STRATFORD -- Visitors to the council chambers at Town Hall may have noticed that the room is lighted by a pair of outsized candelabra-style lighting fixtures. In the old days of incandescent bulbs, they each consumed about 640 watts of power. Now they're glowing with light-emitting diodes, and they use only about 144 watts. The updated lamps are part of a massive $10 million project that's cutting energy use -- primarily heating, lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration -- and topping the state in municipal energy savings. "Stratford is a leader -- they're out in front in taking energy savings to the next level," said Patrick McDonnell, United Illuminating's director of conservation and energy management. "There's really no magic here -- you use the energy savings to pay off your investment." State Rep. Laura Hoydick, R-Stratford and a ranking member of the Legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, agreed with McDonnell's assessment. "In the school system alone, from 2005 to 2010, the town saved $1.5 million in reduced energy use," she said. Overall, Stratford has updated 37 of the 50-plus buildings owned by the town, according to officials.
The town's latest $10 million undertaking is largely funded as a loan from a private sector initiative called the Energy Savings Performance Contract, or ESPC. The money will be paid back over the next decade from the cost savings the town is enjoying on heating oil, natural gas and electricity. "The dollar savings you see with these improvements pay for themselves and more," McDonnell said. "When you go from a boiler with 60- to 70-percent efficiency to one with 95-percent efficiency, well, that's a big difference." The mayor's office also received a $791,000 grant from the state for the work. Mayor John Harkins estimates that Stratford will save nearly $500,000 a year in energy costs. Officials said the program has a payback period of 10 to 12 years. Much of the technology installed was state-of-the-art, according to Doreen Hamilton, an energy account executive for Honeywell. Some rooms, for example, have their heating and air-conditioning systems governed by a carbon dioxide sensor. "People give off carbon dioxide, so the more people in the room, the more CO2 you have," she said. "These latest control systems can tell how many people are in a room by the amount of CO2 being given off, and adjust the HVAC systems accordingly.