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14 Ways to Save Energy at School

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If you’re not paying the electricity bill, it’s easy to forgo energy-saving efforts. But teachers and administrators can conscientiously make a few changes to create more energy-efficient schools. Plus, inviting students to help use power in a more environmentally-friendly way allows them to conserve power at school and practice energy conservation at home. College students can apply these principles in their dorm rooms, along with campuses across the U.S. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a better learning environment with superior energy performance contributes to increased learning and productivity. The benefits aren’t just environmental, but economic and educational.

Start saving at school with these kid-friendly tips.

14 Energy-Saving Ideas For School

1. Take advantage of natural sunlight

If it’s a sunny day and your classroom is lined with windows, utilize natural sunlight. Turn off overhead lights and let the sun shine in, especially if you’re giving a lecture and students don’t need to read what’s right in front of them. Use blinds to reduce glare. 

Natural sunlight will create a more relaxed learning environment compared to the harsh overhead lights in most classrooms. Studies show that natural light keeps people more focused, alert, and improves their mood. Plus, keeping the lights off will keep the room cooler during the September heat.

New school construction or buildings undergoing renovations should consider energy-efficient windows that are south-facing and heat-reducing, plus skylights in common areas such as hallways and cafeterias. Natural sunlight helps reduce overall power consumption. 

2. Switch to LED lightbulbs

Most homes have already switched from the old energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs to save money. Schools can do the same by replacing all incandescent bulbs and standard fluorescent lights with more efficient options. Lights are on nearly all day, making them one of the most significant expenses related to powering a school. Standard lights can also produce a lot of heat, increasing cooling costs as well.

One option is Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), which work in fluorescent sockets or even standard screw-base sockets. CFLs last longer than standard incandescent bulbs and cost a fraction of the price to run. However, mercury is a harmful byproduct if a CFL leaks or breaks.. They also burn out quickly when regularly turned on and off.

Becoming the standard in energy-efficient lighting, LED bulbs offer a powerful option for lighting at a fraction of the electrical cost. Modern advances in the diodes used in these bulbs allow for more affordable light bulb production, making them more cost-effective at the time of purchase. LED bulbs last longer, create less waste, as well as help improve students’s concentration and decrease hyperactivity.


3. Invest in energy-saving power strips

Keep classroom computers and other devices plugged into power strips to help mitigate standby power usage. Not only will this help save power on a day-to-day basis, it will also make it easier to unplug all devices during long holiday breaks. Take it a step further and invest in smart power strips, which can save 5% to 10% of power by shutting down power to standby mode devices that are plugged in. 


4. Change Televisions to LCD Screens or Smart Projectors

Light bulbs aren’t the only fixture that can help you reduce school energy uses. Another consideration when you’re learning is the power used for television screens and computer monitors. Schools depend on screens for enhancing lesson plans, supplemental materials, and fun movie reward days.  Older, larger televisions use substantially more electricity than smaller, modern screens. ENERGY STAR TVs can save up to 15% on electricity compared to conventional models.

Remember the old TV/VCR cart that rolled into your classroom? Those staples of old are called CRT units,but are being replaced with LCD screens that use less than half of the electricity of a comparably sized CRT screen. Many schools are outfitting classrooms with energy-saving, flat screen LCD TVs.  As technology moves quickly, interactive smart projectors are also making their way into the classrooms. While the upfront investment is high, schools can benefit from the flexible, long-lasting technology. Inquire if your school qualifies for any local or state technology investments.


5. Invest in Better Cooling Options

Running an industrial air conditioner (A/C) to keep the school comfortable is costly, especially in warm climates y Both people and electronics (computers, printers, copiers) emit a lot of heat, which needs to be counteracted by A/C. Upgrading to a more efficient cooling option can help schools reduce costs. Teachers and administrators can also employ other A/C-saving efforts to conserve power and costs, such as using fans in the classroom and ensuring windows are well-sealed to keep out hot air. Plus, having windows that vent or open helps circulate air on days when the temperature drops a few degrees. 

