Saving Energy at School

Energy usage is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. By taking action to save energy, students, teachers, and school district officials can all be part of the solution to reduce the impacts of climate change. Schools can also reduce annual energy expenses by about 20 percent through implementing these energy efficiency tips.

District Officials

Turn Out the Lights

Lighting is one of the largest users of energy in schools. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, “lighting accounts for nearly 50% of the electric bill in most schools.” By turning out the lights when a classroom is unoccupied, the school can save money. Here's how:

  • Install "Occupancy Sensors"

    Occupancy sensors will automatically turn off the lights when no one is in the room. Install occupancy sensors in classrooms and other commonly used areas to save energy.

  • Replace Lighting

    Replace standard incandescent light bulbs with low-watt compact fluorescent bulbs. Change incandescent lights in Exit sign to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Replace all T12 fluorescent lighting with Super T8 fluorescent lighting in classrooms.

Minimize Heating and Cooling Costs

Save on energy costs without sacrificing comfort. It’s expensive to heat and cool school buildings, but indoor temperatures must be comfortable so teachers can concentrate on teaching and kids can concentrate on learning.

  • Install Programmable Thermostats

    Programmable thermostats can help to minimize operating hours of the heating and cooling systems in low occupancy areas like the cafeteria.

  • Install energy management systems

    Energy management systems include thermostat control and timing for the entire campus.

  • Clean Furnace Filters Regularly

    A clean filter maximizes your furnace's efficiency and longevity-- and minimizes your energy bills.

Reduce Energy Demand of Computers, Appliances and Equipment

About 15% of energy use in schools is dedicated to office equipment, refrigeration, computers, and other appliances. A creative way to save money involves reducing the energy demand of computers, appliances and equipment at schools.

  • Use Surge Protectors

    Ask teachers and school district staff to plug all equipment into surge protectors and turn them off when not in use.

  • Assign an Energy Monitor for the School Office

    Ask the energy monitor to turn off office equipment at night, over the weekend, and during holidays.

  • Require Duplexing Printing

    Make duplexing (double-side printing) the default mode for copiers and printers.

  • Properly Maintain Appliances

    Ask custodial staff to clean refrigerator coils regularly.

  • Purchase Energy Star Equipment

    When purchasing new equipment, consider buying Energy Star computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, copiers and other equipment. Energy Star equipment can save up to 50% on energy costs.

  • Install Controllers for Beverage Vending Machines

    Many beverage vending machines keep beverages cold by a compressor running 24 hours a day. A vending machine controller reduces the compressor run time, which could reduce energy used by about 35 percent annually.

Consider Energy Efficiency for New Construction

When planning for new schools, there's an opportunity to design and construct facilities that reduce operating costs and save money over time. Typical costs to build energy efficient or high performance schools are equivalent to standard schools.

  • Design New Schools to Exceed Title 24 Energy Code

    By constructing new schools to exceed Title 24 Energy Code by 15 - 30 percent or more, they will use less energy and save money over time. These performance based thresholds are consistent with the Go Solar Initiative and will also put schools on the path towards Zero Net Energy.

  • Design and Build New Schools as High Performance Schools

    High performance schools offer enhanced learning environments that are shown to improve student learning and teacher satisfaction. School districts can establish a goal early in the design that new schools will be high performance schools.

Implement a School-Wide Energy Efficiency Program

Assessing energy performance can be useful in targeting cost-effective solutions for energy savings. There are several actions that school district officials can take to get the ball rolling.

  • Appoint an Energy Manager

    By appointing an energy manager, school districts identify a lead staff person responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive energy management program. An energy manager is in charge of planning, procurement and utilization of energy resources at a property, facility, or portfolio of properties. Energy managers often recommend policy for energy efficiency and conservation, develop long-range plans, and provide reports on the effectiveness of the energy program.

  • Measure and Track Energy Usage

    Energy accounting can be one of the most cost-effective tools school districts can use to cut energy costs. Before getting started, check out the CEC’s publication Energy Accounting: A Key Tool in Managing Energy Costs, which will help you to get organized. Contact your local utility to obtain records of energy consumption data from schools. School districts can use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software to track building energy usage over multiple years.

  • Develop an Energy Profile

    Once you track energy usage for individual school facilities or the entire school district, this information can be used to develop an energy profile. An energy profile provides the basic information needed to evaluate each school’s potential for energy savings. It can also help to develop a baseline of energy usage and benchmark energy performance compared to similar
    buildings.

  • Conduct Building Commissioning for School Facilities

    Commissioning can help to ensure schools are operating as designed. The commissioning process documents the quality of building system performance and facilitates improved building operation without requiring any major renovations. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency. The California Commissioning Collaborative offers a variety of
    commissioning tools and information to help get you started.

