10 Ways to Reduce Energy Costs

Steps Most Private Schools Can Implement

Eolic Power. Photo © David Canalejo

Are you noticing more emails and letters from your child's school warning about upcoming increases on next year's bills? Or perhaps you have been assessed an activity fee which was never charged before this. The reason why fees are increasing is that most schools are feeling the pinch. Small schools which have limited financial resources and support are being especially hard-hit.

One area where parents can help is with energy costs.

It is not a glamorous subject like raising money for a new media center or locker room. But if you can help the school contain energy costs, it will have a ripple effect throughout the budget.

The best way to get a grip on soaring energy costs at your school is to start monitoring energy use and taking steps to control it. This will save money but, even more importantly, it will send a clear message to your school community that you are green. Being environmentally aware and sensitive is essential if we are to combat global warming. It is also an important lesson to teach our young people. A sustainable school doesn't just happen over night. Everybody needs to be involved. Here are 10 things you can do to reduce your school's energy consumption and lower your energy bills.

1. Review your energy requirements annually.

Examine all your energy costs in detail so that you know where your energy dollars are going.

That way when you see the electric bill spiking, you can find out what is really going on before it gets out of control.

2. Arrange for bulk purchase of your fuel requirements.

Even if you only need 5,000 gallons of heating oil to get you through the winter, negotiate price and payment before the heating season begins.

Include service contracts in the package as equipment maintenance will save money in the long run. Use the same strategy for gasoline, diesel fuel, propane and natural gas. Your energy companies will help you audit and estimate your requirements resulting in substantial energy costs savings in many cases.

3. Install programmable thermostats.

You will be delighted with the savings a simple upgrade like a programmable thermostat will yield. No more forgetting to turn the air conditioning off. Best of all, you can determine the temperature you desire for each room. With a lockable thermostat you don't have to worry about somebody resetting the thermostat. Evening and weekend setbacks occur when you program them to occur. A typical programmable thermostat costs about $100 and can pay for itself in one heating/cooling season. Installation is usually simple, but should be done professionally for insurance and building code reasons.

4. Maintain your HVAC units.

Purchase a service contract. Make sure filters are replaced regularly. Have the service company report any required major repairs not covered by your contract as far in advance as possible. For example, you know that the 10 ton unit in the auditorium is five years old.

Have the technician keep an eye on it for you so you can budget for its replacement.

5. Turn off lights and equipment.

Train everybody to turn off lights as they leave rooms. Install energy saving bulbs wherever possible. Turn off computer monitors and computers. Besides saving energy, you can prevent unauthorized access to your network and sensitive data by shutting down your systems. Put vending machines on timers if possible. Energy costs soar when power is wasted.

6. Install energy saving lighting.

Incandescent lighting is much more expensive to operate than fluorescent lighting. Keep fixtures and reflectors clean. De-lamp in areas which do not require lighting. Use timers where possible. Illuminate your spaces efficiently.

7. Install Energy Star rated appliances.

Everything from copiers to clothes dryers is Energy Star rated.

Buy or lease but replace with Energy Star rated electrical equipment for maximum energy savings. Keep them clean and well-maintained. Clogged vents and dirty filters make equipment run longer and use more energy. Older equipment will make your energy costs soar.

8. Close doors and windows.

Wherever possible, close doors to classrooms so that individual room thermostats can operate efficiently. Make sure that windows and doors can be locked for security. Install double glazing, storm doors and windows wherever possible. Install shades and blinds on south facing windows.

9. Install on demand water heating.

Why keep a 400 hundred gallon tank of water hot all the time? Install on demand hot water heaters in bathrooms and wash up areas. That way you just heat the water you use. If you absolutely must keep the old hot water heaters, see if you can shut them off when not in use. Keeping water hot 24/7 is a major portion of your energy costs.

10. Install a pool cover.

Many schools have outdoor pools. You can save significantly on energy, chemical and water costs by installing a pool cover.

The last suggestion is always the most difficult one to implement. That's following up. Make sure that your energy cost cutting suggestions and measures are recorded in your monthly committee meeting minutes and enshrined in your annual report. This will keep parents and the school on target. Compare results year over year so that everybody can see progress being made.