Schools are under pressure to make more of their budgets. Many have sought to increase income by letting out buildings 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 with 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? Class time could be spent talking about climate change or you may want to educate staff and pupils on how savings made could be better spent on updating facilities or buying new equipment. This means that once you’ve carried out an energy use assessment and decided what measures you will take to reduce your use, everyone at the school should feel more invested in working towards a common goal. Many schools choose to set up an energy awareness action team in charge of monitoring progress. Displaying energy reduction goals and reminders of ways everyone can do their bit is a great way to involve students and staff. 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 with lighting often representing up to half of energy costs, but there are energy saving practise you can carry out that don’t come with huge costs. The first step in identifying measures to include in your energy reduction plan should be for you to ask for feedback from the people using school buildings. Are 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 school has air conditioning fitted, simply ensuring the temperature setting for when your air conditioning and heating systems switch on doesn’t overlap is an easy way to ensure energy is not wasted.
Take the time to check heat and light use throughout the school at different times of the day – starting before pupils arrive. Some school buildings may be open at different times and therefore will 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 temperature throughout the school and set logical switch on and off points. Adjust your heating timers if you find you don’t need to heat rooms for as long. 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 can reduce energy expenditure. Factoring in natural light resource when designing classroom layout or class timetabling is one simple change that is often overlooked. 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 to power up ICT and other equipment only when required and switch equipment off rather than using standby mode. Many schools seek to reduce costs by purchasing laptops rather than desktop computers. 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 and found out that only filling the kettle for the number of drinks required 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 savings. Adjusting the heating point to 60C is enough to kill bacteria like legionella while reducing your water heating costs.
School kitchens are another area where energy savings can often be made. From ensuring the layout is logical when it comes to keeping heating and cooling appliances apart through to maintaining things like seals on fridges and freezers to maintain efficiency.
Monitor and manage energy use
Sub-meters have been a 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, providing you with 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 by having solar panels installed – is this something your school could do?