Saving a million — for another county

Staff writer

When Evan Stout walks out of a room, he automatically shuts off the lights, even if it is a hallway at Marion County Road and Bridge staging office where he works, or the light over his oven at home in Marion.

“After eight years of working as an energy manager, it is just habit for me,” Stout said. “I told my wife the other day, ‘I don’t think the oven is afraid of the dark. There is no reason for these extra lights to be on.’”

Stout works full-time for the county and part-time for Energy Education, Inc. (an energy savings company out of Wichita Falls, Texas). Two weeks ago, USD 418 McPherson schools honored him for saving the district a million dollars in energy costs.

“They had a little party complete with cake and ice cream,” he said. “I really wish I had required a commission on what they saved, but it is all about cost avoidance.”

Stout said that he traveled to McPherson just about every day for the past eight years after his regular job, constantly auditing district buildings and looking for common sense ways for the district to save money.

“Cost avoidance refers to money that they do not have to spend on electricity, sewer, water, and gas,” he said. “I would recommend things like shutting down electricity in buildings that were empty overnight or on weekends, or help them set programmable thermostats properly.”

Stout also said he advised the district’s assistant superintendent to get a separate meter for watering systems to bring down overall payments made to the city for water usage.

“If the same meter is used for all of the water the district uses, they are paying sewer fees combined with that extra water used. That is just how it is billed,” Stout said. “Ball diamonds and football fields don’t need that combined water and sewer rate. It is the pennies saved that make dollars.”

The energy company Stout works for offers energy auditing services only to large school districts, usually those classified as 5A or larger. He said USD 418 paid $40,000 for the service, along with his salary, but in return saved more than a million dollars over an eight-year period.

“I am more than willing to speak to any size school district and share my knowledge to help our communities,” he said. “I am not out to grab money. I just see that school districts around here are being asked to really tighten their belts and I could help with energy savings audits.”

Stout has traveled to energy education workshops in Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City in the past few years, staying on top of current energy savings tips and ideas.

“Most savings occur during what we call ‘unoccupied time’ in school buildings,” he said. “Student bodies will raise the temperature of a building by five degrees. When they are gone, those thermostats need to be turned down.”

Stout said his recommendations for large buildings were not the same as for personal homes, however.

“Most buildings will hold a comfortable temperature for several hours, and when they are unoccupied it is for longer periods of time,” he said. “In homes, it is more cost effective, in the summer, to leave the air conditioner set at a certain level and not turn it off and on, for day and night or changes outdoors.”

Stout said he has done energy audits at the Marion County Courthouse but many changes need to be made before they could see any savings on energy costs.

“There are problems with the windows, boilers, lighting, etcetera,” he said. “But the commissioners continue to spend money elsewhere and energy savings are not high on the priority list.”

Stout said he offered his services at St. Luke Hospital in Marion and to Centre and Hillsboro school district boards, but they had not followed up on his offer.

He recently did a walk-through for McPherson College and several churches in the city of McPherson, which resulted in several significant cost-saving measures.

Stout and his wife moved to Marion three years ago at which time he began full-time work on the county road and bridge crew. He has completed his contract with McPherson schools for energy savings.

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