Higher-than-normal temperatures last week sent people walking outside without jackets and enjoying the unseasonable weather.
But inside City Hall, sweltering temperatures in the 80s for most of the week had employees and visitors complaining, opening windows and even cranking up air conditioners.
“This happens every year,” said Tony Licata, a custodian for the city Department of Public Works. The 1871 building’s gas-fired steam heating system is much less flexible than a modern furnace would be at adjusting to changes in temperature outside.
Even though Licata shut the boilers off on Thursday morning, the building may be even hotter this year because of new blown-in insulation that reduces heat loss through the roof.
The insulation is part of a $1.7 million energy-savings program that is designed to cut the city’s energy waste and save money.
That price covers energy-saving measures at all the city’s buildings, including new compact fluorescent lighting fixtures, controls on the furnaces, weather-stripping on windows and doors, insulation and even solar panels at the water treatment plant.
The city will really get the benefit when the mercury plummets this winter, said William McTygue, director of public works.
“We’re not going to see the fruits of our labor here until it gets cold,” he said.
Johnson Controls, an energy efficiency company based in Milwaukee, Wis., installed the measures, and guarantees the city will reap more than $1.7 million savings in utility costs and maintenance over the next 15 years.
For City Hall alone in 2007, taxpayers spent $43,862 on gas and $81,196 on electricity.
Citywide, the city spends much more than that in heat and light at all its buildings.
The company has put programs in place in the Arts Council building, Canfield Casino, the two fire houses, the police garage, senior center, water treatment plant and Visitor Center.
The city financed Phase 1 through a New York Energy Research Development Authority loan that gave the city a minuscule .07 percent interest rate on the first $1 million borrowed. The other $700,000 for Phase 1 carries a 4.07 percent interest rate.
And city officials want to do more.
The Department of Public Works expects to ask the City Council to approve an amendment later this month to hire Johnson Controls for Phase 2 of the project, which includes replacing the chillers at the city’s two ice rinks and boiler work at the Franklin Community Center.
That work is expected to cost $720,000, McTygue said.
At City Hall, the new controls will automatically shut down one of the two boilers during the winter if there’s a warm spell outside, and then start it back up again when the temperature cools.
In the past, manually shutting down the boilers was the only option, McTygue said.
Although the changes are expected to save the city energy and money in the long run, they won’t necessarily perfect the temperature in City Hall to employees’ liking.
“It’s new technology on an old system that we’re trying to upgrade,” said Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works.
He added that walls that were added inside the building later on made the heating system operate less efficiently because individual radiators were designed to heat a larger area. That’s especially the case in the police department, which has been divided up over time into smaller spaces.