Denbigh school is top of the class when it comes to energy saving

A leading independent girls boarding school is top of the class when it comes to energy saving.

It’s not just the playing fields that are green at Howells School, Denbigh – the school is saving itself a fortune in gas and electricity bills thanks to its revolutionary approach to energy use.

It has dramatically reduced its gas and electricity consumption through an investment of £100,00 in advanced heating systems and cutting edge technology.

And with the arrival of the first of a new generation of low voltage computers that can be powered from solar panels, the IT and Science departments at Howells’ are aiming to be carbon neutral by next year.

Management at the 150-year-old school have brought in a raft of measures to reduce their carbon footprint and their bills – gas consumption has been cut by an incredible 40 per cent in 2012 and electricity by a third.

Their latest move has been to introduce individual thermostats – operated remotely from Estates Manager Paul Gibson’s iPhone – on all the heating boilers in the school’s range of buildings.

The state of the art new boilers themselves replaced the banks of gas-fired boiler which used to heat the whole school.

Paul Gibson said: “Those old boilers had been converted to run on gas from solid fuel – at one time the school even employed a stoker to shovel coal into the furnaces.

“We had a bank of three boilers for the school and another three for Stanley House and about five miles of pipes and it meant that to heat the dining hall for the boarders for Sunday lunch we had to heat the whole school, over 80,000 square feet of buildings heated to warm one 3,000 square foot area for an hour.

“So we have spent over £90,000 on upgrading the system with a series of wall-mounted boilers in each building supplying heating and hot water on demand rather than constantly.

“It means that this past financial year we have been able to reduce our gas consumption by almost half while our electricity usage has fallen from 2.05 million kilowatt hours to 1.32 kilowatt hours, a reduction of more than a third.

“The remotely controlled boilers make for big savings and the thermostats themselves have the ability to learn so they know how long it takes to heat a particular building and that it will take longer if the outdoor temperature is low in winter than if it’s higher in summer and so they start up sooner.

“Unfortunately our gas prices have increased 58.3 per cent so only a nine per cent saving has been made in cash terms but had we not made these improvements, then our gas bill would be £43,800 higher this year.

“In fact we will only save £12,500 this year as the gas price has increased dramatically and our electricity bill would be £13,600 higher so we will only save £1,000 this year as the electricity price has also increased dramatically.”

The business school is to be equipped with lightweight new generation computers which can run off solar power, work with USB powered monitors and use a sixth of the power of traditional PCs.

The school is also considering drilling two wells to supply all their water needs with the water to be pumped up using solar power.

Mr Locke added: “Clearly cost management is very important but we also feel there are ethical reasons for trying to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can. Some energy savings projects are large and some are very small, but all are important. At every stage we try to be more responsible.”

“It would be very difficult to make a building that is 150 years old carbon neutral but we can and do take every measure we can, including the use of high efficiency LED lighting and putting double-glazed safety glass in what were solid doors to increase the natural light and save on electricity.

“We have also replaced the 400 watt external floodlights with 50w LED units for another major energy saving.

“We have made a point of making the new Business School the focus of special attention as we feel that this is an area which business in general is having to focus on now and if we can instil the importance of this sort of management into our students then it will be to their future advantage.

“We do have a very high tech system here at Howells with fibre optic connections to our buildings, an internet phone system, whole-campus wifi, internet protocol security cameras, even have internet TVs in the fitness suite.”

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