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Cool schools: Ideas to make your school more energy-efficient
Did you know that the nation’s 14,587 elementary and secondary schools spend more on energy than on computers and textbooks combined? Canadian schools are responsible for a staggering 11% of the country’s commercial and institutional energy consumption. Just think of the impact it would have if schools were able to pare down their significant energy consumption!

It’s easy to put energy savings on the back burner—after all, schools are faced with many more pressing issues such as a lack of resources and improving test scores. But energy improvements made now can free up valuable resources that would’ve been spent on utility bills. Keep reading for some helpful tips on becoming a “cool,” more energy-efficient school.

Heating and cooling
Together, heating and cooling account for more than half of the energy used by schools—in most climates, large, inefficient boilers are the biggest culprit. Replacing over-sized, wasteful heating and cooling units with alternative, high-efficiency systems can equate to energy savings of as much as 50%. Be sure to keep heating and cooling systems clean and properly maintained as clogged vents and dirty air filters can contribute to less efficient use of those systems.

If your school has a pool, simply using a cover can reduce the cost to heat it by up to 70%. You can further lower your heating and cooling bills by keeping your air conditioning system set no lower than 25° Celsius and your heat set no higher than 20° Celsius while adjusting the thermostat appropriately in evenings, on weekends and during other times when the building is not in use. Or better yet, install programmable thermostats. They will pay for themselves within one heating/cooling season. In fact, a cost-savings of as much as 1% can be seen for each degree the thermostat is adjusted so long as the timeframe is at least eight hours long.

After heating, lighting is one of the largest consumers of energy in the classroom. Simply turning out the lights when a classroom is not in use, installing a motion sensor that automatically shuts out the lights when no one is detected in the room or utilizing natural daylight, which has been shown to improve classroom learning, can lead to considerable energy savings.

But don’t stop there. You can cut your lighting bill in half by strategically upgrading your lighting system. Utilizing the most efficient source of lighting, generally high-performance fluorescent systems, and ensuring that the appropriate amount of light is evenly distributed and shed where needed is recommended. The energy savings realized from these improvements can pay for themselves in as little as five years.

Turn it off
One of the easiest ways to reduce your energy bill is to ensure equipment is turned off when not in use. Computers and printers alone can account for as much as 20% of a school’s electricity usage. A simple reminder to “turn it off” printed on a sticker or post-it and displayed on light switches, computers, printers, air conditioners, etc. can have a positive effect on your energy bill. In fact, Long Island’s Mount Sinai School District implemented a similar sticker reminder initiative that in part contributed to a reported annual energy savings of $350,000.

Get everyone on board with your energy saving initiatives and form a volunteer group of students and staff to go around the school and reward those following best energy-saving practices. Trinkets such as pens made of recycled materials, tumblers with an eco-aware design and globe-shaped stress balls imprinted with an energy saving message can be used to reward those caught responsibly using (or not using) energy.

Remember, implementing energy saving initiatives now can free up valuable resources that would’ve otherwise been tied up in energy bills. In the words of Thomas Edison, “It’s better to enlighten a child than to light a school room.”

Commercial and Institutional Consumption of Energy Survey.”  Natural Resources Canada. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

Schools: An Overview of Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Opportunities.” Energy Star, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.

10. Facility Type: K-12 Schools.ENERGY STAR. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

Kennedy, Robert. “10 Ways to Reduce Energy Costs.About.com Private Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2012.

Energy.gov.Energy.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2012.

Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools.Environmental Protection Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

Hu, Winnie. “With Post-Its and Checklists, Schools Cut Their Energy Bills.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 06 Dec. 2012.

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