  • Use EnergyIQ to Benchmark School Facilities

    By benchmarking your school, you can evaluate how much energy it uses compared to other schools of similar size. EnergyIQ generates a list of opportunities and recommended actions for building retrofits. It also provides a greenhouse gas emissions estimation for energy consumed.

  • Conduct an Audit of Your School to Identify Areas for Energy Savings

    An energy audit identifies how energy is used in a facility, and then recommends ways to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. There are several types of energy audits, which can identify ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. Schools can partner with utilities who may offer free on-site energy audits of schools.

  • Involve the Whole School

    Get the entire school involved. Energy savings add up when the entire school joins together in conservation efforts. Schools with effective conservation programs have reported reductions of as much as 25% in utility bills.

  • Publicize Energy Costs and Savings

    When people know how much it costs to power their school, they can see why it’s worth some extra effort to avoid waste.

  • Involve the School District

    See if the district administrators would be willing to return a percentage of the dollars saved from your school’s no-cost energy efficiency changes.

Teachers

Turn Out the Lights

Lighting is one of the largest users of energy in schools. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, “lighting accounts for nearly 50% of the electric bill in most schools.” By turning out the lights when a classroom is unoccupied, the school can save money.

  • Pick an Energy Monitor or Form a Student Energy Patrol

    Ask your students to help make sure lights and computers are turned off before recess, lunch, and after school.

  • Create a “Save Energy” Sign

    By hanging a “Save Energy” sign near your classroom light switches, it will remind students to turn off the lights when they are not in use.

  • Turn Off Unneeded Lights

    Light fixtures near windows, especially in unused corners or along banks of windows, may not be necessary. Have students conduct an experiment in classrooms by turning off selected banks of lights and surveying comfort at different lighting levels.

  • Support Lighting Retrofits

    Encourage your school administrators to retrofit lighting to save energy. Have students calculate the energy savings achieved by replacing lighting.

Minimize Heating and Cooling Costs

Save on energy costs without sacrificing comfort. It’s expensive to heat and cool school buildings, but indoor temperatures must be comfortable so teachers can concentrate on teaching and kids can concentrate on learning.

  • Change the Settings

    Change the thermostat settings in rooms to 78 during warmer months and 68 during cooler months. Doing so will lower the heating and air conditioning use. Using fans can make people feel degrees cooler, at much less cost than air conditioning.

  • Don’t Block the Airflow Around Vents

    Make sure books or furniture do not block the vents in your classroom. Keep bookcases and other bulky items away from the heating and cooling units so they don’t block and/or absorb the warm (or cool) air that should be coming into the room.

  • Close the Doors and Windows

    Leaving doors wide open to a room or building may make it more inviting to come in, but it wastes energy. Don't prop doors open but allow them to close after people walk through the doorway. Encourage everyone to keep doors and windows closed when heating or air conditioning is running.

  • Stop Air Leaks

    Encourage students to be innovative. Have students determine areas of energy loss by using “draftmeters” made from plastic wrap and pencils to study where drafts are coming in. Have students help replace insulation and stuff energy loss “holes” by making translucent window quilts to hang in classrooms and “insulation snakes” to put at the bottom of doors and windows. Work with facility staff to install permanent weather stripping, caulking, and insulation.

Reduce Energy Demand of Computers, Appliances and Equipment

About 15% of energy use in schools is dedicated to office equipment, refrigeration, computers, and other appliances. A creative way to save money involves reducing the energy demand of computers, appliances and equipment at schools.

  • Set Computers and Monitors to "Sleep" Mode

    It is a good idea to set your computer and monitor to “sleep” mode even when inactive for a few minutes. Screen savers don’t save energy—only the sleep mode does.

  • Form a Student Energy Patrol

    Ask your students to make sure monitors are off when computers are not in use and to turn computers off at the end of the day.

  • Encourage School Administrators to Buy Energy Star

    Have students calculate potential savings from the use of Energy Star equipment and present the results to school administrators. If your school purchases the equipment, make sure the Energy Star features are enabled.

Students

Turn Out the Lights

Lighting is one of the largest users of energy in schools. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, “lighting accounts for nearly 50% of the electric bill in most schools.” By turning out the lights when a classroom is unoccupied, the school can save money.

  • Turn Off Lights When Not in Use

  • Join a Student Energy Patrol

    Work with your teacher to ensure lights are out when rooms are empty (check classrooms, the cafeteria, the auditorium, etc.).

Reduce Energy Demand of Computers, Appliances and Equipment

About 15% of energy use in schools is dedicated to office equipment, refrigeration, computers, and other appliances. A creative way to save money involves reducing the energy demand of computers, appliances and equipment at schools.

  • Turn Off Computer Equipment

    Students should turn off monitors that will not be used for the next class period. All computer equipment should be turned off at the end of the day and on weekends, unless your network technicians specifically instruct otherwise.