Energy for School  

Real-time Energy Management

The 4 Best Practices to Conserve Energy in Schools

While the electricity bill is often treated as an unchangeable portion of school expenses, the fact is that most schools have considerable room for improvement and savings.

This addressable energy waste could be due to inefficient student/staff behaviour, incorrect settings, and/or lack of maintenance. The good news is that there are many opportunities to save energy without investing in equipment upgrades.

All you need is an energy management system for schools to ensure continuous and effective implementation of energy conservation measures.

This article outlines the best practice in behaviour-based energy conservation. You will read about these four steps to reap the low-hanging fruit and reduce school energy costs:

  1. REDUCE demand
  2. OPTIMIZE efficiency
  3. AVOID wastage
  4. MAINTAIN regularly

Best practices to conserve energy at school

The electricity bill is often treated as an unchangeable portion of school expenses. But the fact is that most schools have considerable room for improvement and savings. This addressable energy waste could be due to inefficient student/staff behaviour, incorrect settings, or lack of maintenance. The good news is that there are many opportunities to save energy without investing in equipment upgrades. All you need is an energy management system to ensure continuous and effective implementation of energy conservation measures.

This e-book outlines the best practice in behaviour-based energy conservation. Follow these four steps to reap the low-hanging fruit and reduce school energy costs!

1. Reduce Demand

You don’t need to turn on all equipment at all times. Try to reduce the school’s energy demand with these tips:

Think twice before turning on the switch

Every time someone enters a room, he / she may turn on all the light and AC switches by the door side without even thinking about whether they need it or not. Encourage students and staff to think twice before turning the switch. They should only turn on necessary electrical equipment to minimize energy wastage.

  • Label the switches to help staff and students identify different equipment.
  • Let students design their own labels to leave a deeper impression
  • Encourage them to only turn on things they need inside the classroom Place a red sticker beside switches controlling non-essential equipment to alert user before they turn it on.

Alternative Cooling

If the temperature is not too hot, try using alternative ways to keep cool. Set a policy or system limit where students and staff can turn on the AC only when temperature rises above a set point.

  • Open windows to allow natural ventilation
  • Use fans instead of air-conditioning when the temperature is under 26oC
  • Close shades on windows that are receiving heat from direct sunlight
  • Encourage students to wear light clothing to stay cool
  • In coastal climates and where safety permits, leave windows open at night to let in cool night time air
  • Close windows first thing in the morning while it is still cool outside to trap the cool air inside

Make Use of Natural Daylight

Utilizing natural daylight is an important way to lower lighting energy. Use the following tips to capture daylight while avoiding the glare and heat from the sun. This prevents both discomfort and increase in cooling load.

  • Open the cover of non-sun-facing windows to receive natural daylight and turn off the nearby light fixtures.
  • For window facing south, use horizontal blinds to direct daylight onto the ceiling and walls where possible. This helps to direct diffused sunlight into the classroom while reducing glare and excessive heat.
  • Many daylight blinds also have perforated blades to enable a view outside, which create a positive atmosphere.

Remove a tube

Over-lighting is a common scene happened in offices and classroom. While the optimal lux level for comfort and sufficient brightness is just around 400 – 500 lux, many areas of your school could be over designed. Ask students to take a walk around the school to look for over-lit areas, and you can remove unnecessary light tubes to save energy!

2. Optimize efficiency


Air-conditioning consumes 50% of the energy used in the whole school. If you can manage AC energy well, you’re already half done.

  • Close all windows and doors when AC is on.
  • Keep shades drawn and cover sun-facing windows with blinds.
  • Keep Thermostat Temperature at 25.5°C or above (Every 1 °C increase in AC temperature can save around 3% of electricity use)
  • Turning on AC & fan simultaneously while lowering AC temperature by 2-3°C can speed up cooling and save 10% of electricity use.
  • Ensure that vents aren’t blocked by curtains or other obstacles.

[Tie a ribbon to the vent of each aircon unit / diffuser so you can visually tell if it is actually turned on or off.]


Lighting is the second largest electricity end-use in schools, with considerable room for improvement. Here are a few strategies you may consider:

  • Turn on only part of the lights in a room when possible
  • Consider purchasing a few desktop lights for small area usage so that you don’t have to turn on all overhead lights
  • Consider replacing fluorescent light fixtures with LED

Computers and Equipment

To keep up with the latest education technology, schools are constantly adding more electrical devices across the board. ICT and audio-visual equipment are the major energy users, so there are good opportunities for cutting costs and making energy savings by targeting these.

