10 Handy Hints to Improve Energy Efficiency in Schools
For many educational institutions, the back to school blues can be hard to overcome – especially after a long and sunny summer break. Before we know it, the temperature will have plummeted, and the kids will need warming up and feeding after the cold and wet mornings at the bus stop. To avoid skyrocketing energy bills during the winter months, we look at how to improve energy efficiency in schools with 10 simple steps.
How can schools become more energy efficient?
Ensuring that classrooms and corridors are toasty is key to an engaged student populace. But with the average UK school energy bill at around £31,000, it’s not cheap to maintain.
Schools use a huge amount of energy – but according to the UK government, over 20% of that is wasted, so school energy efficiency is of paramount importance. By simply implementing simple housekeeping and energy-efficient measures, you can significantly reduce your school’s heating oil consumption and cut energy bills by up to 10% without having to keep your coats, hats and scarves tightly on. Even better, you will:
- Save money
- Cut your environmental footprint
- Reduce demand on finite resources
- Avoid school shutdown
Don’t mess with the thermostat
The first step in school energy efficiency fine-tuning starts with the thermostat. Turning the thermostat up by just one degree can add 10% to your heating bill, so looking at improving heating controls can not only save thousands of pounds each year, but it can also help improve student morale and encourage productive learning.
Children have a higher metabolic rate than adults so are therefore comfortable at slightly lower temperatures. If you stick to The Department for Education and Skills’ temperature recommendations, you’ll be sure to maintain the ideal environment and keep costs low:
- Classrooms – 18°C
- Corridors – 15°C
- Sports halls – 15°C
- Areas with low levels of activity – 21°C
- Special needs schools or areas with very young children – 21°C
Tamper-proof thermostatic radiator valves and lockable windows are another great way to avoid heat escaping and extortionate bills.
Stick to an October – April heating schedule
Adjusting the timer in line with school opening and closing times will ensure that the building has had time to warm up before people arrive, and similarly cool down when they leave.
Handy Hint: Using a 7-day timer can provide tailored settings for each weekday and ensure that the heating isn’t being left on over the weekends and during school holidays.
Use high-quality heating oil
Investing in quality fuels from a reliable and trusted fuel supplier – like Kleenburn Kerosene – will help maximise the efficiency of your school and reduce its emissions too.
The clean-burning heating oil has been manufactured with additives to help improve boiler performance and burn quality, as well as decrease the risk of contamination and sludge formation. This ultimately reduces the risk of costly breakdowns and replacements.
Maintain boilers and pipework
Ensuring school boilers are serviced regularly by a trustworthy and specialist company will help reduce the risk of an untimely boiler breakdown: gas-fired boilers should be serviced once a year and oil boilers twice a year. When you know that a regularly-serviced boiler can save you up to 10% on your annual heating costs, then you’ll know it’s worth it.
Boilers, pipes, valves and tanks must also be insulated to improve comfort and reduce the risk of heat escaping.
Take care of the heating oil tank
A storage tank needs regular TLC to help protect against boiler breakdowns. Looking for signs of rust or damage on not just your tank but the gauges, pipes and fittings too will help avoid downtime disaster.
As well as checking the tank yourself, it’s important to have regular tank inspections by an OFTEC registered company at least every six months. This will find any problems which can be repaired, saving the school huge sums of money.
Appoint an energy team
Having a team dedicated to saving energy within a school will make it easier to locate issues and encourage a sense of ownership for who does what. It also solves the issue of a single-point dependency, ensuring that the responsibility doesn’t sit with an unsupported member of staff.
Members who understand the school’s systems should be assigned duties that correlate with their skills. This can act as a forum for people to report problems, so an action plan can be devised and implemented if an issue does occur.
Take regular meter readings
Taking readings routinely, such as monthly, will help you obtain reliable information on your energy consumption, allowing you to detect waste quickly and take preventative action.
Handy Hint: Submeters can help identify any cost savings or investments needed to reduce running costs. They allow for accurate budget allocation and billing to take place, for example, if catering is provided through an external company. Submeters can also act as a motivation for kitchen managers to cut energy costs through financial rewards.
Improve building insulation
A well-insulated and maintained building ensures heating consumption is at its best. School furniture is often moved around to accommodate different activities. But be sure to keep radiators and vents clear to preserve effective heat circulation around the classroom.
Fitting lockable windows and keeping filters clean and dust-free will also ensure better circulation of heat and reduce the amount of energy required to meet the heating demand.
According to the UK government, lighting accounts for almost 30% of energy bills in schools, yet it provides the highest potential for saving energy when applying good housekeeping measures.
Within the school environment, lighting should meet three criteria:
- Appropriate illuminance
- Visual comfort
- Energy efficiency
“Currently LED upgrades use at least 80% less electricity than an equivalent tungsten halogen source” says The Carbon Trust. Compared to more traditional lighting, LED lights have a dramatically longer lifespan of around 50,000 hours which can reduce maintenance costs significantly.
Installing lighting sensors in rooms which are used infrequently can help cut costs significantly. You can also take advantage of natural daylight instead of worrying about remembering to switch lights off when you leave the classroom.
Handy Hint: Curtains and blinds can help keep rooms comfortable during extremely cold or hot weather periods. Closing them at the end of the day during winter will reduce draughts and help keep heat within. Likewise, closing them in summer can also help reduce heat in rooms from direct sunlight. Blinds can also effectively control daylight and glare issues.
Opt for energy-saving mode
An increasing reliance on computer-based systems in schools is likewise leading to increased energy bills, with power consumption through the use of computers having nearly doubled over the last five years.
Of course, making sure all PCs are switched off at the end of the day, over the weekends and during school breaks will cut costs. But even when this behaviour is implemented, the average PC will still gobble up £15 of energy every year.
By simply taking advantage of ‘standby’ mode (built-in energy-saving facilities) you can reduce the cost by 50%. This enables a computer to automatically switch into low consumption mode when not in use. Then, as soon as the mouse or keyboard is touched, the display is restored to where the user left off.
Switching off and enabling standby mode can reduce costs to less than £10 a year, and also greatly extend the lifespan of equipment. When you add up the savings for each computer in a school, these savings will start making a real difference to your energy bills.
Use renewable fuels
Renewable energy systems for schools will help reduce energy bills and harmful emissions too. Implementing sustainability can also create awareness amongst pupils and offer a valuable teaching resource. Renewable options include:
- Wind turbines
- Heat pumps
- Biofuels e.g. CHP biofuel & HVO biofuel
- Solar heat and power
To find out more about how we can help your school improve energy efficiency, get in touch with our team of heating oil experts on 0330 123 1444.