Cooling schools efficiently
Howard Dicus interviews Asst. Supt. Dann Carlson of HIDOE's facilities office to get an update on the Cool Classrooms initiative, and how HIDOE is incorporating energy efficiency to minimize/negate net energy load of these systems. [VIEW]
- More: Cooling classrooms a complicated job, Honolulu Star-Advertiser [VIEW]
The Department is working with the Legislature to fast-track air conditioning projects and other heat-relief initiatives via its Heat Abatement Program, which falls under the state's
Capital Improvement Projects budget.
What is heat abatement? Heat abatement is working to reduce heat through passive and mechanical means. Air conditioning is a mechanical form of heat abatement. Passive means are techniques such as heat reflective paint and extending shading to remove direct sunlight from hitting a building.
Air conditioning isn't always the best option — many aging school facilities do not have the capacity to support it, nor can the state afford to install and run AC at all DOE schools statewide. The Department's facilities team analyzes each school and determines an approach that makes the most sense weighing all factors. Other cooling options include ceiling fans and building ventilation.
What does the $100 million go to? The $100 million appropriated by the Legislature in law requires several things:
- Air conditioning (this includes photovoltaic-powered AC to keep electrical costs down)
- Passive cooling (using heat-reflective paint, night-time vents, insulation, ceiling fans)
- Electrical efficiencies (this is to keep the Department's $48 million electrical bill from ballooning when adding more AC)
What are we doing now?
Construction You can view our updated list of heat abatement projects at our schools here.
Status of 1,000 Classrooms project: [BID PROJECT SITE] (more detail in the Heat Abatement Status below)
1,152 Classroom AC units out to bid
804 Classroom AC units ordered
209 Classroom AC units installed
- First 4 projects for the 1,000 classrooms initiative were awarded July 27, 2016 (total of 25 portable classrooms at Aliamanu Elementary, August Ahrens Elementary, Kamaile Academy, Nanakuli Elementary)
HIDOE unveiled a new project at Honowai Elementary that featured campus-wide efforts to lower electrical usage in order to install high-efficiency AC units. [Read here]
HIDOE delayed the bids to add more contractors and move the process into a time when there are fewer projects statewide out to bid. [Read here]
HIDOE doubled the number of qualified bidders in July from 18 to 36. [Read here]
The qualified contractors and consultants involved in the project met on July 28 to discuss the projects, clarify expectations, provide ideas on lowering cost, and generate feedback on best practices.
HIDOE's consultant teams evaluated 33 schools on the capability to install air conditioning and passive cooling measures
- Maintenance teams are working weekends to conduct cooling projects on portable classrooms, which tend to be the hottest rooms. So far:
461 portable classrooms covered with heat reflective material,
139 classrooms installed with ceiling fans since the fall statewide.
HIDOE purchased 402 portable ACs for the hottest classrooms. Portable ACs were installed as supplemental cooling in 109 classrooms in 12 Oahu schools and 8 Neighbor Island schools.
- New photovoltaic ACs (PVACs) installed in three Aliamanu Elementary portables in early Feb. 2017. Solar panels charge external batteries to run the ACs, reducing long-term energy costs.
Air conditioning at schools
Following are lists of where AC has been identified as a priority (in order of priority) and the status of roll out at schools previously on the list. We encourage the public to add their feedback about heat abatement at their community schools: Please email
4 Costs to AC:
It is important to note the costs associated with air conditioning:
Equipment and installation
Electrical bill increase
Life cycle replacement (average of 7-10 years depending on type of AC system)
Heat abatement analysis
Expanded Heat Abatement
This is the list of schools that are being evaluated for the potential for the recently announced expansion to cool more classrooms by the end of 2016. This does not mean all classrooms at these campuses would have air conditioning installed.
