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Ways to Conserve Energy at School: 15 Actionable Tips
Schools, whether they be colleges or elementary schools, are consuming energy 24/7. The costs of lighting, heating & cooling, powering electronics, and other necessities add up extremely quickly. Even at night when students and teachers are home, the building consumes electricity to ensure that it’s ready for the next school day.
If you’re a school administrator or other educational official, looking to cut costs by saving energy at school, it might seem like a daunting task. How to save energy is a simple question with a complex answer.
But there are steps you can take to cut back on energy consumption. We’ve outlined 15 different ways to tackle this problem. Some of them are simpler, like taking advantage of natural light, while others are more complicated.
The new school year is just starting to ramp up, so now is a great time to implement changes that are just as good for the environment as they are for your wallet.
1. Switch to LEDs for Lighting in Your School
We are an LED lighting company, and this will be our first obvious advice. However, we don’t do this for mere promotional reasons. This option will surely have some higher initial costs but the results will be more than worth it.
The classrooms and hallways of school buildings are mostly lit with fluorescent bulbs. These types of lights undoubtedly used to be the most effective ones until LED technology entered the market. It changed everything.
You will be able to save around 30% of the total energy consumption by simply shifting to LED light fixtures. These are the saving estimates just for school indoor areas. A full upgrade to LED lights can help you save up to 75% on your power bills.
You may find the initial cost of LED conversion to be a little higher, but rest assured, all the investment will be recouped faster than expected. LEDs have many advantages including low energy consumption, longer life, and low maintenance costs.
Another bonus point is the huge rebates available for qualified LED lighting products. State and local governments, along with local utility companies, offer rebates and incentives for upgrading to LED lighting.
You can save around $1674 to $7254 every year as per the cost of electricity in your area. The chart below is built around the savings made for a school gym that has undergone the LED conversion. Let’s say the running hours of the gym are 12 hours per day, 5 days a week.
How to Convert to LED Lights in a Gym – Three Steps
1. Gather All the Information.
If you sign up for our services, we will assess all the needs of your current gym. This assessment plays a crucial role in making the newer solution successful for the current settings.
2. Make a Gymnasium Lighting Plan.
A lighting plan includes the study of the light level expectations and a view of how the lighting will turn out in reality. The best part, you can get this lighting plan from us without any cost at all. It’s a “see before you spend” deal.
3. Review the Lighting Plan and Quote.
Check it out! See if the gym is efficiently and expectedly lit. See if the light is reaching out to all the corners evenly. The lighting process of LED Lighting Supply is fully risk-free and will work great for you just like it did for all customers.
School Gym using Fluorescent Fixtures
School Gym after converting to LED Lighting Supply 120W UFO LED High Bays
2. Use Occupancy Sensors
Some of the other parts of a school building continue to be in use at different parts of the day but that doesn’t mean every part needs equal lighting. You can turn off the lights in spaces like empty classrooms, hallways, closets, labs, etc.
You can take a step ahead in energy saving with the occupancy sensors. Incorporating these sensors with the lights make them more efficient. It automates light usage as per the activity levels in the area. Install the sensors and relax! You will be free from checking the lights constantly as the sensors would be doing the job now.
Thus, occupancy sensors carry out the biggest task in the energy-saving routine, which is turning the lights off when not in use. There is no guarantee that lights will be switched off manually.
3. Get an Energy Management System
Energy management systems, like timers and thermostat controls, are an efficient way to help make the cooling and heating systems of school buildings perform optimally. It usually happens that the temperature control systems are left working even when the schools are shut down as no one is there to manually control them.
You can set the run time of these amenities with an energy management system. This way, you will be saving money by reducing unnecessary power usage along with keeping the school building ready for other times too.
4. Keep the Furnace Filters Clean
There are other ways to save the energy used by cooling and heating systems that can help you to cut energy costs too. In most of the school buildings that were built previously, furnaces were used for heating the rooms during winter.
Unclean filters of appliances can greatly reduce their overall efficiency. The damage is higher in the case of furnaces whose output gets reduced due to dirty filters.
However, there is an easy way out of this. The US Department of Energy says you can improve the efficiency of your furnace by over 15% by regularly cleaning the filters. Isn’t that a big deal? All you need to do for that is make a schedule for furnace cleaning, give it to the maintenance staff to follow, and observe the results.
5. Check the Dorms Too
You may think that dorms shouldn’t be a problem as they usually exist only in boarding schools or universities, but their importance isn’t any less.
There is a good chance that the residents of dormitories aren’t following or are not even aware of the energy-saving practices. Saving energy would probably be the last thing on their minds after all the schoolwork.
However, you can help out these dormitory residents by saving energy in a plethora of other ways. One of these ways is related to occupancy sensors. This control system proves very helpful for the areas that don’t need lighting all the time like bathrooms and hallways. Get better with conservation through water-saving toilets and sinks. Nonetheless, the personal participation of the dormitory residents will make everything better. Make them more aware of it for the best results!
6. Control Computer Screens for Energy Saving
Screens are an inevitable part of schools these days. The information flow that these screens like PCs facilitate is invaluable but their contribution to high energy consumption cannot be ignored.
For starters, you can seek help from the students and staff to make sure that the PCs are shut down when the day is over. Additionally, they can be put in Sleep mode when they haven’t been used for a specified time period. Sleep mode works better for the computers than the screen saver as it puts the whole CPU process to rest and helps contribute to energy savings.
At the same time, you can take a step toward boosting efficiency by purchasing Energy Star-rated computers. This can be easily done while upgrading the computer labs, replacing the damaged monitors, or even building a new lab.
