Magas leads conservation efforts for Region 16

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Mike Magas, Region 16's energy specialist and a business education teacher and swim coach at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, stands by a boiler at Community School in Prospect. He is leading efforts for the district to reduce energy use under a comprehensive organizational behavioral-based conservation program. –RA ARCHIVE

PROSPECT — Mike Magas wears three hats in Region 16. He teaches, coaches girls’ swimming and finds ways to save energy.

On top of his teaching and coaching duties, he frequently visits all five schools in the district as its energy specialist. He conducts energy audits of systems, reviews electric bills, and works with staff to encourage them to change behaviors to save energy such as turning off a light switch or a computer.

Region 16 has reduced its energy consumption by more than 11 percent over the past year through a comprehensive organizational-, behavior-based program, Magas said. It’s called Energy Education Inc., of Dallas, Texas, and the program involves all members of the school system from custodians to teachers, to administrators.

With Earth Day being observed Friday, Magas said the district will continue its energy-saving efforts, and he challenges residents in Beacon Falls and Prospect to think green, too. He encourages residents to check out online resources to find ways to save such as www.earthday.org, or www.epa.gov/earthday/.

The district began the program in April 2011, Magas said. He said one of the goals this fall will be to introduce the program to students.

It’s all about making adjustments to current energy management systems, such as the heating and air conditioning systems, and changing people’s behavior, he said.

That isn’t as easy as it sounds, Magas said. People think switching off a light is simple, but it’s a behavior to change, he said.

The goals of the program are to save money for the district and taxpayers, plus to help the environment, Magas said.

According to the company’s website, Energy Education was founded in 1986, and has more than 1,200 clients across the country. A client’s utility budget isn’t increased by using the program, and all fees and a stipend for an energy specialist is paid from program-generated savings, it states.

Magas said there are no true out-of-pocket expenses for the district.

Other school districts use the program, too. Wolcott Public Schools began it a little more than a month ago, Wolcott Superintendent Joseph Macary said. The district believes energy conservation is critical at this time, he said, and the schools need it.

“Anytime we can save it’s prudent, both fiscally and economically,” Macary said.

About 10 to 15 times a week, Magas visits all five schools, two in Beacon Falls and three in Prospect. He carries a comprehensive audit survey with him to check if systems are shut off when not being used, and whether lights are turned off when no one’s in the building. It also includes audits of electronics, plumbing, lighting and the HVAC systems.

He also works closely with Dave Langdon, the district’s facilities manager.

At Community School on Friday, the boilers downstairs were turned off. The lights were turned off when not in use. However, Magas’ keen ears detected a rumbling of a system somewhere.

And that’s part of what he looks for.

Magas said every school has a champion of the program. At Community School, it’s Mary Welch, secretary.

She said this is a passion of hers, and something she learned from her mother growing up.

“I’m glad we are on board with energy efficient efforts,” Welch said. “I hate to see wasted energy.”