Energy upgrades to help YMCA save money

Naugatuck YMCA CEO Susan Talbot, center, talks about the new lighting fixtures installed throughout the building during a tour of the YMCA on Friday. The Naugatuck YMCA has made energy-saving improvements that will save an estimated $25,000 in annual energy costs. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — An investment of more than $60,000 to make its more than century-old building more energy efficient is expected to pay off big for the Naugatuck YMCA.

But the upgrades to the building’s lighting, water and ventilation systems the organization is receiving through Eversource will ostensibly cost the Y nothing, because the savings on its monthly energy bill are greater than its loan payment back to the utility, YMCA CEO Susan Talbot said, adding that even with the loan payment, the YMCA will still save more than $400 per month.

“That’s pretty incredible for us. And it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it is a lot of money,” she said. “There’s cutbacks everywhere; funders are cutting back. We operate on a very thin margin. All nonprofits do. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room, and this kind of stuff helps us address the needs of the community in different ways and not spend it on ‘silly’ things like lighting and water.”

Under a contract with Eversource, Waterbury-based Sarracco Mechanical Services provided the YMCA a free energy efficiency study.

“They were able to identify a number of energy efficiency measures that could be taken at the Y,” said Ricardo Jordan, supervisor of energy efficiency for Eversource. “We worked with Sarracco and with Susan at the Y to put together the best, cost-effective, comprehensive bundle of measures that make sense based on their financial situation.”

Sarracco has thus far completed 90 percent of the project, which includes changing or retrofitting some 600 to 700 light fixtures to accommodate LED bulbs, reducing the gallon-per-minute rate of water through the YMCA’s dozens of showerheads, and establishing a computerized building management system that controls when lights go on and exhaust fans are engaged, based on an infra-red device that senses when people are using certain facilities.

“Based on occupancy, we control what that space is doing,” said Brian Malarkey, manager of the Sarracco Energy Conservation Division. “If there’s nobody in the men’s locker room, we shut off the zone.” Previously, he said, all six exhaust fans on the YMCA’s roof were operating 24/7. On Friday morning, the computerized system indicated only two needed to be operational at that time.

Brian Green, an electrician supervisor with Sarracco Mechanical Services, retrofits a lighting fixture, removing the old florescent ballast and replace it with an LED driver, during a tour of the Naugatuck YMCA on Friday. The Naugatuck YMCA has made energy-saving improvements that will save an estimated $25,000 in annual energy costs. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“Those spaces aren’t being used, why heat and cool them? Why move air? Why bring in fresh air?” Jordan said. “Some of the biggest energy users of a rooftop system is bringing in fresh air and taking out used air.”

The entire project, Talbot said, costs about $140,000, but about half of that is supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, a customer-fed pool of money Eversource tapped through its Small Business Energy Advantage Program.

The YMCA’s share will be paid off in installments of a zero-interest loan on the organization’s monthly energy bill.

The measures are expected to save the YMCA about $25,000 a year in energy costs, Talbot said.

“For us it just made really good business sense,” she said. “If I could take that $25,000… and turn it toward programming, then I’m impacting the community in a much larger way and a more impactful way that they could see and feel, and we can see and feel in this community.”

She said the money might be devoted to camp programs for children, or senior citizen activities.

“This is one of the biggest reasons why we support efficiencies, because it empowers you to control your costs,” Jordan told Talbot. “In a way, you’re able to reinvest not only in the Y, but in the community. And Eversource supports that strongly.”