Top 8 Myths About Energy Use in Schools

By Dr. Randy Hoff  
Vice Chairman

 


As explained by the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the top myths about energy use in schools involve the costs versus savings of energy-efficient design, programs, and implementation. School districts are faced with continuous budget cuts, but the importance of providing the best learning environment has never been greater. This irony is the core reason why education Facility Managers need to understand the top myths and why energy-efficiency programs will make a significant impact in savings and quality of education.

Myth 1: Schools Have Minimal Energy Costs

K-12 schools and higher education facilities combined spend approximately $14 billion annually on energy costs, and as energy costs increase, the average expenditure will continue to grow. K-12 schools alone spend approximately $8 billion annually on energy costs, and energy costs are second only to labor costs, inclusive of teacher salaries.

Myth 2: Student Performance Isn't Affected by Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency might not seem like something that would affect student performance, but inefficient use of energy results in fewer funds available for use in classrooms. This could amount to fewer computers or textbooks, as well as crowded classrooms. Another side of the myth involves comfort and its impact on students' ability to learn. When a student is uncomfortable, either being too hot or too cold, the ability to focus and commit facts to memory diminishes.

Myth 3: No One Cares About Schools That Save Energy

Another myth about energy use in schools assumes that the public does not care about schools' energy use. While parents and guardians may not necessarily ask to see the school's annual energy bills, they play a role in determining the ability of a school to pay such bills. Schools that receive funding through grants, federal funds and bonds effectively depend on the perception of that school during application or election/voting times. Ultimately, everyone within the district cares in some form about the school and its ability to save energy.

Myth 4: Energy-Efficiency Programs Are Costly to Design

There was a time when designing energy-efficient programs was expensive, but that was before technology grew to the level it is today. Designing energy-efficient programs take less time, and many pre-set programs exist.

Myth 5: Energy Use Behavioral and Recommissioning Improvements Have Major Upfront Costs

Designing and implementing an energy-efficiency program may have zero upfront investment cost for school districts. Some improvements, like upgrading to energy-efficient lighting, may incur upfront investment costs, but the chances are good that cases requiring an upfront investment effectively recapture such costs in a short period. For programs that monitor energy use and encourage improved energy use behaviors, upfront costs may be zero. For instance, Cenergistic works to develop and implement programs that do not have any upfront investment costs for its partnering schools.

Myth 6: There Isn't Enough Talent to Manage Energy Use in Schools

Another problem in education facility management lies in a lack of Energy Managers and specialists to handle the program. The Facilities Manager's duties may focus on maintenance and ensuring safety, but their experience in advanced energy management may be limited. In reality, today's energy management programs are designed with ease-of-use and -deployment in mind. Cenergistic has this issue covered by installing an On-Site Energy Specialist at each district. The On-Site Energy Specialist acts as an extension of Cenergistic’s services.

Myth 7: Buying Energy-Efficient Systems Ensures Reduced Energy Use

Simply installing energy-efficient systems is not enough to ensure energy use decreases. While the energy used by a given asset may decrease, poor energy use behaviors may still lead to high energy costs. As a result, encouraging energy-efficient use behaviors among faculty and students is essential to driving true savings.

Myth 8: Savings Aren't Enough to Justify Energy-Efficiency Improvements

This is similar to myth seven. As explained by Fiona Burlig of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, via Forbes, projected savings for improvements in energy use behaviors and asset upgrades do not necessarily come to fruition. As few as 25-percent of planned savings are realized, but the use of machine learning and predictive analytics can ensure the right improvements are made and maximize their returns.

Get the Facts About Energy Use in Schools

There will continue to be many myths about energy use in schools, and they will evolve as energy management technologies evolve.

As noted by Randy White, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Northwest Florida State College, “Involving every level of person, including administration, instructors and students, in energy conservation decreases reliance on fossil fuels in the long-term. When professors and students begin saving energy, we develop a synergy, using a Cenergistic-based blueprint, to drive savings and encourage long-term sustainability.”

For example, there may be a day when something like machine learning to reduce energy costs is seen as unnecessary and too much trouble to implement. However, the key to reducing energy use lies in recognizing myths for their falsehoods. Instead of buying into the myths, put your district on the path to success by contacting Cenergistic online today.
Dr. Randy Hoff

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