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Gainesville saves energy with retrofit program
Officials used most of grant to replace HVAC systems, chiller, lighting at city-owned buildings
Employees of Air Conditioning Services set up a new unit at a Gainesville residence as part of a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

September retrofitting projects in Gainesville are estimated to save at least 48 megawatt-hours in energy — enough to power five homes for a year, according to Jessica Tullar, special projects manager for the city of Gainesville.

Retrofitting — replacing old systems with new, more energy-efficient ones — was done on buildings owned by the city, residents and nonresident property owners as part of a $300,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority the city received in 2010.

Of that, $270,000 were reserved for city buildings.

"Ultimately, we wanted to save taxpayers money on (city) utility bills," she said. "We replaced the chiller at the Georgia Mountains Center and we also replaced the heating, ventilation and air conditioning rooftop system at the community service center."

Five other city buildings got smaller HVAC and lighting retrofitting.

"The lighting uses a lot less energy while getting the same brightness," Tullar said.

The remaining $30,000 from the grant were allocated to both residents and nonresidential property owners in the city, Tullar said.

To have retrofitting done, owners had to apply in September. They paid for the retrofitting and got a rebate from the grant. Fifteen projects were selected.

Tullar said 80 percent to 90 percent of the projects were retrofitting HVAC units that were more than 20 years old. Other retrofits included tankless water heaters and insulation replacement.

Approved project rebates ranged from $374 to $3,000 but did not exceed 45 percent of the total cost of upgrades, according to a news release.

"Under the rebate program, $90,000 was put back in the economy," Tullar said.

"That means all the estimates that came in for those 15 projects totaled $90,000, which was to purchase units and pay contractors."

Though property owners could use any contractor they wanted, Tullar said most of them came from the Hall County area.

"In September alone, the number of hours put in by contractors yielded 0.3 new jobs," Tullar said.

"That doesn't sound like a lot, but we were excited about the job stimulation."


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