NEW ORLEANS - As the heat index rises, schools often see their energy bills spike, too.
But one local company says New Orleans schools are collectively wasting millions of dollars cooling empty rooms.
With special insulation and even a rain water cisturn, Wilson Charter School in Broadmoor prides itself on being green.
But a voluntary energy audit showed it was wasting thousands of dollars each month on energy used after hours, when the building is empty.
“When we came in, what we found is the mechanical system was running all the time, every day,” said Will Bradshaw, president of Green Coast Enterprises, a local company specializes in green development.
And so, Green Coast Enterprises helped the school make some adjustments.
“We can help you save the money that literally is being lost into the air,” said Bradshaw.
The group reprogrammed the "brain" of the building so that lights, heating, and air conditioning can automatically turn off in parts of the school that aren't being used. The work was donated, since Bradshaw serves on the charter school’s board.
The savings are drastic.
“We were seeing between a $3,500 and $5,000 savings per month on our energy bills,” said Darius Munchak, Wilson Charter School director of finance and operations.
The school was rebuilt after Katrina with green measures, but officials say the changes made after the energy audit has still made a big difference.
All told, the school's energy bills have been cut nearly in half with savings of $24,000s in the last six months since the work was completed.
“That's going to go directly into the classroom to support our students,” said Munchak.
“It's the thing we can do for public education in New Orleans because that's our expertise, is to help buildings function in an optimal fashion,” said Bradshaw.
A Department of Energy report in 2010 that showed New Orleans schools lost about $2 million a year in wasted energy, said Bradshaw.
Green Coast is tracking energy usage at about 30 other New Orleans schools. Bradshaw believes many of those schools could also cut costs by tens of thousands of dollars.