Schools are under pressure to make more of their budgets. Many have sought to increase income by letting outbuildings and sharing facilities with the community, and while this can be a real win-win for the school and surrounding areas, it can further push up energy costs.
If you find yourself charged with improving energy efficiency at your school, this mini-guide will serve as a hard and fast introduction to some of the points you need to consider. It includes some surprising saving energy at school facts and easy to implement energy-saving tips.
Use It as an Education Opportunity
Talking about the environmental and cost impact of energy use can really help to get staff and pupils on board with energy reduction. Perhaps you could translate your plans into energy-saving school projects? You could spend class time talking about climate change. Or, take the time to educate staff and pupils on how savings could be better spent on updating facilities or buying new equipment. You can then carry out an energy use assessment and determine the steps you’ll take together to reduce energy use.
At this point, everyone at the school should feel more invested in working towards a common goal. Many schools also choose to set up an energy awareness action team to monitor their progress. Putting energy reduction goals and reminders on clear display also reminds everyone to do consistently do their bit. When progress is made, don’t forget to update everyone and thank them for their efforts.
Start with heat and light
The average UK school energy bill is reportedly £31,000. Heating and lighting tend to be the big two non-staff costs in schools. Lighting often accounts for up to half of the energy costs. But there are energy-saving practices you can carry out that don’t come with huge costs.
The first step in developing your energy reduction plan should be for you to ask for feedback from the people using school buildings. Are the classrooms often too warm? Does everyone know how to turn radiators off on warm days? Are hallways and vacant rooms being lit and heated unnecessarily? Lowering the temperature in a building by just 1ºC could lower your heating bill by 5-10%. If your buildings have air conditioning fitted, ensure there’s no overlap between the temperature air conditioning and heating system switch-on to avoid wastage.
Take the time to check heat and light use throughout the school at different times of the day. This should include before pupils arrive. Some school buildings may be in use at different times and not require heating for the whole day. And while you may need heating to come on a little before pupils arrive, it might not need to be for as long as you think. A building management system can help you to monitor and control the temperature throughout the school to set switch on and off points. Adjust your heating timers as appropriate too. Installing motion sensor lighting in lower use areas is another smart way to make savings.
Maintaining and updating heat and school lighting equipment can also help to reduce energy use. From insulating pipes through to replacing old light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or LED lighting to use less energy, swapping old for new reduces energy expenditure. When you can, factor in natural light resources when designing classroom layouts and timetabling classes. According to the Carbon Trust – working more effectively with daylight can reduce lighting costs by 19%. Ensure windows are cleaned and blinds are angled to reflect light onto walls to use natural light and rely on electric lighting less.
ICT and Equipment
Use of computers and related equipment has increased exponentially in schools over the last decade. But did you know leaving just one computer and monitor on 24/7 costs around £45 a year? Request that staff and pupils power up ICT and other equipment only when required. Equipment can also be switched off rather than using standby mode. Using laptops rather than desktop computers can often provide energy savings for schools. Not only are laptops more easily moved between classrooms and users, but they consume less energy too.
Other equipment use to be mindful of includes projectors, electronic whiteboards, printers, photocopiers and even kettles in the staffroom. We recently explored why making simple energy-saving swaps is really worthwhile. As a reminder, if you only fill the kettle for the number of drinks required you can wipe £19 off a home’s annual electricity bill. It’s easy to see how doing the same in the staffroom could mean there’s more money left in the kitty. Similarly, lowering the temperature of water heaters can also net you impressive savings. Adjusting the heating point to 60C is enough to kill bacteria like legionella while reducing your water heating costs.
You can often discover energy-saving opportunities in the school kitchen too. From ensuring there’s a logical layout that keeps heating and cooling appliances apart through to maintaining things like seals on fridges and freezers. Is your school canteen up to scratch?
Monitor and Manage Energy Use
Sub-meters have been required in schools since the 1990s. These monitor at least 90% of the energy load in schools to help you identify peaks and troughs. In addition, you could choose to have your school fitted with a smart meter. Meters provide you with valuable additional data about your school’s energy use. This data can help you identify potential areas for improvement or troubleshooting. Some schools choose to go beyond monitoring and managing energy use to generate their own electricity. Could you fit solar panels to some of your buildings to fuel future energy savings?