Energy saving opportunities for schools – quick wins you may not have completed
What are common ways that UK schools save energy without compromising comfortable buildings? Here are some you may not have yet addressed.
Work in kWh
Kilowatt hours (kWh) is how electricity, gas, and other fossil fuels are measured. Many schools know their energy costs but don’t know their consumption in kWh.
How much is used for electricity and fossil fuels per year? How many years of kWh data do you have? Three or four years of annual electricity and fossil fuel use is a good starting point. Does annual energy use change much year to year? Also, monthly energy data (where meter readings are taken each month) or overnight / weekend energy (where readings are taken on and evening then again the next working morning) use can be used to spot unexpected rises, or opportunities to reduce.
Knowing kWh is an essential starting point for efficiency. Gas, fuel oil, and LPG can be converted to kWh using online calculators for various units (cubic metres, litres, etc.).
Most schools have some LED lights, often with plans for more. LEDs replacing fluorescent lighting can save 30 to 50% of energy, sometimes more.
When planning for lighting replacement, knowing how often lights in particular rooms might be on is useful. Which rooms have lots of natural light, which need lights on more often? Are some sufficiently bright to have some lights off when the sun is shining? Also, check when staff arrive and need lights (e.g. when do staff, including caretakers and cleaners begin?) and when the school is closed. Knowing lighting hours is useful when switching to LEDs as some contractors will add controls that react to absence or bright conditions (e.g. near windows). Well managed fluorescent lights can save a much as switching to LEDs!
Check boiler rooms for pipework insulation
Some boiler rooms are within the school, others may be separate or have an exterior facing door. Boiler rooms always have insulation on most hot pipework, however, some sections will be uncovered, including around valves, flanges, and even pumps. Any heat lost in the boiler room require more energy to generate heat the rest of the school. There is insulation available for all of these sections (check online). Fully insulating hot pipework can save 3% or more on heating per year.
Check lofts for insulation
If your school has pitched roofs with a loft, a member of staff may know what the level of loft insulation is. If this is unknown, a visual inspection can be made. Sometimes, contractors may have moved insulation for other work, leaving cold spots.
If a loft is poorly insulated heat below will dissipate quickly, requiring more heating to stay comfortable. Another indicator of low levels of loft insulation is when morning frost or snow disappears from the roof before other roofs. 300mm of loft insulation is ideal.
Check windows and doors for draughts
Keeping windows and doors closed during cold weather can be difficult in schools at the best of times. With measures to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, this is even more difficult. However, checking for draughts around windows and external doors is worth carrying out. If there are gaps, draught proofing strips (widely available) can be added or replaced fairly easily.
IT and other appliances
Arrange a walkthrough of the school for other items than can potentially be switched off. Items at plug sockets like photocopiers, water coolers, printers, and computers can use a surprising amount of standby electricity even when seemingly idle – depending on the make, model, and settings. Check with staff if items can be switched off overnight and on weekends. If so, a plug socket timer can be set to do so automatically on many items. Further most network software can be set to switch off PCs automatically (though not without warning users first!).