“Environmental sustainability” no longer is a new concept and by now, the refrain has become familiar. To save energy in your home, use a programmable thermostat, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and be sure that your home has proper insulation. These tips are standard practices and an excellent starting point for Hilliard residents looking to be more sustainable without taking out a second mortgage.

The cost-benefit equation becomes more complex when you are spending taxpayer money to operate large public buildings. Lighting upgrades easily can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

This is one of the difficulties the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission faced when looking at ways to help the city operate its facilities more efficiently. To help with this challenge, the ESC teamed up with local software developer JadeTrack in the spring of 2016.

Using JadeTrack software, we now are able to view a live data stream that shows the “real-time” electricity and natural gas usage at the municipal building, the community center and senior center, the Hilliard Family Aquatics Center and tower lights at the baseball and softball fields in Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.

The collected data help Hilliard in two very important ways.

First, the data allow us to be able to determine the payback period of energy-efficiency projects so the city of Hilliard can be an effective steward of taxpayer funds. Having this data also provides us with a baseline to judge the effectiveness of those upgrades. As an example of this process, later this spring, all of the lights at the community center and senior center will be upgraded to more efficient models. Using the data we have collected and the known energy requirements of the new fixtures, energy-cost savings from this project should result in a payback period of fewer than five years. The data that are produced after the upgrades will provide the proof and help us to be more accurate in projecting future projects.

The second way that having live data helps us is that we can immediately identify anomalies in energy usage. JadeTrack notifies the city of unusual use patterns and then we try to determine the cause so that the situation can be rectified if necessary. Sometimes the cause is innocuous; for example, a spike in usage one Saturday at the community center turned out to be the result of a Zumba class that cranked up the air conditioning. Other times, these energy-usage spikes can be the result of inefficient equipment or someone forgetting to set the thermostats back for the weekend.

Use of the JadeTrack software already is yielding results for the city. It is making us more efficient in both our energy use and our utility spending. That is good for our environmental footprint and our wallet.

Please check out the live data that are being displayed on wall monitors at the municipal building and the community center. The data also soon will be available on GoGreen-Hilliard.com. The ESC is developing reference information to help residents understand the data.

Pete Marsh is chairman of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.

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