7. Give Responsibility to Students
While discussing the energy-saving methods for dormitories above, we established the fact that the best effort comes from the personal participation of the dormitory residents. You can be innovative and assign the responsibility to Energy Monitors. These students will be in charge of spreading awareness of energy saving and taking direct action.
Students will show a willingness to coordinate with your efforts if you involve them. They might also come up with new ideas themselves. Devise an energy efficiency task force involving selected students from all grades who can give their suggestions.
Additionally, you can hand out energy conservation activities to classes. All of this may seem like a task but real people are participating here and that increases the success rate.
8. Get Better Insulation in Your Buildings
We have already discussed above how temperature control systems consume a great amount of energy. We also discussed certain methods to deal with the issue. Heat reflection is a very obvious process, but you could be losing more heat due to a poorly insulated facility. Here, improved insulation can lead to about 40% savings.
Higher costs are obvious when changing the insulation of facilities and school buildings. However, just like with LED lights, you will see the benefits and they will quickly recoup the investment. Also, you don’t need to rush through the process.
9. Upgrade the Bathrooms
A huge energy drain happens in bathrooms too. Unnecessary wastage of light along with frequent usage of water in the sinks and toilet flushes causes a negative impact on the environment too. The changes need to be made here too and you should consider installing water-saving toilets and sinks. You will save a lot on utility costs.
Energy-saving hand dryers are also a good option to check out. These dryers have very low maintenance needs and reduce energy costs. Paper towels are not only an outdated option but also harmful to the environment and budget.
However, these modifications can come with large initial costs. You can try other measures to avoid that. The idea is to keep the appliances in good working condition to save energy and that can be achieved with regular maintenance. Keep the toilets and leaky faucets repaired.
10. Conduct a Building Commission
This is one of the most effective ways to start with energy saving in schools. It involves building commissioning performed by a certified professional. This is a proactive process that requires expertise. Building commissioning is the detailed inspection and assessment of the building systems to ensure they’re synchronized and working efficiently.
Thus, it would be better for you to focus on the performance of your systems rather than constantly retrofitting newer machines into the settings and expecting better output.
This method will reveal the rare issues that may have been plaguing your systems and increasing their energy consumption. We strongly recommend you get building commissioning done.
11. Utilize Natural Light
We have been discussing the various ways energy is consumed by the different school building systems and what are the ways to save that consumption. We saw how things like motion sensors, energy management systems, etc. prove helpful for the purpose.
However, can make use of the most powerful source of light available, the sun.
Think about that and encourage the students to utilize natural light as much as possible. This will save you money, increase student productivity, and prevent health issues.
You can start by letting the sunlight into classrooms by opening the blinds. It will be even better for the classroom lights with dimming controls as the light will adjust accordingly and save energy too. This method will prove to be energy-saving anyway since natural light will cost you nothing and it will light up the whole environment.
12. Be Conservative with Heating
We have already discussed at length the burden a heating system can be on energy resources. However, there are plenty of ways you can save on costs related to your heating systems.
One of the ways to begin is to employ selective space heating. This means that you should heat only the deserving spaces like classrooms but not the hallways.
Hallways are mostly in the interiors which makes them immune from the harsh weather conditions outside like temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, classrooms need to be kept comfortable with warm temperatures.
An additional benefit of this is that there is no heat loss upon the closing and opening of the hallway external doors frequently. However, you must remember that to make this method successful, you also need to instruct the faculty to keep the classroom doors shut or the heat will keep flowing out.
13. Check the Heating Levels
You may have seen that windows are opened quite regularly to reduce the excessive heat of classrooms. Well, this is a bad step that only increases the work of the heating system and it starts consuming deficit energy.
To deal with this, check the room temperature and continue to adjust the thermostat accordingly to be able to maintain the right room temperature and also not waste energy unconsciously.
14. Promote Recycling in School
This is an indirect but effective method of saving school energy where the focus is on the energy that is consumed in the production of materials. The first step to making recycling possible at school is to make the opportunities readily available.
There should be a recycling bin next to every trash bin or else the recycling material will be mixed in with regular trash because people won’t care much about finding the right place to dump their used items.
You are going to succeed with your energy-saving and cost-saving efforts only by encouraging the stakeholders by making it easy to do. Keep the labeling appropriate on the recycle bins or people will remain unaware of it.
15. Focus on Solar Power Generation
Sometimes, we need to think outside of the box to deal with the simplest of issues. Creative thinking is required here too. How about not having the energy costs at all? How about going solar?
The main idea is that energy consumption is inevitable, and this will only rise no matter how much you try to reduce it. School buildings need a lot of energy to keep functioning every day.
The initial cost of solar conversion is, nonetheless, going to be high. However, there are ways to make it affordable. This can be done with the rebates offered by various power companies that often make the conversion a good option. Once you switch to solar energy, you will observe the immediate effect on your power bills. Solar energy generates a positive ROI for all the facilities and saves resources too.
Save to Make Your School Better
Energy-saving is not all about money-saving but there are plenty of other benefits that come out of it. Saving in one place, like power consumption, will allow you to use that money for other purposes related to school maintenance, and the result will be a better environment for everyone.
We have given you all the tried and tested methods above. Schools all around the country are abiding by energy-saving measures to adhere to sustainability, cut energy costs, and build a positive educational environment for all future generations of students.
You may find some of these methods to be difficult. This is related to the high costs certain methods come with. However, you must remain focused on the results.
The right way to go about all of this is to invest in methods that may look expensive in the beginning but will help you have tenfold savings later. That is going to be worth it. You can start with the minor changes and then go with the bigger ones. Stay focused on cutting energy consumption that will ultimately bring savings.
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.