See the tips below:

  • Ensure the computers are set to go to sleep with displays turn off after five minutes of inactivity.
  • Print in batches to allow the printers spend more time on standby or off
  • Printers and photocopiers emit heat. Placing them in a separate, naturally-ventilated area with good airflow
  • (ideally the north side of buildings) will prevent overheating, ozone pollution and noise impact in the office.

Typical Energy Consumption for Different ICT Equipment

Swimming Pools

If your school has a swimming pool, then it should be a top concern for energy management. The pool is often used for a few hours a day but requires constant heating and cooling and ventilation. Good operation management will reduce energy usage.

  • Use a pool cover(1)

When the pool is not being used, cover the pool with a plastic sheet or thermal blanket can reduce the need for water heating and pool hall ventilation. This will also reduce the amount of make-up water required due to evaporation loss.

(1) U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (2011).Swimming Pool Covers. Retrieved 1 June, 2012, from;

(2) California Urban Water Conservation Council. (2009). H2ouse Water Saver Home.Pool & Spa. Retrieved 1 June, 2012, from 1FC4-41D0-BC9A16B993ED790A&roomID=32ABD0B1-B424-4AF0-


  • Carefully schedule backwashes

Backwashing pool filters is a very expensive process in terms of both water and energy. By setting appropriate backwash schedules based on the pressure drop across the filter, you can reduce unnecessary energy consumed.

  • Lower set water temperature

Lowering water temperature can reduce the evaporation rate, thus reducing the need for air ventilation to control humidity.

3. Avoid wastage

Turn off after use

This is by far the simplest energy saving measure, but it’s easier said than done. People often tend to keep things running in case another person will use them later. Someone may think that turning lights on and off frequently will waste more energy than it saves. But the truth is that turning off lights for 5 minutes or more is already more efficient than keeping it on. Whenever you finish using a room or leave the room for more than a few minutes, make sure you turn off all appliances and equipment.

Here are some specific actions students and staff can do together:

  • Turn off all lights, air-conditioning when leaving the room for 10 minutes or more.
  • Turn off electrical equipment between lessons if it is not going to be used in consecutive classes.
  • Turn off the switch on the socket after use (see the next section for ways to make this easier)
  • Don’t use screen savers. Instead, set your classroom computers (ask your IT staff to help if needed) to have their screens turn off when not in use.
  • Activate standby mode in all PCs during lessons but completely turn them off you’ve finished using.
  • Place a timetable on the door of special rooms to inform users whether the room will be used in the next session to avoid the equipment being left on unknowingly.

Energy Saving Rules

  1. Use aircon ONLY when the temperature is above 25.5℃, and always use the fan too
  2. The last student or teacher to leave the room must turn off ALL & electrical appliances, including lights, aircon, fans, computers, and projectors
  3. When the classroom is less than HALF full, only turn on ONE aircon unit
  4. THINK carefully before using electrical appliances – do you really NEED to?
  5. Make reminder signs or stickers to encourage power-off action

Unplug all power source after school and before weekends and holidays

Electronic devices can still consume 5-10% of their normal energy consumption when turned off. Equipment in standby mode will also heat up the space and cause more air conditioning energy use the next day. Make sure you unplug all unnecessary electronics (such as computers, laptops, printers, TVs, smartboards, iPads, and projectors) and appliances (such as microwaves & tea kettles) at the end of each day.

Here are a few tips to help students and staff do this easily:

  • Use a power strip with individual switches. When every socket has its own switch, it allows you to cut off stand-by power of unused appliances easily without worrying about turning off something essential like a refrigerator. You may try implementing this practice first in rooms with the most equipment, such as staff rooms and computer rooms

Label each socket by the name of the equipment it connects. This lets everybody know their uses clearly and avoid powering off essential ones by mistake.

Place the power strip where you can easily reach, for instance, place it on or attached to the side of the desk rather than under the desk. When people can easily see something is on, it motivates them to turn it off.

Set equipment to turn off automatically using timers or smart device

With hundreds of different electrical devices in the school, it can be overwhelming and inefficient to ensure every single piece of equipment is switched off. A simple plug-in timer can set equipment to switch off and on automatically at different pre-set times. Alternatively, a smart power strip can help to cut off the power from specific sockets when the device is switched off. The top priority for this type of control is large equipment such as copiers, water coolers, laptop chargers, and vending machines. These measures will save you time and effort.

4. