Energy expenses are the second largest operating expense for a typical school district, coming second only to salaries. According to ENERGY STAR, the average school district spends more on electricity and gas than on computers and textbooks combined.1

With tight budgets and often aging buildings to contend with, schools can pursue energy conservation to help free up funds for educational initiatives. The following energy-saving tips can put your school on the path to responsible and cost-effective energy use.

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Do your homework: Understand your current usage

Start by studying your school’s energy usage patterns and bills, looking for broad trends. Has energy use increased for no discernible reason? Consider an energy audit to examine buildings and equipment, and identify areas of waste. You can also use online tools, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, to measure emissions and the use of energy and water. Once this information is collected, use it to set energy conservation goals and benchmarks, and begin tracking to measure progress.


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Seal air leaks

Examine windows, doors, walls, roofs and the foundations of school buildings. When leaks in these thermal barriers exist, buildings need more energy for heating and cooling. Save energy with simple additions, like weather strips on doors, to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping.

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 to 40 percent, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences,2so consider treating them to improve efficiency.

Add coatings, glazing and insulation to reduce 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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Upgrade and turn off lights

Lighting accounts for nearly 35 percent of the electric bill in most schools.3 Installing high-efficiency lighting is a relatively simple, often cost-effective way to conserve energy.4

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, swapping out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can cut lighting costs by as much has 50 percent.5 Some light emitting diodes (LED) offer even greater energy savings—as much as 75 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.6 An upgrade to LED exit signs can save $10 in electricity costs per sign each year, and significantly reduce maintenance.7

Even the most energy efficient lights should be turned off when not in use. Get school staff in the habit of turning off lights when leaving a room, or install sensors and timers to automate light management. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible with skylights and windows to save the most energy. Remove lights near window banks and unused spaces.


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Set power management features on computers

A computer left on for 24 hours uses $224 a year in electricity.8 According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, on average, education buildings have nearly twice as many computers per million square feet as all commercial buildings, making it essential that schools limit how much electricity their computers use.9

Ensure sleep mode is set not only on computers and monitors, but also on TV and video displays, printers and copiers, and interactive white boards. Remember: screen savers do not save energy. Put equipment not needed for the next class period on sleep mode, and shut down and unplug over the weekend to reduce energy drain.

Don't forget to do the same with microwaves, lamps, chargers and other devices throughout the building.


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Calibrate thermostats

Heating and cooling represents a significant expense for most K-12 schools.10 Concentrate heat and air conditioning in occupied areas by closing classroom doors and turning the heat down in hallways. Set thermostats on a schedule to save energy at night and on weekends. Identify areas that have sporadic or low-occupancy, such as gymnasiums and cafeterias, and redirect heating and cooling when they're not needed.


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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. Establish a regular schedule and procedures for system checks and maintenance, including “pre-season” tune-ups. If older equipment needs to be replaced, opt for energy-efficient products that save energy. Schools can save 50 percent on energy costs by choosing ENERGY STAR equipment such as computers, monitors, printers and refrigerators.


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Involve students in energy conservation

Behavioral changes, such as turning off the lights or reporting leaky faucets, can add up to meaningful savings for K-12 schools. Involve students in your school’s energy conservation efforts and encourage them to do their part. Have them design building signage with tips to save energy, or create lesson plans to teach them the benefits of energy conservation.


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

If your school is eager to save energy and reduce operating costs, Direct Energy Business is here to guide you. 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 K-12 Schools now!

Coffe

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