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Think Green, Save Green: Why School Energy Audits Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

By Katie Simpson on October 20, 2014
Tags: Data Collection

Energy loss: we all know it happens. But how much does it cost? Harvard did a study finding that the United States loses more than $5.6 billion per year to energy loss. That's thousands of dollars organizations, especially schools, lose due to inadequate heating and cooling. 

No need to panic, there's a solution. Photo credit: nate steiner via photopin cc

Making the changes can lead to huge savings: insulating your attic space can reduce heat loss by 25%. This leads to a payback not of 15 or 10 years, but 3 to 5. 

But an old New England school will have different issues than a school in Florida or even Arizona.  No matter where you are, there's a method helping buildings of all kinds: energy audits. It can be a great way to see your blind spots and help you maintain facilities and prevent energy issues in the long run. 

What should your energy audit cover? Here are some tips to get started:

Do your windows or doors leak air?

These areas can allow slow subtle leaks of air, making it more difficult to heat or cool your building over the long run. Plus, these spots could also let in water (hello mold) or insects (a potential distraction for students/headache for teachers). 

Be sure to check for these. If you need to replace windows or any other materials, be sure that they're air tight when installed. 

Look out for blocked vents

It's pretty common for classrooms to be filled with stuff. In 2000, Massachusetts found many classrooms with blocked air vents. If posters, filing cabinets or other materials block air vents, this can be an issue in both heating/cooling as well as a problem for air control quality. 

Ensure that air vents aren't blocked. If people complain about a cold back draft, this could be a sign that your equipment isn't working properly. It's common for people to not know the point of these vents. Education is key to keep these vents unblocked and preventing equipment from overheating. 

What time do you water your lawns?

Water isn't always a luxury. A simple switch can cut down your use. Photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

Water isn't a luxury throughout the United States, but it still costs money to maintain fields for your school's activities. But what time of day are you watering your lawns? If you're doing it in the afternoon or evening, you may be using extra and unnecessary water. 

So why is the early morning the best time? Cooler air and less wind means less evaporation as compared to midday. But, if you wait until evening, water can sit still and encourage diseases. 

Do you adjust your thermostat during off hours?

Sure you want your building still heated and cooled during off hours. But does it need to be as cold or as warm as regular hours? Probably not. Bullitt County Public Schools in Kentucky does this with their off hours: In the summer, they keep temperature around 80 degrees. In the winter, it's at 62 degrees. 

This simple switch can reduce heating and cooling costs, without sacrificing any comfort. 

Where are your trees?

Summertime tree shade can bring natural cooling benefits. Savings have been estimated up to $200 per tree in reduced energy consumption. 

But it's not just having trees, but ensuring they protect your buildings at the right time of day and season. Experts recommend planting trees to the southwest of your building, and that the tree's shadow will hit the roof. You'll want the shade at the hottest part of your day, generally 3:00-7:00 PM. 

But if you have cold winters, you won't want an evergreen. A deciduous tree will provide shade in the summer, but let light come in and warm the building in the winter.  

Do you turn down energy use for the holidays?

It's easy to forget about school when everyone goes on vacation. But that can be a huge time of energy loss without the right procedures. 

This year, why not set up procedures to have lower energy needs? Notify your district HVAC operations about turning off specific zones. Clean out and turn off unneeded refrigerators. And that computer lab? Turn off all the devices and give them a break too.

It'll be a great present for everyone involved. 

Do you cover your windows?

This is especially important in colder climates. Windows are a major source of heat loss, even after leaks are plugged. A window can lose 10 times as much heat as an equal area of insulated wall. Curtains or blinds don't only help block out light for presentations: they also can keep buildings cool or warmer, as well as prevent aging on your carpets and furniture.

Make sure that not only do you have blinds in each room, but that they also fit the windows snugly. At the end of the day, especially in winter, be sure all are closed. That way you won't lose heat throughout the night. 

Conclusion

All these changes could add up to a lot of shiny pennies. Photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

These are just some of the ways schools check to ensure they use energy efficiently and don't lose money. Doing a proper energy audit takes time, and may involve working with various departments at your school. Still, you can save your school hundres or thousands of dollars over the year and use that money to provide even better education. 

If you're ready to get started, check out the energy audits we have in our application store or view our broader collection of Utilities and Energy mobile form templates. Try any of them for free and get an idea of what your school can do to improve your energy efficiency. 

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