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County examines energy reduction

Ray County recently applied for a $7,299 grant, the first step in possibly reducing its cost to heat and cool county buildings.
EPM, a Fulton, Mo., company that designs and manufactures computerized temperature control systems, assisted county commissioners in applying for a 2009 Kansas City Power & Light grant. If approved, the KCP&L Custom Rebate Retrofit Program grant could help reduce the cost of an EPM system at the Thomas F. Eagleton Civic Center.
EPM sales representative Bill Truit said that Eagleton, a senior-citizens facility, is served by five “residential split systems.” In its application for the KCP&L grant, EPM estimates that, with the current heating-and-cooling equipment, its control system could save the county 30 percent in electric consumption, 12 percent in electric demand and 35 percent in natural-gas usage.
Under KCP&L’s retrofit program, the utility would grant Ray County a rebate on any energy saved as a result of installing an EPM system. That would mean that if the computerized program reduces energy costs at Eagleton by $1,000 a year, KCP&L would deduct that amount from the county’s bills.
Rebates for the project could total up to $7,299, the maximum grant that KCP&L awards.
“It’s up to KCP&L to decide (size of a grant) based on the savings they can project,” Truit said.
The county has applied for a grant, but has yet to commit to any contract with EPM, Commissioners Mike Twyman and Allen Dale said.
“He came in and approached us about it and we sent him out to the Eagleton Center to see what he could do out there,” Twyman said. “Then we sent him out to the historical museum to see what he can do, but what we’re really interested in is the courthouse.”
The grant application for the Eagleton Center could be the first in a series of KCP&L applications for Ray County. The commission has already completed a 2010 grant application for the Ray County Historical Society & Museum building that will be submitted after Jan. 1.
The historical building is heated by a double boiler system, Truit said, that is inefficient in much the same way as the county courthouse’s heating system.
“If they can get some decent (grant) money out of KCP&L, the system should pay off really nicely,” said Truit.
Twyman said that the two buildings, located next to each other at the Ray County Fairgrounds, could be controlled by a linked EPM system.
The company previously installed computerized control systems for Richmond’s high school and middle school. Michael Minnick, head custodian at the high school, demonstrated how EPM’s system works and the commissioners were impressed.
“You talk about high tech, that’s high tech,” Dale said.
The district, closed for the Christmas break, was unavailable to comment on the extent of savings resulting from the EPM systems.
EPM (www.epmctc.com) has also talked to the city of Richmond about installing systems, Truit said. In addition to Richmond schools, the company has installed computerized controls for school districts such as Ozark, Reeds Spring, Rolla and Russell County, for William Woods University and for Missouri Department of Transportation complexes in Hannibal and, most recently, in St. Joseph.
The company describes its computerized controls as being more efficient and precise than “one size fits all” direct digital control systems, which are in many buildings.
Once installed, the computerized temperature control system “would change the equipment operating protocol to increase comfort, provide proper weighted averaging temperature control and reduce utility cost to the lowest possible level consistent with comfort, health and safety,” according to EPM literature.
Truit said the company doesn’t promise savings it can’t produce.
“We’re a small company out of Fulton, Mo. and we like working with small customers, and we don’t like making mistakes,” Truit said. EPM’s savings estimates are based on “hard numbers,” he said, from actual utility bills.
“We don’t try to honey coat anything,” he said. “If the systems won’t pay for themselves in utility costs, then you probably don’t need one.”

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