Be in the know
One of a school’s biggest costs is energy and, while your school’s energy bills will give you an indication of how much energy you are using and whether consumption is going up or down, bills alone will not give you a clear picture of why consumption is fluctuating or where energy is being wasted. That knowledge can be gained by installing monitoring and targeting software, which will provide real-time information on any spikes in energy consumption along with regular performance reports detailing any patterns in energy usage. From here, analysis of energy consumption data will provide an overview of where energy – and money – can be saved.
Whatever level of eco-specification your school building may or may not have, encouraging every member of the school community to adopt good energy saving behaviours is the biggest single thing that you can do to reduce costs by cutting energy consumption.
Appointing “energy champions” can be a useful way to devolve energy-saving responsibility across the school and these champions can be drawn from both teachers, support staff and the student population. This can lead to a programme of targeted initiatives and provide a framework for delivering emerging energy awareness campaigns or rewarding positive energy-saving behaviours and successful milestones.
Even a simple campaign, such as switching off lights when the sun is shining or when the last person leaves the room, can have a significant impact.
As many school buildings are now used for community and social activities outside of normal operating hours, it is essential to monitor energy consumption carefully at these times. You may even consider introducing energy consumption statements to out-of-hours school building users to alert them to any excessive consumption and the resulting increase in overheads.
Government incentives and funding
It can be hard to find the capital for improvements to your school environment, but there are grants available to help you overcome the initial outlay. The Energy Savings Trust is the go-to place for energy efficiency funding schemes. There are also funding opportunities at county council level, and SALIX and the Carbon Trust are major funders of energy projects.
Cost vs consumption equation
In order to maximise the quick win potential of your cost savings programme, it is important to look at areas where relatively low energy consumption equates to a relatively high proportion of your operational costs.
For example, according to the Carbon Trust’s typical energy consumption vs costs model, lighting accounts for around eight per cent of the average school’s energy consumption but represents approximately 20 per cent of its energy costs. Understanding this equation will help you to prioritise improvement programmes.
Adopt new lighting technology
Converting to LED lighting can save as much as 60 per cent on lighting costs with a typical payback of two to four years. This enables the school to target an area of high cost while installing a lighting solution that reduces maintenance requirements and improves light quality.
Manage maintenance proactively
Finding ways in which maintenance can be reduced can lower operational costs, but it is also important to note that maintenance can play an important role in reducing costs and energy consumption too. If facilities are well-maintained as part of a planned programme, this will ensure that the life cycle of both equipment and the fabric of the buildings is optimised.
This includes cleaning, repair and replacement regimes for every aspect of the school. Regular maintenance can also help to reduce energy costs by optimising equipment performance. For example, a boiler that is serviced annually will run at optimum efficiency and the Carbon Trust estimates that this could save the average school 10 per cent on its heating costs.
Many schools fail to keep a close watch on temperature settings. Ensure that your thermostat is accurate and efficient and adjust the heat to reflect the usage requirements of different areas of the building: Carbon Trust guidelines recommend 18 degrees Celsius for normal teaching areas, 15 degrees for circulation areas, and 21 degrees for special needs environments or low activity areas.
In addition, it is also important to remember that heating systems must remain unobstructed so that energy (and money) is not being wasted.
Remain in control
Automated control systems in combination with energy-efficient lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems can reduce energy consumption and save money by preventing waste. This may focus on absence detection in classrooms and toilets for use during core hours but should also incorporate specific “scenes” for use out-of-hours. For example there may be a “cleaners scene”, a “sports event scene” or a “staff meeting scene”, ensuring HVAC and lighting are only switched on in the areas of the building that are actually in use.
Produce your own energy
With energy costs rising, the cost of renewable energy installations falling and attractive “Feed in Tariff” payments for any micro-generated energy transferred to the grid, investing in renewable energy technologies is an attractive proposition for any school. Solar PV panels are often the most cost-attractive option and are an ideal solution for school buildings which have large roof areas.
Wayne Calland is energy manager at Eric Wright Facilities Management.