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Bemidji Fire Station

Bemidji Fire Station No.1 has realized energy savings of $2,200 a year in addition to improved comfort and efficiency.

Bemidji Fire Station improves comfort, cuts costs with building energy improvements


BEMIDJI — Since its construction in 1971, Bemidji Fire Station No. 1 has served firefighters and the community well. Today, thanks to energy improvements made to the station in 2011, the building is serving the community even better with much improved comfort and efficiency. Besides providing a more pleasant workplace, energy tracking shows the project is saving the community $2,200 a year in energy costs.

Rooftop HVAC

A new high-efficient rooftop heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit replaced a 20-year-old unit.

Energy improvements
The 10,200-square-foot Bemidji Fire Station is a typical station that houses administrative offices, training room, living quarters, and apparatus bay. Its energy improvements included:

  • All existing single-glazed windows in the building were replaced, including five operable windows and three fixed windows.
  • The 20-year-old roof top heating, cooling, and ventilating unit was replaced with a high-efficient unit.
  • Four forced air unit heaters serving the apparatus bay were replaced with modern high-efficiency units. 
  • The storage water heater was replaced with a new high-efficiency unit.
  • The kitchen dishwasher, freezer and refrigerator were all 20-plus years old and were replaced with new ENERGY STAR® appliances.
  • The 35-year-old gear dryer was replaced with a high-efficiency commercial drying unit.

Energy saved
Energy consumption since the pre-project year of 2010 has decreased 10 percent for natural gas and 23 percent for electricity.

Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer has been pleased with the results. “The improvements have been very beneficial,” he said. “The old equipment was original to the building, and we had experienced numerous breakdowns each year prior to the upgrading. Now with the new equipment, all of these issues have disappeared. Reliability has improved and maintenance costs have been reduced. The building is much more comfortable, and temperatures are stable throughout the building. There are no more cold spots near windows. We will feel the benefits for many years.”

Documenting energy improvements
Chief Hoefer tracks his station’s energy performance with the aid of the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool. One of the measurement devices available with this tool is shown below. The chart shows the Bemidji Fire Station’s actual electrical use on the blue bars and what the consumption would have been without the energy improvements on the dashed line. The dashed line is a projection of the 2010 (pre-project) energy use that has been normalized to account for weather variations.

Monthly Electric Chart


Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool available to public buildings
The Minnesota benchmarking tool is available for all state, local government, and public school buildings. It allows users to track their buildings’ energy use, monitor the performance of energy improvements, and allow building portfolio managers to readily identify poor energy performance. The tool is provided by the Minnesota Department of Administration and the Minnesota Department of Commerce, with funding from all utilities in the state supporting the effort. Your jurisdiction may already have your building in the Minnesota benchmarking tool. To add your building to this database, go to the website and click on “Contact Us.” 

The Bemidji Fire Station project was funded primarily by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, via funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the U.S. Department of Energy. This funding was intended to save energy, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Resources for public building projects
The EECBG funding was a one-time funding opportunity for Bemidji and more than 100 other Minnesota cities in 2010 and 2011. Fire chiefs today are encouraged to work with their local utilities when seeking energy upgrades. All utilities in the state are mandated to achieve an annual energy savings of 1.5 percent of annual retail energy sales. Utility representatives can help assess opportunities for efficiency and identify what rebates may help finance projects.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) provides support to local government units, state agencies, school districts, and institutions of higher learning that are seeking to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Contact DER at energysavingsprograms@state.mn.us to discuss which of its energy efficiency programs can be of help.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides helpful resources for building retrofits, including “The Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Office Buildings.” For more on energy efficiency, including information on Minnesota’s B3 Benchmarking tool, contact the DER Information Center at energy.info@state.mn.us.