Hilliard is among a few districts in Ohio that have mostly energy-efficient school buildings, and the result has been savings of more than $1 million in less than two years, district officials say.
Jeff Franklin, director of business for Hilliard City Schools, said 20 of the Hilliard's 23 buildings have met the requirements of the federal Energy Star program.
Aside from Hilliard, the only other central Ohio school districts with buildings achieving Energy Star certification are in Worthington and Upper Arlington, Franklin said.
Hilliard began its effort to make buildings more energy efficient in 2006 in conjunction with the Ohio House Bill 264 energy conservation program.
As part of the program, the Ohio School Facilities Commission approves eligible energy-efficiency projects for districts to issue bond debt without going to the ballot.
Districts can then use the energy-cost savings to pay back the debt without interest, Treasurer Brian Wilson said, because the federal government reimburses the district for interest on the bond.
In Hilliard's case, the district issued $5 million in bond debt March 15, 2011.
"We then service the debt with ... the money we save through more energy-efficient buildings," Wilson said.
The $5 million in improvements were completed in several phases during a two-year period and the debt will be retired in 15 years, Wilson said.
The amount of debt the district pays down each year can vary but the district has a schedule to ensure the debt is repaid in the required time, Wilson said.
From June 2010 to December 2012, Hilliard City Schools saved $1,148,023 in electricity costs, all related to energy-efficient improvements, Franklin said.
Improvements included replacing halogen lighting in parking lots, gymnasiums, cafeterias and classrooms with fluorescent lighting.
"Fluorescent lighting operates at a fraction of the cost of the old (halogen) lights," Franklin said.
The district also replaced boilers and has since added occupancy-lighting sensors and solar-powered hot water tanks at some school buildings.
These projects led to a reduction in the district's electric consumption by 2.8 million kilowatts hours in 2012, compared to 2011.
District officials said they would save even more money from a new contract with American Electric Power.
In the previous contract, the district paid 6 cents per kilowatt hour. In a new contact that began Jan. 1, the district pays 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
In January 2013, the new contract saved the district $62,716, Franklin said.
"We are exceedingly proud of our efforts to reduce energy consumption and find better pricing for the energy that is used," Franklin said.
One of the three buildings that is not Energy Star compliant is Memorial Middle School, the former high school.
"It's more difficult to get our oldest buildings (compliant) ... but we're working toward it," Franklin said.
The federal Energy Star program certifies buildings that meet strict energy performance standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Eighteen of 21 Hilliard school buildings meet the criteria, as well as the district's central office and support services facility, for a total of 20 qualifying buildings.
"It is this type of commitment to excellence both in and outside of the classroom that makes Hilliard City Schools such a special place," Franklin said.