Energy costs loom large in school district budgets, comprising the second biggest operational expense after personnel, according to Powering Down, a Toolkit for Behavior-Based Energy Conservation in K-12 Schools. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 25 percent of energy used in schools is wasted. HVAC, plug load and lighting are the most demanding resources. While schools vary their usage in these areas, lighting can account for 25% to 50% of the energy usage. Plugloads can account for 25% of the energy usage according to the EPA.
The good news is that significant opportunities exist to reduce energy costs without spending much money. A focus for astute administrators, then, is tapping these opportunities to save energy, thereby freeing up funding for educational resources that would otherwise be lost on utility bills. An Energy Management Program can simply start with raising awareness among faculty, staff and students. The EPA has found that schools that monitor their use save an average of 2.4 percent without making any other changes. Managing school building operations and upgrading mechanical equipment and controls can make further reductions in savings. Several school districts in Georgia have committed to Energy Star certification and have seen significant savings. Gwinnett County Public Schools has certified all of their buildings, which use 35% less energy and cost up to 40 cents less per square foot to operate compared to similar buildings across the nation.
The cost savings are further enhanced as the school minimizes wear and tear on equipment through reduced run time and as it decreases the building’s cooling load as equipment and lights are powered down. Additionally, energy use is tied to other resources. Maintaining equipment properly can improve the indoor environmental quality and reduce introduction of contaminants. Energy use reduction saves money. According to Power Down, the reduction in energy also reduces the larger environmental impact of energy production such as the reduced greenhouse gas production, reduced air pollution, reduced mercury in the environment, reduced aquatic environment disturbance, and reduced disturbance of the environment from the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels.
Energy Star Portfolio is a free, online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings, all in a secure online environment.
Energy Star Certification can be achieved if the building has earned an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, indicating that it performs better than at least 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. The site also includes a list of Licensed Professional volunteers offering free ENERGY STAR verifications for K-12 schools.
The ASHRAE Level-1 (Walk-Through Analysis/ Preliminary Audit) is intended to help the energy team understand where the building performs relative to its peers; establish a baseline for measuring improvements; deciding whether further evaluation is warranted; and if so, where and how to focus that effort. The Level-1 also will outline the range of potential financial incentives available from Federal, State, Local, and Utility sources. The Level-2 (Energy Survey and Analysis) project starts with the findings of the Level-1 audit, and evaluates the building energy systems in detail to define a variety of potential energy-efficiency improvements. The Level-3 (Detailed Analysis of Capital Intensive Modifications) and is referred to as an “investment grade” audit. This level of audit includes a whole-building computer simulation. It is more time consuming and costly.
Powering Down is a resource available from the Center for Green Schools that gives guidance on developing a behavior-based energy management program for a school. This approach can reduce energy consumption and expenses without any cost.
Energy Smart Schools, is a 4 part web based training program that guides you through developing and implementing an energy management plan that has been developed by the Department of Energy & CEFPI. The site works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Energy Star for Kids is an interactive website that explains why energy efficient products are important and what actions students can take.
The NEED Project conducts student and teacher training programs, provides evaluation tools, and recognizes outstanding student and teacher achievement for grades K-12. The resources are teacher-tested to ensure success in the classroom and are correlated to the National Science Education Content Standards, Common Core Standards, and state science standards.
Georgia Power and Dr. E want to partner with teachers to deliver "Learning Power" energy efficiency lessons which meet Georgia performance standards and focus on science, technology, engineering and math subjects. Site includes resources for Teachers, Students and Parents.
Lighting: Calculator - Use the following calculators from ENERGY STAR and two CFL manufacturers to measure the impact of your institution’s lighting in terms of cost savings and mercury content: ENERGY STAR Lifecycle Cost Estimate, Sylvania LEED Mercury Calculator, Philips’ Sustainable Lighting Index Worksheet
We can help you get started on projects and connect you with LEED subject matter experts in your area. If you have additional resources that you think should be added, we would love to hear from you.
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