Allegheny County to use high-tech sensors on steam systems to cut heating bills |

Allegheny County to use high-tech sensors on steam systems to cut heating bills

Allegheny County hopes high-tech insulation fitted to steam pipes in four county buildings will slash last year’s nearly $1.5 million utility bill.

The county will partner with Uptown-based Embedded Energy Technology to install sensors on steam systems in the City-County Building, County Office Building, courthouse and jail, all Downtown, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Monday.

The insulation, called “Smart Jackets” and embedded with sensors, measures temperatures and transmits data on energy use and cost savings. The monitors will alert county workers to leaks, failed valves or other emergencies.

“By lowering our steam usage, we reduce our steam cost and energy consumption as well as our carbon footprint,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Finding over $100,000 of savings each year in utility costs means that taxpayers pay less.”

The county received a $174,665 grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority for the project, which will cost more than $400,000. The project will establish one part-time and four full-time jobs, Fitzgerald said.

In all, the county devoted $900,000 in the proposed 2015 capital budget to make the courthouse and County Office Building more energy efficient by improving lighting and air conditioning, among other things.

Steam usage at the four buildings cost the county nearly $1.5 million in 2013. In 2011 and 2012, the county fixed some leaks and made repairs and updates that, in part, reduced steam costs in the four buildings from $2.1 million in 2011 to $1.4 million in 2012, according to information from spokeswoman Amie Downs.

The county hopes to have the insulation installed by next fall. Embedded Energy Technology did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

The county also announced it hired Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel to develop a plan for the restoration and renovation of the courthouse. The Downtown architecture firm did restoration work at the state capitols in Harrisburg and West Virginia, and was selected from 12 companies that submitted proposals.

The two-year contract will pay the firm and other partners developing the plan $477,544.39.

The project went through the county’s Professional Services Review Committee, which selected the firm.

The firm donated $1,000 to Fitzgerald’s campaign in 2013. Downs said the donation did not factor into the county’s selection.

Noted architect H.H. Richardson designed the 126-year-old building. The county set aside $400,000 in the proposed 2015 capital budget for a long-term master plan.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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