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Community Centers that Save On Energy Better Serve Their Communities


YMCAs, JCCS, and other community centers do a lot of heavy lifting for the communities and families they serve. They are equal parts social, educational, recreational, and athletic centers, and provide social services to boot. In other words, these nonprofit organizations are the true community champions.  Unfortunately, the Y and similar nonprofits are facing unprecedented budget challenges, even as community need for their programs continues to increase—and critical donations are shrinking. Older facilities need to be modernized and big spaces need to be lit, heated, and air-conditioned. To keep within those tightening margins, new solutions are clearly needed for community center energy savings to make a difference.

Consider this: community centers are among the largest energy users per square foot, larger than even some hospitals. Pools, new HR technologies, sound systems, exercise machines, showers, lighting, and heating and cooling systems all contribute. Therefore, facility-wide energy efficiency for YMCAs and other nonprofits can offer significant results for much-needed savings.

Quite often, community center energy savings is often low priority compared to all the other concerns of a nonprofit. Limited access to financing and more pressing upgrades (think: pandemic safety protocol) get in the way. Likewise, gaps in actual utility data and/or lack of training can make energy efficiency for YMCAs and similar centers seem unattainable.  Partnering with an energy efficiency as a service vendor is a little-known yet valuable resource for YMCAs, JCCs, and other municipal centers. Why? Because this kind of energy saving company will do all the work and cover all the costs.

But first, let’s look at the facts. There’s a laundry list of items to think about.

First, there’s lighting. Lighting accounts for 20% of the annual energy consumed by a community or recreation center. Retrofitting existing lighting with LED lighting is an affordable solution with excellent efficiency, controllability, equipment life, and environmental footprint. Replacing high-bay metal halide fixtures in gymnasiums and other spaces with LED fixtures can shave lighting power by 55%. Likewise, installing LED outdoor lighting can drastically reduce energy usage. Bi-level fixtures with motion control dimming when no occupancy is detected, saving energy without compromising security and can reduce outdoor lighting energy up to 88%. What’s more, these LED upgrades not only improve light quality but eliminate the need for routine maintenance. An energy efficiency as a service vendor can help ensure your products are certified, test for upgrades, confirm they deliver the appropriate illumination, install occupancy controls, and apply for rebates. They can also monitor the overall savings and make necessary tweaks along the way to make sure your community center energy savings remain optimal.

Of course, pools, one of the most popular features of community centers, consume a massive amount of energy. Water treatment and other pool equipment is likewise expensive. When upgrading the energy efficiency for YMCAs and other community pools, a smart choice would be to install a programmable timer switch and a variable frequency drive to maintain the minimum water flow rate permitted by your regional health codes. Considering a 20% reduction in pump speed results in a 50% reduction in pump power, this is no small add on.  Likewise, an automated chemical feed system ensures water quality while reducing maintenance difficulty. Lastly, consider a thermal blanket. Up to 30% of total natatorium energy can be reduced simply by adding a retractable thermal blanket to prevent evaporation during closed hours.

HVAC systems account for 66% of community center energy consumption, and it’s driven by building envelope performance, HVAC equipment efficiency, ventilation rate, and internal heat generation. While all drivers of HVAC energy are important, adjusting equipment operating parameters through HVAC controls is also a cost-effective strategy. Small adjustments to the thermostat setpoint can result in large energy consumption reduction. While many centers use programmable thermostats, few actually use the feature and instead hold a constant temperature regardless of whether the building is open or closed. Web-based thermostats are a cost-effective way to implement thermostat setbacks while providing additional benefits. Set points and schedules can be monitored and managed remotely and changes can be applied to with a single click. They also allow you to monitor equipment operation, identify failure, and anticipate comfort issues.

No matter the HVAC system, it can’t run efficiently if there are leaks in the building envelope. Sealing windows, roofs, and masonry may be necessary to prevent excess energy usage. Likewise, ongoing testing and monitoring is necessary to ensure continued efficiency. 

If the facility has showers or other larger hot water needs, savings can be found here, too. Insulating blankets can reduce ambient heat loss, however you’ll need to make sure your tank doesn’t warn against this. Using a programmable timer to shut off the heater when hot water is not needed can further increase the savings.  Keep in mind, these upgrades must be made by a qualified technician or energy saving company to ensure safe installation.

When it comes to energy efficiency for YMCAs and other community centers, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are often appliance needs, food heating and refrigeration, IT equipment and computer labs, and/or other amenities that need addressing.  That’s why partnering with an energy efficiency company like Budderfly is a far more viable option for these nonprofits than simply going it alone. By offering energy efficiency as a service, Budderfly guarantees reduction to energy usage and cost, starting from day one.  Our team will install premium interior and exterior LED lighting, smart hot water systems, and multi-level HVAC upgrades for a more comfortable and welcoming environment—and we pay for it all. Because we’re an energy saving company, we also execute all maintenance and monitoring at no charge to ensure savings continue long term.

By auditing the current energy usage of your facility, you’re not just bringing your center up to date. You’re ensuring continued services to your community, which it needs more than ever. Find out how we can help—give us a call today.