So, you want to save money and polar bears? Great! Then save some energy!You should start with the items that use the most energy in school—remember, schools spend more than 86B on energy every year, and 30% of that is wasted!So, what uses the most energy in schools?
Lighting accounts for between 30-50% of the electricity used in schools. A lighting project is a great way to start an energy saving program at your school.Do you notice anything wrong with this picture?The lights are on, but nobody is there!
One of the best things you can do in your school is have a last out, lights out policy. Each classroom has an energy monitor, who is the caboose when you line up to leave. The energy monitor makes sure the lights are out when everyone leaves the room. You could have a school-wide audit, and give gold stars to the classrooms that are caught doing the right thing.
Do you notice anything wrong with this picture? This is a toughie—it is not just that the lights are on but there is nobody there.When you are in a classroom, you need to be able to see your paper and anything your teacher is showing you. There a a couple of potential sources of light in a classroom: the overhead lights, the windows (natural light), or task lighting (like a desk lamp).
The proper light level for a classroom is 30-50 FC. You can measure the light levels in your classroom by using the footcandle light meter in your PowerSave Schools toolkit. Just place the sensor (the white round part) on a desk, and turn the meter on—have the range switch to A. Do that two more spaces around the room, and add together the three measurements and divide by 3—that will give you the average light level for the room.
Most classrooms are overlit—if your classroom has a light measurement of over 35 footcandles, you can see if you can turn off half the lights. If your classroom looks like this classroom, measure the light level with the lights on first. then, turn off one bank of lights, and measure again. If your classroom is between 30-50 footcandles with the lights half off, you can go with half lighting.
Heating, ventilation, and Air Conditioning is the other huge consumer of energy in schools. Keeping the temperature in your classroom comfortable and the air clean takes up between 30-50% of the energy used in schools.Your school probably has a room that looks like this—this is the area where the air is heated or cooled to keep you comfortable.
Is there a classroom in your school that is always cold? Is there another that is always warm? This picture is something you can see in a lot of schools—the heat is on, but the window is open. This seems like a short-term fix for a too-warm classroom, but it wastes a lot of energy, and it does not solve the big problem.
Door open—discussion of open doors and air conditioning
If your classroom is too hot, use the infrared temperature gun in your PowerSave toolkit to gather the temperature data for your classroom, then let the facilities staff at your school know that your classroom temperature is not what it should be.
After you have started some lighting and HVAC projects, you can focus on the things that plug into outlets, like computers, small appliances, and projectors. Plug loads account for 10-20% of the energy usage in schools.
Computers in schools offer some easy savings– you could have a project that focuses on turning off the monitors when you are done using the computer, and you could activate the sleep mode.
The other thing to look for in your school are items that are plugged in and using electricity, but are not being used. These things are energy vampires, or they draw a phantom load—the energy just wasted. If there is a tv in your classroom that is plugged in, but never used, it is drawing a phantom load. If there is coffee maker that is on after everyone has had their coffee, it is drawing a phantom load. Even cell phone chargers draw electricity when there is no cell phone attached to use it! If there are things plugged in that your are not using, unplug them, or put them on a powerstrip, and turn it off!
You can make a difference for your school and for the planet. Your school can save money, and become a good example to the rest of your community of what a big difference little changes can cause.