- Ewa Beach Elementary
- Ilima Intermediate
- Campbell High
- Kamaile Academy (Conversion Charter)
- Kaimiloa Elementary
- Nimitz Elementary
- Mokulele Elementary
- Pearl Harbor-Kai Elementary
- Lehua Elementary
- Waimalu Elementary
- Aliamanu Elementary
- Aliamanu Middle
- Waipahu High
- Ewa Elementary
- Barber's Point Elementary
- Waipahu Intermediate
- Pearl Harbor Elementary
- August Ahrens Elementary
- Waipahu Elementary
- Waialua High & Intermediate
- Leihoku Elementary
- Honowai Elementary
- Nanakuli Elementary
- Nanakuli High & Intermediate
- Kaunakakai Elementary
- Kilohana Elementary
- Manana Elementary
- Princess Nahienaena Elementary
- Lahaina Intermediate
- Lihikai Elementary
- Kekaha Elementary
- Kahakai Elementary
- Maui High
Schools previously on priority list (year removed)
- Maili Elementary (2002)
- Kihei Elementary (2007)
- Kamehameha III Elementary (2010)
- Lokelani Intermediate
- Pohakea Elementary (2012)
- Hickam Elementary (2014)
Schools outside priority list that received portable AC for supplemental cooling:
Hilo Union Elementary
Schools with central AC
- Ewa Makai Middle (incl. cafeteria)
- Hickam Elementary
- Holomua Elementary
Hookele Elementary (incl. cafeteria)
Iroquois Point Elementary
- Kamehameha III Elementary
- Kapolei Elementary
- Kapolei Middle
- Kapolei High
- Keaau Elementary
- Keoneula Elementary
- Konawaena Elementary
- Kihei Elementary
- Maili Elementary (incl. cafeteria)
- Mililani Ike Elementary
- Mililani Middle
- Mililani Mauka Elementary
- Pohakea Elementary
- Pomakai Elementary
- Pu'u Kukui Elementary
Schools with 100% AC in classrooms
Aiea Elementary (currently under construction)
Honowai Elementary (2016-17)
Pearl City Elementary
Pearl City Highlands Elementary
Pearl Harbor Elementary
Pearl Ridge Elementary
De Silva Elementary
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing heat in schools, but there is a process that's informed by data to reduce heat in schools in the most effective and systematic way. The goal is to reduce classroom temperature via accumulated improvements (options laid out below). For classrooms where these efforts don't bring down the temperature sufficiently, A/C and supplemental cooling is planned. Learn more in our
2015 Energy Systems Study, and you can see school-by-school evaluations and projects, along with weather station data, on MK Think's HIDOE Classroom Heat Abatement
Heat abatement options
These are vents that enable hot air to be vented out of classrooms allowing cooler air to come in. Since hot air rises, most of these are installed either on roofs or high up on walls or windows. Additional benefits is that these are powered by the sun and do not need electricity.
- Hokulani Elementary
- Jarrett Middle
- Kailua Intermediate (kitchen)
- Kaiulani Elementary
- Kamiloiki (solar wall vents)
- Lunalilo (solar wall vents)
- Molokai High
- Niu Valley (shop building)
- Washington Middle
PHOTOVOLTAIC AIR CONDITIONING
The Department piloted an air conditioning project to cool a portable at Waianae High School. The unit is powered by photovoltaics like that on many homes. This allows for the unit to be capable of generating its own electricity. Two more will be installed on portables at Campbell High School through a crowd-funded program led by high school students.
These are essentially high efficiency skylights that allow light into the classrooms without the heat generated by electric lights. In many cases, on sunny days, you don't need to turn on any lights.
- Kaimuki High (including portables)
- Ewa Makai
- Hookele Elementary
Since 2005, the Facilities team has increased the insulation in roofs and walls to reduce the amount of heat gain in DOE buildings, helping to reduce the temperature inside our classrooms. These improvements were done in conjunction with needed repairs such as reroofing an existing building.
CEILING FAN INSTALLATION
As part of a Race to the Top-funded facilities effort in the
Zones of School Innovation, ceiling fan installation was targeted for classrooms that (1) were not already air conditioned, (2) did not already have ceiling fans and (3) are used for student instruction.
Nanakuli Elementary: 8 classrooms
Nanakuli High & Inter: 41 classrooms
Waianae Elementary: 2 classrooms
Waianae Intermediate: 42 classrooms
Waianae High: 57 classrooms
Makaha Elementary: 43 classrooms
Leihoku Elementary: 5 classrooms
Kamaile Charter School: 29 classrooms
Kau High & Elementary: 7 classrooms
Keonepoko Elementary: 20 classrooms
Pahoa Elementary: 37 classrooms
Keaau Middle: 16 classrooms
Pahoa High & Intermediate: 59 classrooms
Mountain View Elementary: 14 classrooms
Naalehu Elementary: 21 classrooms
ROOF COATING SYSTEM
By painting roofs with heat reflective fluid roof coating system instead of the basic black or gray materials, a temperature reduction of up to 5 degrees is possible. This system includes solar reflective properties and sometimes additional layers of insulation material to help reduce heat transferring into the classroom. This is more than a change in coloring for the roof. It has specific properties to minimize the impact of direct sunlight.
Another option is to start the school year later. The school year typically starts at the beginning of August. By law (Act 167), the school year must include 180 student instructional days. We will continue to work with unions, the Board of Education and the Legislature on this pressing issue.
Estimated cost of installing AC at all DOE schools: $1.7 billion. This figure was a snapshot of how much it would cost to install full-school AC systems like that at Pohakea Elementary, completed in 2010. This number will fall as a survey of HIDOE schools is completed to grasp how many classrooms/offices have AC now, and how many are still waiting for cooling retrofits (either heat abatement measures (listed above) or installed AC if needed).
Current annual electricity bill for HIDOE schools and facilities: $48 million. This amount would increase as high-energy AC systems are installed.
New schools will incorporate smart, efficient and modern design principles that take into account the natural environment and exploit ways to cool facilities using less energy. Ho'okele Elementary, which opened in School Year 2015-16, is an example.