Life Lessons: Energy Efficiency and Economic Responsibility

Breakwater School Saves Energy and Money with Updated Heating System

(AUGUSTA) — Breakwater School is a nonprofit, independent school in Portland serving 145 students from early childhood through eighth grade. The school focuses on authentic learning with real world applications, and environmental education and sustainability are central to Breakwaters’ mission and curriculum. In an effort to model these values while making the school more comfortable, administrators hired the Jordan Institute in New Hampshire to conduct an energy audit which resulted in a list of recommended energy-saving measures. The top, and most costly, priority was the need to replace the school’s outdated oil-fired boiler and steam heating system with an energy-efficient, natural gas-fired boiler and forced hot water heating system.

Time was of the essence as the 90-year-old boiler had exceeded its life expectancy by decades, and if it failed during the school year, Breakwater would lose not only class time for students but also the opportunity to convert to a more efficient forced hot water system. Breakwater used a $50,000 federal Recovery Act-funded grant from Efficiency Maine’s Commercial Grant Program, matched by contributions from its parent association and generous community donors. Johnson and Jordan, Inc. of Scarborough installed the best-in-class, modulating condensing boilers and added zoned climate controls – saving the facility an average of $20,000 a year in fuel costs and reducing energy and water consumption by as much as 40%.

“This energy efficiency project is perfectly aligned with our school’s other greening initiatives and our mission to help students understand what it means to live well on the planet,” said Head of School David Sullivan. “Not only have we gained a more comfortable learning environment, we are engaging students in meaningful learning that is relevant to their lives.” Seventh and eighth grade students at Breakwater will measure baseline energy consumption data and track the efficiency of the new system as part of their course curriculum.

“The Breakwater School’s project is a great example of reducing energy waste while improving the learning environment of an older school building,” stated Rick Meinking, a business program manager at Efficiency Maine. “These types of projects were exactly what the Recovery Act funds were designed for – providing work for local contractors and investing in infrastructure to improve the energy performance of a building.”