The Town of Epping is taking energy-efficiency to the next level.
Last year, the town passed the first ordinance in the state to require energy efficiency in its commercial buildings.
Now, Epping has gone green with its own 125 year old Town Hall.
As New Hampshire Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, the change will save the town and taxpayers thousands of dollars every year.
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In the basement of Epping’s 125 year old town hall, a large white box-like machine gently hums.
To Epping Town Planner Clay Mitchell, every time he hears the new Ecopower combined heat and power system, he hears the sound of the town saving money.
(Clay1) 1002 9:46 “the more this thing runs, the more electricity you’re producing, the more electricity you’re producing, the more money you’re saving, and so you want this machine to run 24-7 because every time it runs it’s saving you money.”
Before the new system, town hall was heating with two old 600,000 BTU oil-fired boilers that were only 70 percent efficient.
Mitchell says the town ran one all summer long just to heat the water for two sinks.
1002 4:46 “you’d basically burn a gallon of oil just to wash your hands in this building in August, and when we came downstairs and looked at them and started looking at our energy bills, our fuel bills we found out that this building was basically bleeding money.”
So town planners decided to become the first in the nation to install the new grid-connected Ecopower system.
It generates electricity and captures the heat from the generator to heat the building and create hot water.
The system is 95-percent efficient.
Matthew Fairy is with Eco-Energy Partners, the company that distributes the system.
1008 matt 1 :32 “the environmental benefits of this alone, they’ve cut down their fuel use by 70 or 80 percent and also gone to a cleaner fuel which means a lot less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.”
That cleaner fuel is propane, but in the future Epping planners say they might be able to use renewable fuels – and set up the system to cool the building in the summer.
Planners also added solar panels to the roof of town hall, new energy efficient windows, and insulation in the attic.
The improvements cut the building’s greenhouse gas emissions in half.
Town Planner Clay Mitchell says the total project cost 60-thousand dollars, but the system is estimated to pay for itself in four years and save the town money.
1005 3:12 “we’re out a little bit up front but in ten years we would have saved the taxpayers anywhere from 100 to 120-thousand dollars”
Mitchell told a crowd gathered for the unveiling of the system that he’s been asked many times why more towns and companies in the US aren’t following Epping’s lead.
1011 5:08 “I can only assume that people are just not ready to pay the piper they’re not willing to step up and say there’s a different way to do things, we do not have to buy the same boiler that’s next to it, we do not have to use the same fuel we’ve always used, we do not have to do things the way we’ve always done them.”
State Representative Ron Nowe from Epping agrees that mindsets need to change.
1015 :54 As Epping goes, goes the rest of the towns and cities and state of NH, and they need to get educated as to what is happening here, they need to get on board they need to participate and show the people of their communities that they can do the same thing and save tax dollars.
And planners say cities, schools, and companies need to stop looking at energy costs as one of those budget items it can’t control.
Epping hopes to serve as a model that proves that’s not the case anymore.
For NHPR news, I’m Amy Quinton.