With a temporary chiller in place to start the new school year, addressing an air conditioning issue Newton High School had been dealing with since early summer, the USD 373 school board was able to take a look at the bigger picture this week — discussing replacement options with DLR Group representative Shawn Cochran.
Given that the coolant used by the current, non-temporary system will be phased out of the market within a couple of years, installation of a new unit was broached when the A/C issue was first brought up with the Newton Board of Education.
At that time, the focus was resolving the chiller problems before class returned to session, but once a solution was settled on the board began to look at long-term fixes. Cochran presented a number of options for the BOE to consider at a meeting on Monday.
Options presented were split into two categories — either installing new air-cooled chillers or water-cooled chillers — and slated to either install the new system all at once or split it into a two-phase project.
Both systems, Cochran noted, come with their own unique set of advantages. With the air-cooled chiller, he said benefits include lower installation costs, less maintenance and no water consumption (and the additional expenses), while pros of the water-cooled system are a more efficient system, longer lifespan and minimal operational noise — though it was noted that is less of a factor given the location of the high school.
Cochran stated while the installation of the water-cooled system would cost more, energy savings were estimated at $42,000 versus an air-cooled system. However, installing a new water-cooled system would require the replacement of the boilers in the current chiller room at an additional cost.
Questions were raised about the efficiency factor of the new boilers and if there would be a cost savings with that, as well as if there might be a savings using gray (recycled waste) water in a new water-cooled system, but Cochran said he did not have those potential figures.
Giving the system currently being used in the high school and elsewhere in the district, maintenance director Chris Schaeffer had a clear recommendation for the direction the board should go.
"Our first preference would be air-cooled because it is more in line with what we have at Santa Fe," Schaeffer said.
Going into further detail, Schaeffer favored the option with a deferred installment — as it would replace the system first with a 400-ton chiller unit to match what currently exists in the high school.
Regarding a timeline on the installation of a second chiller unit, which board members brought up, both Schaeffer and Hamm noted there is not necessarily a push for the back end of that work — though inclusion could certainly be talked about in continued bond discussions.
"The chiller broke. The chiller needs replaced," Schaeffer said. "Anything beyond that is an additional cost we don't have to take on right now."
Cost for the first phase of the air-cooled system installation the board approved is estimated at $360,000, though it was noted the item will come back before the board to discuss design.