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Swampscott awarded $145,406 DOER grant to upgrade school HVAC systems

SWAMPSCOTT The town’s effort of being more environmentally friendly has made its way into the schools.

Swampscott was awarded a $145,406 grant from The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Green Communities Division three weeks ago. The funds will be used to upgrade the current HVAC systems in the high school and middle school with computer programming that will allow the systems to operate more efficiently, said Swampscott Building Inspector Max Kasper.

“We are shooting to have them in place by the end of the year, and they’ll be done at the same time,” Kasper said. “Usually, these upgrades and modifications take a few weeks to implement. A lot of the engineering gets done prior to implementation.”

The school buildings are not getting new HVAC systems, he said. Modifications to the current mechanical systems will include changes in how the system is running and the addition of sensors that will modulate fresh air and carbon monoxide. 

“It will be like a smarter, more computerized operation of the mechanical systems that are already in place,” said Kasper. 

Not only will cash from the grant cover the system updates, Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said some of it will cover hiring staff to regularly manage the HVAC systems. There are a lot of “bells and whistles” in making sure the town has someone who understands how to configure the control systems, he said.

“This continues our efforts to try and really optimally manage the town’s energy systems,” Fitzgerald said. “When we look at the enormous amount of money we spend on energy, we think of the school buildings and their size and square footage … Keeping the lights on for an extra two hours a day, over the course of a year, that is tens of thousands of dollars we are losing, because we don’t have the most optimally established facility management.”

The grant will help the town make sure its limited budgets can go further and can capture efficiencies in some of the costly energy consumption budget lines, Fitzgerald said. Natural gas and electricity in town and school buildings are a huge piece of the costs that the town manages, he added.

“When we apply for these grants we do it jointly and that allows us to manage the bottom line that affects taxpayers,” Fitzgerald said.

B2Q Associates, Inc., an engineering consultant based in Andover, was hired to do the mechanical work and the Viking Controls, Inc., a New Hampshire-based electrical service, was hired to install the control component.

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