6. Encourage Students to Recycle

Recycling is an easy way to help the environment by reducing overall waste. Make sure you have a recycle bin in your classroom, cafeteria, or university residence hall for common items like paper, plastic, and aluminum soda cans. According to the EPA, recycling just one can saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for 3.5 hours. Encourage kids to do their part by creating a point system for recyclers, or assign extra credit projects focused on recycling and environmental impact. Make it fun!


7. Use Sensors for Lights

Many spaces in a school, like bathrooms, only see occasional use. However, for student safety, many schools leave the lights on in these rooms the entire time school is in session. Investing in motion sensors can help you ensure both savings and safety. 

These inexpensive units can turn lights on and off in less-used spaces. When someone enters a room, the sensor triggers lights “on” and automatically turns the lights back off when there’s no movement for some time. College campuses can benefit from light sensors as well, in classrooms, bathrooms, and dorms. Even if your school can’t yet upgrade your flourescent lighting, sensors save power and costs.


8. Consider Upgrading the Kitchen

The cafeteria kitchen may be a hidden energy drain in your school. Older ovens, microwaves, and refrigerators cost more money to use and keep powered. Consider ENERGY STAR models, which not only save on energy consumption but also reap back the upfront investment in just a few short year’s time. Look at these savings stats from the EPA when investing in ENERGY STAR appliances at school: 

  • 65% savings on warm food units and a payback of less than five years
  • 35% on commercial refrigerators and a payback of less than two years

30% on gas ovens and 15% on electric ovens and payback of less than five years on electric  Investing in better appliances, efficient lights, and lighting sensors can help reduce the overall costs of feeding your students.


9. Have Class Outdoors

Escape the confines of the classroom by taking class outside. Older school buildings are sometimes warmer inside on hot days than the temperature is outside. Find some shade and inspire your students with a new environment. Read out loud together, let students work in groups, and escape the glow of electronics. 


10. Keep Doors to Different Areas Closed

Keeping doors closed during school hours is a good practice. Beyond security reasons,  closed doors can also limit thermal loss into unused rooms and hallways between classrooms.

When you’re paying to cool classrooms, you want to keep cold air where the students are actually studying, not in empty hallways. Keeping each room closed, including those in use and those not currently utilized, can help reduce power consumption and circulate the cool air only where you need it most.


11. Consider Changing Electricity Providers

In areas of the country with deregulated electricity markets, including most of Texas, residents and businesses now have options to choose a retail power provider. Privatized electricity means you can shop around and discover a plan that works best for our school system. 

Unlike individual customers, schools have a major electrical footprint, meaning that power companies typically want to seek and maintain their business. Take advantage of deregulation in Texas by looking at pricing options from many different providers. Payless Power is a retail electric provider founded by Texans, created for Texans; discover a plan that’s right for your school.


12. Assign Classroom Jobs

Help make energy-efficiency a habit by assigning jobs to your students. Some examples include an electrician, who is in charge of turning lights on and off, or IT, who can help with classroom computers and other electronics. By giving students extra responsibilities in the classroom, they can take ownership over energy conservation efforts and carry those lessons over at home.


13. Turn Off Lights and Screens

Too many schools leave lights on for hours after class. Teachers may leave individual computers, as well as entire computer labs, running overnight and on the weekend. Taking the time to power down these computers each afternoon (and especially on Fridays and before holidays) can make a big impact on schoolwide savings.


14. Close Unused Rooms and Spaces

If PE classes are only held on certain days of the week or part of the day, make sure your gym isn’t using unnecessary electricity. The same goes for lesser-used classrooms and auditoriums. Don’t keep unused spaces at optimal comfort levels, but instead prioritize your school’s energy efficiency. Use timers or sensors for lights. If the space has a separate A/C unit, keep the temperature setting higher until it’s in use. Close the doors to keep air flow where it’s needed. 


Everyone Can Help Save Energy at School

A combined effort by students, teachers, staff, and administrators can make a big impact to reduce energy waste at school. In turn, the entire energy infrastructure and the planet  is impacted for good. From low-cost measures like turning off lights to upgrading to new energy-saving appliances, the benefits are environmental, economic, and educational. 

For more ideas, read the EPA guide Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools.

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