What Is the ENERGY STAR® Score for K-12 Schools & How Can It Help Make the Business Case for Energy Upgrades at Your School?

Energy costs for K-12 schools are second only to staffing costs, including school-paid portions of employee pensions. The U.S. is home to more than 17,000 K-12 school districts, which spend more than $8 billion annually on energy costs. However, simple improvements in energy use, like ensuring equipment is turned off when not in use or upgrading to energy-efficient systems, can help schools reduce these costs. Benchmarking, or the process of tracking energy use over time and comparing it to similar buildings, can help facility managers identify which low-performing buildings to target for energy efficiency improvements and which high-performing buildings to target for recognition. Through ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a host of tools and resources to help facility managers benchmark, improve and earn recognition for superior energy efficiency.

Understanding Your ENERGY STAR Score

The first step to finding out the 1-100 ENERGY STAR score for your K-12 school is to benchmark in EPA’s free, online utility benchmarking tool, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  After you’ve entered 12 months of energy data and some basic property information, you’ll see a host of performance metrics for your school, including the 1-100 ENERGY STAR score. This score is a comparison of your school’s energy performance to similar schools nationwide. A score of 50 is the median. So if your building scores below 50, it means it’s performing worse than 50 percent of similar buildings nationwide, while a score above 50 means it’s performing better than 50 percent of its peers. And a score of 75 or higher means it’s a top performer and may be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.

The ENERGY STAR score for K-12 schools applies to buildings or campuses used as a school for kindergarten through 12th grade students. It takes into account energy use and school-specific space attributes such as operating hours, student seating capacity, whether the building is a high school, and other factors. (See the ENERGY STAR Score for K-12 Schools Technical Reference document for additional detail on how the ENERGY STAR score is calculated.) As a result, initial benchmarking of your building portfolio within Portfolio Manager may take some time upfront, but the ENERGY STAR program officials provide training, ‘how-to’ documentation, and technical support to help you achieve this important goal of understanding your buildings’ energy use and costs.

Knowing Your ENERGY STAR Score Means Knowing More About Your Assets and Energy Use

Before you can benchmark in Portfolio Manager and obtain an ENERGY STAR score for K-12 schools, you’ll need to gather some information about your facility, particularly energy use and space attribute information. Use the Data Collection Worksheet to generate a printable PDF that lists all of the data you’ll need to collect to benchmark. Facility managers typically have access to this data in a variety of sources, such as their accounting department or through utility companies. While having a basic utility bill is great, knowing and understanding how energy is used by different facilities can be a first step to improving the energy efficiency of your buildings and eventually increasing your ENERGY STAR score.

For instance, you might assume that facilities with similar design and equipment will use about the same amount of energy, but operational characteristics and habits can drive significant differences in energy performance – which will impact their ENERGY STAR scores. Even the most robust energy-efficiency upgrades may amount to a nominal change in energy performance if the new equipment is left running 24/7. It all comes down to how you operate your buildings, and the ENERGY STAR score can help you understand the impact of your operational habits, behavioral changes implemented by all occupants, and upgrades in your buildings on your buildings’ energy performance.

Reasons Why Your Facility Should Participate in the ENERGY STAR Program and Benchmark K-12 Schools Using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

There’s no cost to use any of the tools or resources available from ENERGY STAR or to join as a partner. Since educational facility managers face added pressure to reduce costs, the 1-100 ENERGY STAR score is a simple way to know how your schools are performing compared to other similar schools in the nation. Additionally, the ENERGY STAR score can serve as a screening tool that can help you prioritize your building upgrades. The ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual (Chapter 10: K-12 Schools) provides ideas for how to can reduce energy use in your buildings.


In addition to understanding the ENERGY STAR score, participation in the ENERGY STAR program has the following benefits:

  • Cost savings that translate into capital for teachers, textbooks, and students’ needs.
  • Recognition by the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.
  • Better utilization of limited resources.
  • Greater social and environmental awareness and responsibility.
  • Eligibility for government-sponsored upgrade programs.
  • Educational interaction with students.
  • Better indoor air quality, including temperature, humidity, and lighting, which can improve students' ability to learn, leading to better test results and access to additional funding. For more information, see EPA’s Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for Schools to learn more about how you can protect indoor air quality during daily operations and maintenance activities or during building upgrades.

Benchmark using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to Gain an Understanding of Your Costs Now

Benchmarking using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is among the best ways educational facility managers can understand energy and water use and costs. Find out how your school can start benchmarking performance and upgrading systems with limited financial resources by visiting Cenergistic online or calling 1-855-798-7779 today.

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