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how energy efficient are you?

5th December 2014

Jonathan Valentine suggests five ways all schools can make dramatic reductions in their energy consumption

Managing a school environment is no easy task. Between ensuring students and staff are happy and engaged, managing discipline and delivering results, energy efficiency doesn’t always come top of the list of priorities, but it should. Firstly, it saves money, releasing funds for other curricular activities and resources. There are also huge environmental benefits to reducing energy consumption, not to mention the fact that it provides an excellent opportunity for practical learning and real-life application for students.

And it doesn’t have to be time consuming or involve huge changes to your existing processes. Here are five tips to that will help reduce your school’s energy consumption, save money and benefit the environment:

1 if it’s on, switch it off

This is not rocket science, but you’d be surprised how often this simple rule is ignored. Encourage students and staff to switch off lights and close down appliances that are not being used. Give students a sense of ownership over the school community: ask them to research the environmental impact of leaving computers on overnight or get students to design informational posters to place around the school.

2 keep your equipment up-to-date

Huge savings can be made by ensuring that your machinery is up-to-date. There have been major advances in green technology over the last decade, so old projectors could be costing you much more money than they should. Start with the appliances you use most regularly: what are their energy efficiency ratings? Could you save money in the long run by investing in newer technologies?

If you have the state-of-the-art equipment already, then keep everything well maintained – even if it’s expensive to fix problems as they occur, ignoring them will cost you much more in the long run.

3 don’t use the heating when you don’t need it

This is another simple suggestion that’s too often ignored. Schools clearly need to remain at an optimum temperature for students to learn and for staff to teach in a comfortable environment, but overheating is as detrimental as no heating at all – and not just to the school’s energy bill. The best way to cut down on heating costs is to employ common sense: the heating levels you might need in January are not going to be the same as those in May, so manage your settings efficiently.

4 use data effectively

Take a data-driven approach to reducing your energy consumption and you’ll manage to cut costs without having to sacrifice the amount of time you spend using your equipment. There are systems to help you do this, but start with your energy bill. Has the cost for one element of it spiralled out of control? Use this information to identify where energy is being wasted and validate the energy-cutting decisions you make, whether that’s upgrading equipment, embarking on a school-wide initiative to switch off lights in vacant classrooms or setting a limit on how much printing can be done each day. Use the data and facts available to guide your policies.

5 think about the whole school

It’s not just about the classroom. If you want to make a big difference to your energy consumption, think about your school as a whole. How much could you save by cutting down on the energy used in the kitchen and canteen, by switching off unused computers in the support offices or the lights in the toilets? Try applying these tips across the school and you’ll see your energy consumption reduce.

By controlling and managing power consumption, the cost of running a busy school can be reduced dramatically. Cut down on unnecessary waste and apply restrictions to enforce a reasonable power usage policy. Not only will this save you money and resources, it will promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of working in the long term and teach students the value of doing the same – students are at school to learn about the real world, after all.

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