An energy audit saved this Maine museum 40% in electricity costs and reduced its carbon footprint by 54,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.


The Maine Discovery Museum, located in Bangor, ME, seeks to encourage creativity among its visitors. But with skyrocketing utility bills and mounting building inefficiencies, museum personnel were recently forced to do some creative thinking, as well. The children’s museum operates on a shoestring budget and found that energy and operating costs consumed much of its available funds, leaving little for needed facility upgrades and improvements.

Open since 2001, the museum resides in a historic building, spread among 29,000 sq ft. Despite its antique exterior, the museum boasts modern building systems and equipment. However, personnel discovered that new equipment quickly lost effectiveness without maintenance and upkeep. This led to comfort issues and irreconcilable energy expenses, among other problems, with the majority of the museum’s operating expenses going toward utility bills.

The first red flags included warm and stuffy offices for museum staff. Don Flanders, director of finance and operations, was the recipient of these complaints. Flanders, who handles everything from HVAC work to lighting issues, described it as an operations nightmare.

“Our building automation system was hardly functioning, and I was constantly getting calls about offices being too hot or there not being enough fresh air,” Flanders said. “I was solving problems as best I could, sometimes manually closing individual heating valves while trying to open others.”

UNCOVERING OPPORTUNITIES

To address these issues, the museum contacted Honeywell for a facility audit in February 2008 and uncovered many problems due to a lack of routine and preventive maintenance. For example, faulty sensors caused heating and cooling systems to run in parallel year-round, leading to high oil expenses. The audit also uncovered HVAC filters and coils that had gone years without being cleaned or changed.

“We had dueling heating and cooling systems and they were constantly fighting each other,” Flanders said. “Our heating system was still running in the summer, which forced the cooling system to use more energy to try keeping the facility somewhat comfortable.”

Following the audit, the museum chose Honeywell to complete a facility optimization and preventive maintenance project through Honeywell’s MiniRetrofit™ Service, allowing the museum to tackle energy-saving upgrades without an upfront capital investment. As part of the three-year agreement, Honeywell also conducts preventive maintenance. The contract is structured so facility improvements and maintenance generate enough energy savings to finance the work.

First, Honeywell replaced the museum’s oil burner with a dual-fuel oil and natural gas burner. This let the museum choose the cheaper of the two fuels for burning. Honeywell also repaired the BAS and its controls, which included updating temperature setpoints to better accommodate occupancy levels. Other work included changing filters, cleaning fancoils, vacuuming motors, replacing damaged sensors, and calibrating thermostats and valves.

Honeywell also provides the museum with ongoing service and maintenance. Honeywell personnel use the Field Automation Service Technology (FAST) tool, a wireless handheld computer, to retrieve, log and update job details on site. The museum can then review this service activity - as well as service history - using Honeywell ServicePortal™, a Web-based application. ServicePortal also lets personnel submit online service requests, and its information is updated in real-time with data from the FAST tool.

PROOF OF PREVENTION

Overall, service work has dramatically impacted the museum’s bottom line. For example, in June 2007, the museum paid $2,732 for more than 860 gallons of heating oil. One year later, after project completion, the bill dropped to $39. The museum also cut electricity consumption from March 2007 to March 2008 by more than 40%.

The work also has an environmental impact. Five months after the repairs, the museum’s oil use decreased 2,400 gal, reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 54,000 lbs - equivalent to removing almost five cars from the road for a year.

In the same time span, the museum saved more than $11,000, thanks to the improvements and maintenance work. This five-month total puts the museum on track to reach the three-year payback term for the burner conversion and maintenance work within one year.

“Attention to service and maintenance has paid dividends for our organization,” Flanders said. “We’ve improved building comfort and efficiency, decreased our impact on the environment, and ensured optimal building performance for years to come, all without additional funds. As a result, we’re able to put the spotlight back where it belongs - on our visitors.” ES