Investing in the Future: Helping Schools Get an A+ in Energy Efficiency

 

School systems face so many challenges to their operations and finances, it’s understandable that upgrading for energy efficiency isn’t always at the top of the agenda. Old paradigms of limited and inefficient options still get in the way of serious discussions about how much money can potentially be saved and how much school facilities can be improved by current technologies. Before the late 1970s, efficiency technologies for schools either weren’t quite economically viable, or they required too much of an investment. Since then, taking the proper steps to save energy in schools has become a more attractive idea, but as schools have gotten bigger, conserving energy has become more difficult. Many schools are relying on fluorescent bulbs and decades-old HVAC systems to keep the building running, sometimes for extended hours due to activities and events. Today’s students and teachers are embracing digital learning as the norm, which can cause school building energy consumption to skyrocket. Additionally, rising pressure from communities for education facilities to be greener and more cost-efficient is weighing heavily on schools across the country.

Energy costs in K-12 school districts nationwide total about $8 billion each year, but there are some parts of the US that have made energy efficiency for schools a priority. For example, the Gresham-Barlow school district in Multnomah County, Oregon has designed the Resource Conservation Management program, which aims to reduce district energy use. Since 1998, the district has been able to reduce their overall energy consumption by about 46%. Unfortunately, the majority of the country has yet to follow suit. Budget conversations tend to revolve less around how to save energy in schools, and more around staffing budgets and school lunch programs. The good news is that going green now is possible– without the usual hassles that are involved in the process. Energy efficiency companies like Budderfly are committed to providing public schools with efficiency upgrades and modernization, at no added cost.

Quick fixes like turning down the heat and shutting off the computers can certainly reduce building energy consumption in the short-term, but it’s the long-term solutions that will make the biggest difference for educational facilities. Companies that offer energy efficiency as a service can provide schools with these long-term solutions, which include premium LED lighting, multilevel HVAC improvements, and renewable power sourcing. The best part? Energy efficiency outsourcing can provide schools with guaranteed savings from day one, with no capital expenditure or budgetary changes. In many cases, this will allow leadership to skip the traditional RFP process, which can be burdensome and expensive (and which delays taking action to achieve any savings).

 

Upgrade Your HVAC System

Recently, energy efficiency companies have emphasized the benefits of upgrading HVAC systems in commercial buildings, industrial buildings, and now, specialty buildings– including schools. Space heating, cooling, and ventilation make up roughly half of the energy used in educational facilities. If an HVAC system is outdated, the system may be working overtime to maintain its performance, which means you are needlessly wasting energy.

Falling behind on routine maintenance can cause an HVAC system to bite the dust sooner rather than later. Studies have shown that HVAC systems that are over 10 years old run less efficiently and are more prone to major breakdowns. However, even recently retrofitted HVAC systems are showing signs of avoidable wear and tear. . The researchers concluded that better oversight on HVAC installation and regular upkeep were crucial to maintaining energy efficiency for schools. Additionally, more frequent testing and CO2 monitoring is necessary to ensure higher ventilation rates in the classroom.

 

Prioritize Lighting Retrofits

Over the last decade, doing away with fluorescent lighting and adopting energy efficient LED lighting has become an increasingly popular initiative. At this point, most everyone understands that lighting plays a huge role in concentration, productivity, and motivation. LED lighting is brighter, uses less heat, and is more energy efficient than fluorescent lighting— that’s why it’s no surprise that installing LED lighting is one of the top ways to save energy in schools.

Lighting makes up about one quarter of the energy used in K-12 schools. Researchers in Indiana interviewed 75 teachers about the lighting in their classroom. Over 80% responded that they currently have fluorescent lighting in their classroom, despite the evidence that LED lighting improves classroom performance. These statistics are causing energy efficiency companies to push for more LED retrofits in US schools. On top of increasing productivity in the classroom, LED lighting uses less energy than any other lighting available today– about half the wattage of fluorescent lighting. Investing in an LED retrofit could significantly increase energy efficiency for schools, cutting maintenance and energy costs back by as much as 30 to 50%.

 

The Price of Quality Education

It’s no secret that technology has allowed students to make strides in the classroom. Studies have shown that when technology is properly-implemented in schools, it plays a large role in closing the achievement gap between high and low-income students. While this is impressive, the addition of technology in the classroom doesn’t really aid in energy conservation; in fact, it just causes an increase in building energy consumption. Computers, overhead projectors, and electronic whiteboards have become commonplace in most classrooms nationwide.

Five years ago, schools spent between $142 and $490 per student on technology— and the numbers have only gone up since then. Digital learning is becoming the norm across the world, and receiving a quality education without it is simply getting more difficult. The issue with energy efficiency begins once these systems are installed. Forgetting to enable Energy Star’s computer power management software, leaving computers on overnight, and keeping these systems plugged in at all times are making it harder to save energy in schools, even with the influx of green initiatives being proposed for schools nationwide.

 

Make the One Change that Changes Everything

The good news is that energy efficiency companies, like Budderfly, are making it easier than ever for schools to go green. From day one of their partnership with Budderfly, schools can cut back on energy consumption and expenses, all without spending a dime. Using their Energy Efficiency as a Service Model, Budderfly will pay for your school to receive the most efficient technology upgrades, state-of-the-art HVAC systems with frequent monitoring, premium LED lighting, and more. The best part? You get to enjoy these improvements and a lower electricity bill at the same time.

As the demand for sustainability continues to intensify, it’s becoming more important than ever to save energy in schools. However, it can be difficult to measure energy savings without proper management, so take guessing out of the equation and let Budderfly help your school achieve a higher grade of efficiency, comfort, and cost savings.