduling of the HVAC systems.

The primary energy user is heating ventilated air coming into the building, Flesher said.

The old pneumatic controls brought in fresh air regardless of whether it was needed. The new system is set up to be programmed to run only when it is needed, he said.

The key component was tying the different systems in the school building together, Flesher said.

Many different vendors can now work on the system, whereas the old system was proprietary, and only one company could perform maintenance or repairs, he said.

Because of the capability to monitor the system via computer, problems with the system can often be solved without coming on site, Flesher said.

Remote access on the computer allows technicians to fix issues without physically being at the facility. If technicians do not have to travel to Colfax to fix something, that saves time and money for both the school district and for Bartingale, Flesher said.

Recent sub-zero temperatures have been giving the system a work-out, but the system “seems to be working well,” Yingst said.

All of the classrooms have reported comfortable temperatures, and a few classrooms said the temperature was maybe a little too warm, Yingst said.

With the old control system, some classrooms were much too cold while others were much too warm, he noted.

The work on the school buildings included more insulation in the ceiling, Flesher said.


Ken Neuburg, school board member, asked if Flesher could estimate the savings on energy efficiency.

Flesher said he estimated the savings initially would be 15 percent, but once maintenance personnel become more proficient, the savings could go up to 20 percent.

Several school board members wondered what Flesher meant by “becoming more proficient.”

The equipment and the air handlers can be programmed to start and shut off at certain times. As the maintenance supervisor — Chad Sikora — becomes more accustomed to programming the system, the scheduled start and stop times can be fine-tuned, Flesher said.

For example, the air handlers can be scheduled to start and stop at a certain time each day. On snow days, when the building is not occupied, the system can be set to “unoccupied” so it is not running when there are no students in the building, he said.

The old air handlers in the gymnasium, which were new in 1977, were stuck in the open position, Yingst said.

The air handling units kept bringing fresh air into the gym, regardless of whether anyone was in the gym, so fresh air had to be heated constantly to keep the gymnasium warm, he said.

With the new system, carbon dioxide sensors kick in when the space is in use, Flesher said, eliminating unnecessary heating of fresh air.

The referendum construction project “was an interesting project. There was a lot to do in a short period of time,” Flesher concluded.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:

• Learned that the names on the ballot in the spring election for school board will be Kyle L. Knutson in the first position and Kenneth E. Neuburg in the second position. Knutson and Neuburg are both incumbents and were the only two candidates to file nomination papers for the two positions open in the April 3 spring election.

• Approved the 2018 summer school programs in swimming and regular classroom instruction, including music, agriculture and Summer Saunters. Swimming lessons for the Colfax students will take place at the Elk Mound pool. Times will be determined at a later date. Swimming routes and lesson times will have a similar set up as previous years. Summer school classes will be held at locations and times to be determined. Sign up forms will be sent to parents this spring.

• Approved hiring Connie Gibson and Gene Gibson as the directors for this year’s Colfax High School play. The play will be the musical, “The Music Man.”

• Approved open enrollment spaces for regular education and special education students for the 2018-2019 school year. Given the projected enrollment for the 2018-2019 school year with allowance for regular education class section shifts and 90 percent capacity to allow for the expansion of the number of students already living in the school district who are not open enrolled, the following seats are available per grade level: junior kindergarten (4); kindergarten (31); first grade (27); second grade (32); third grade (25); fourth grade (24); fifth grade (25); sixth grade (16); seventh grade (none) (no seats available at the current two-section grouping; if an additional section were added, 15 seats would be available); eighth grade (3); ninth grade (31); tenth grade (24); eleventh grade (5); twelfth grade (14). No seats are currently available for special education across all grade levels for open enrollment.

• Approved advanced algebra as a weighted class. Advanced algebra is a requirement for college. The change in curriculum allows the school district to offer Statistics to students next year for dual credits, and the curriculum is directed more toward the ACT exam.

• Accepted a donation from the Schmock family in memory of Willie Schmock to replace the curtains on the stage in the Martin Anderson Gymnasium. “It would give our stage a nice facelift,” Yingst said. Replacing the main stage curtains, the valance and the “leg” curtains is expected to cost about $1,500.

• Approved the retirement of Kimberly Myers. According to Myers’ letter, dated January 10, she has been an English teacher at Colfax High School for 15 years. [/emember_protected]