Buildings like day care centers are known to use a lot of energy wastefully—up to 30 percent.1 Trimming the waste, and cutting energy bills, can equate to extra operational costs for your day care center.2

Energy conservation also offers a way to create a comfortable environment for children that's conducive to learning. Below are eight tips to help you get started with saving energy.

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Gather data and set goals.

Study your day care center’s utility bills, looking for broad trends or unexplained increases. Consider getting a professional energy audit of buildings and equipment to help you measure energy use and identify areas of waste. Free online tools, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, help you measure emissions and energy and water use, as well as compare your numbers to similar facilities. Once this information is collected, you’ll use it to identify your energy conservation goals and measure progress. 

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Brighten the room naturally

Lighting accounts for nearly 35 percent of the electric bill in most schools.3 Save energy and money by using natural light from windows and skylights. Allowing or blocking sunlight from windows and skylights can also help regulate room temperatures, without touching the thermostat.

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Upgrade and turn off lights

When electric light is needed, installing energy-efficient lighting is a simple, often cost-effective way to conserve energy.4 Swapping out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can cut lighting costs by as much has 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.5 Some light emitting diodes (LEDs) offer even greater energy savings—as much as 75 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.6

Even the most energy-efficient lights should be turned off when not in use. Get kids and adults alike in the habit of turning off lights when leaving a room, and remember to unplug lamps and task lights when leaving for the day. Installing occupancy sensors and timers is an effective way to automate light management and conserve energy.

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 Seal air leaks

Prevent heat and air conditioning from escaping by examining the windows, doors, walls, roofs and the foundation of your day care facility. When leaks in these thermal barriers exist, buildings need more energy for heating and cooling. Simple additions, such as weather strips on doors, can save energy.

Windows are especially important, since they are common sources of air leaks and also help reduce the need for electric light. Window improvements can cut your lighting and HVAC costs by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences,7 so consider treating them to improve their efficiency. Add coatings, glazing and insulation to reduce the loss of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. You might also consider window replacement, but have an energy-efficiency expert help you determine if and where new, high-efficiency windows offer a return on investment.

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Save water

Heating and pumping water to bathroom sinks and toilets consumes electricity, use that ends up on your utility bill. Conserve energy by using less water in bathrooms and laundry facilities. Consider installing faucets that turn off automatically, and low-flow toilets with auto-flush controls. Set water temperatures only as hot as needed to save on heating costs, and fix leaks to save water. Don’t forget to educate children on the importance of water conservation when using the bathroom and washing their hands.  

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Program thermostats for more efficient heating and cooling

Energy-saving day cares can create a comfortable environment for children with efficient heating and cooling. Use programmable thermostats on a schedule to save energy, adjusting temperatures at night and on weekends when your day care is unoccupied. During the day, concentrate heat and air conditioning in occupied areas by closing classroom doors and turning the heat down in hallways.

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Maintain or upgrade building systems and appliances

Ensure that building equipment such as HVAC systems, thermostats, hot water tanks, pumps, piping and air filters, are calibrated, clean, insulated if necessary, and operating as efficiently as possible. Regular checks and maintenance prevent waste and conserve energy. If older equipment needs to be replaced, opt for energy efficient models, like those from ENERGY STAR. If food is stored at your day care center, recycle old refrigerators and replace them with energy-efficient products. An ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator can save your day care $35 to $300 on energy costs over its lifetime.8

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 Set power management features on TV/video displays and computers

Ensure that sleep mode is set on TV/video displays, computers and monitors. Shut down and unplug electronics over the weekend to reduce energy drain. Don’t forget to do the same with microwaves, lamps, chargers and other devices throughout your day care center.


For more educational ideas, including curriculum resources, educational materials for students and tips for science fair projects, visit the National Energy Education Development Project.


Energy conservation can benefit your day care center’s budget, as well as the well-being of the children in your care. For guidance on how to start saving energy at your day care, Direct Energy Business can help. We can help you buy less of what we sell, offering a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions, including:

Get started today!

Download our free Total Energy Management guide for Education now!


  1. ENERGY STAR, “Facts and Stats,” retrieved February 2016
  2. Ibid.
  3. Alliance to Save Energy, “Top 10 Energy Efficiency Tips for Schools,” retrieved February 2016
  4. Energy.gov, "How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents," retrieved February 10, 2016
  5. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Office Energy Checklist,” retrieved February 2016
  6. ENERGY STAR, “Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting?” retrieved February 2016
  7. National Institute of Building Sciences, Whole Building Design Guide, “Windows and Glazing,” updated November 4, 2014
  8. Energystar.gov, “Refrigerators for Consumers,” retrieved February 2016

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