Conserving Energy in Basic Utility Usage
Basic utilities include the necessary heat, light, and water sources that make a building habitable. Energy piped in from an outside source, the utility company, comes at a price. Finding ways to conserve energy at school will result in using fewer units of energy, which will bring down the total cost; the less you use, the more you save. Conserving energy in a building the size of a school can seem like a monumental task. There’s just no way that every student is going to remember to shut off the lights when they are the last to leave a room or to turn off the faucet after lathering up and rinsing their hands.
This is where technology becomes our friend. There are plenty of items that can be installed in a building to monitor and control light and water usage. You’ve probably seen some of them already. There are sensor controlled faucets that run for a set period of time when a motion sensor beneath the sink is tripped. There are automatic flush and low flow toilets that conserve water by limiting the frequency and volume of flushes. Motion detectors hooked up to the light switches in the rooms of a school automatically shut the lights off when no movement is present for five minutes.
The addition of high tech gadgets may not be in your budget, so it might help to use some decidedly old school techniques like putting a brick in the reservoir of each toilet to reduce the amount of water in each flush or assigning light duty to a member of the classroom for each week. Get all of your computers attached to surge protection switches and make sure they are turned off at the end of each day (this should be assigned to the teachers). Build a passive solar space heater for the colder rooms in the building. Use UV film on windows that receive direct sunlight in the afternoon.
Think outside the box. There are hundreds of devices that use energy that we ignore every day. About.com suggests, “ask(ing) your principal to add an ‘energy monitor’ to school vending machines. A simple device that soda manufacturers often pay for, one can reduce energy costs on school vending machines by up to 50 percent. By installing 20 devices in six schools, Moscow School District in Idaho was able to save close to $20,000 a year."
Lightbulbsdirect.com suggests that changing out the light bulbs in Exit signs can effectively save $450 per bulb over its 100,000 hour operating life. How many Exit signs are there in your building? Just think of there being no need to change bulbs for over eleven years.
Any of these methods will result in a marked reduction in energy usage during both in school and after school hours. There is a great energy saving checklist issued by the U.S. Department of Energy that covers some of the basic precepts here, like changing out light bulbs and using reusable instead of disposable containers.