Improving energy efficiency in schools does not mean compromising the comfort of staff and students. In many cases, implementing some simple energy saving measures actually improves conditions, as well as saving money.
Both upper and lower schools are pushed to make the most of their resources, while providing a solid education for students. Being energy efficient saves money, so is an excellent way to release funds for curricular resources or facilities.
In addition to economic benefits, there are social and environmental advantages to reducing energy consumption, such as preserving fossil fuels and minimising impact on the environment. This is increasingly important to the reputation of schools, as students, teachers and parents become increasingly aware of climate change.
Moreover, actions taken to become energy efficient provide an excellent opportunity for practical learning and real-life application for students. Many of the actions in this overview could be undertaken or monitored by students, while the science behind it might be a great opportunity for targeted classes.
Breakdown of energy costs Energy consumption in schools can vary depending on the age of the buildings, their state of repair, occupancy hours and the amount and type of electrical equipment installed.
Generally, secondary schools will have higher energy costs than primary schools. This can be explained by secondary schools’ longer hours and larger number of students, as well as more widespread use of electrical equipment in ICT, science, sports and crafts lessons.
However, areas of energy waste are often the same regardless of school size or level. Figures 1A and 1B shown on page 83 detail where the biggest savings can be made. They are divided into energy use and energy cost and comparing them could help school managers decide which areas to prioritise. For example, note how much energy electric lighting uses – eight per cent – but then compare that with what it may be costing – as much as 20 per cent.
In each of the key consumption areas there are three main opportunities to save energy. Firstly, all energy consuming equipment should be switched off when not required. This can be done by staff and students, by timer switches or by adjusting building control systems – and need not cost any money. Also, a number of energy efficiency measures can be carried out as part of routine maintenance procedures at no extra cost. Finally, energy saving measures taken when planning major refurbishment can be extremely cost effective.
Energy use in schools is escalating due to the use of ITC equipment which, in turn, increases electricity demand. Moreover, school buildings are now being used for community purposes, increasing occupancy hours and the use of facilities.
Heating Savings made in heating can have a positive impact on energy bills, with even simple, low‑cost measures making a difference. Children have higher metabolic rates than adults and so are comfortable at lower temperatures. Maintaining optimum internal temperatures for staff and students will improve comfort conditions that can help boost attentiveness and morale. Happier students can be easier to communicate with and contribute to a more productive learning environment.
Heating needs vary throughout the day so check that the system operating hours match the times when heating and ventilation are required. Review time settings every month or so to check that they are correct. Many systems function inefficiently because someone made a short‑term adjustment and then forgot about it. Fitting tamper-proof thermostatic radiator valves can prevent this from happening.
Discourage staff from using thermostats as on/off switches – turning to maximum does not speed up the heating process, it usually just results in an overheated space. It is important to ensure thermostats are not influenced by draughts, sunlight or internal heat sources like radiators or ICT equipment. Settings should reflect the activity taking place in the space.
Keep circulation in mind – schools always have lots of activities going on and furniture is constantly being rearranged to accommodate students’ needs. Make sure radiators and vents are not obstructed by any equipment and that filters are kept clean and free of dust. This ensures better circulation of heat into the space and reduces the energy required to meet the heating demand.
Lighting Well-lit spaces are essential for an effective teaching and learning environment. As a result, lighting accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the total energy used in schools. However, there is considerable scope for making savings by implementing some simple good housekeeping measures.
Staff and students should be involved in making savings this can be achieved through raising awareness during assembly and non‑teaching class time, placing stickers above light switches and posters around the building.
Avoid having blinds down and lights on; a familiar scene in classrooms and offices is the use of blinds to control glare when it is bright outside. Where possible, encourage staff to use blinds to direct daylight onto the ceiling and walls instead. This should reduce the need for electric lighting in the classroom whilst reducing glare.
Daylight blinds are particularly effective. They enable the natural light to enter the space by re-directing the light onto the ceiling, thereby allowing the ‘free’ daylight to enter the space, alleviating discomfort felt by the occupants from glare. Many daylight blinds also have perforated blades to enable a view outside, which can create a positive atmosphere.
Choose the most efficient lighting possible. For example, upgrade standard tungsten light bulbs to energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) which use 75 per cent less energy, produce less unwanted heat and last eight to 10 times longer. Be careful, however, as some areas are not suitable for energy saving bulbs.
Replace blackened, flickering, dim or failed fluorescent tubes with triphosphor coated ones (this is stated on the packaging). Triphosphor coating provides a more natural, brighter light for the whole life of the tube. If the tubes are 38mm (1.5 inch), replace them with slimmer 26mm (1 inch) tubes.
Specify high frequency fluorescent lighting systems and mirror reflectors whenever fluorescent lighting is to be replaced. High frequency tubes reduce energy use and heat output, eliminate flicker and hum, extend lamp life (by up to 50 per cent) and can allow dimming – all of which can make a classroom more comfortable. Make sure this happens by including it in the school’s purchasing policy.
Catering and food technology School kitchens are a major energy consumption area. Saving money in this area does not have to compromise working conditions or the service offered – it can even improve both.
Energy is primarily used to power catering equipment and heat hot water; however, these are areas that can offer significant cost savings without compromising hygiene or resources.
Managing energy use can also have additional benefits of improving the quality of food produced as well as the working environment for kitchen staff. Do not switch on too soon – most modern catering equipment reaches optimum temperature quickly. Label equipment with its preheat time and educate staff to switch on only when required, and switch off ovens, grills, fryers and hobs immediately after use.
Avoid overfilling saucepans and kettles and use lids where possible, and select the right size of saucepan to avoid underfilling. Also, keep fridge and freezer doors closed and defrost regularly to save energy and prolong equipment lifetime, and move storage fridges and freezers out of kitchen areas into well ventilated, uncooled spaces.
Catering equipment should be purchased with running costs in mind. Although gas-fired equipment can be more expensive to buy than electrical or steam equivalents, savings made on running costs make it a more efficient option.
Equipment that automatically switches off (such as pan sensors on hobs) can save 25 per cent on energy costs.
Select ovens with large double glazed viewing windows to reduce the need to open doors to inspect contents.