How to Lower Energy Costs for My School District to Free Resources to Increase Teacher Salaries
School board members are often faced with the prospects of lower budgets and endless questions, such as "How can I lower energy costs for my school district?" or "What can we do to improve energy efficiency?" Answering those questions means understanding energy consumption, user behaviors and how to get more value from school assets. By following a few simple steps, education Facilities Managers can successfully respond with, "This is how we can lower energy costs for our district."
Know This: Deploying Reactive Analytics Is Key to Understanding How to Lower Energy Costs for My School District
Reactive analytics show Facilities Managers where and why energy use occurs. Financial benefits realized through lower energy costs for my school district amount to an average of $9 per square foot. That amounts to $9,000 in energy savings alone for a 1000 ft2 building. Given that many schools are well above that size, the real value is much more significant. Broken Arrow Public Schools, a Cenergistic-partnering district, was able to reinvest $1 million in savings back into their schools by implementing energy-conscious practices, reports Haley Hughey of OKCFox.com. Within the next five years, the district is expected to save $2.7 million, and those savings can be used to increase teacher salaries, as well as provide better benefit packages to attract and retain educators.
Determine Your ENERGY STAR Score
Understanding energy costs is the first step in evaluating the ENERGY STAR rating for your school district. Schools with higher ratings typically receive a better response from the public, and they may be eligible for local, state and federal incentives to continue investment into energy-efficiency programs. The U.S. Department of Energy provides additional direction on how to evaluate and calculate your school’s unique ENERGY STAR score.
Install an On-Site Energy Specialist to Lower Energy Costs for Your School District
Even with the most advanced systems, school districts may not know or understand how to apply data to drive energy cost reductions. This is where the value of an On-Site Energy Specialist comes into play. The On-Site Energy Specialist acts as an extension of a school's facility management department, providing direction on how to create a culture of acceptance among students and faculty, advising the Facilities Manager and best practices to improve energy use among assets, and much more.
Reduce Asset Run Time During Vacancy Hours
Running systems during vacancy hours can have a disastrous effect on energy costs. In general, any equipment runtime during vacancy hours, aside from security systems, is unnecessary, but circumstances may occur where extracurricular activities require assets runtime outside of regular hours. An effective energy management program should consider extracurricular schedules in conjunction with regular hours to determine the best settings for all systems using energy.
Use Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning to Optimize Environmental Controls
As explained by Fiona Burlig of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, via Forbes, advanced analytics and machine learning provide an additional layer of protection for school districts that want to ensure changes made to improve energy efficiency achieve maximum results. A recent study found schools that did not use advanced analytics and machine learning were only capable of realizing 25 percent of projected cost savings. Therefore, changes in energy use behaviors and systems had a lower-than-expected result, but the use of these innovative technologies can ensure optimized environmental controls to drive maximum savings.
Reduce Ancillary Labor Costs
Another factor in an effective energy management program revolves around maintenance. Since the system relies on data monitoring to manage energy use, changes in energy use may refill potential maintenance issues. Therefore, maintenance can be performed on facility assets before a malfunction occurs. This will reduce ancillary labor costs by reducing overtime hours necessary to perform unexpected maintenance.
Retrocommission School Assets With New Technology
Depending on the budget and plans for your energy management program, According to Xcel Energy, school districts may consider the recommissioning of school assets with new technology, such as wireless sensors and automated system controls, to reduce the impact of human error on energy use. This means changes in energy use behaviors will have a more significant positive impact by reducing the ability of faculty to adjust system settings beyond optimized levels.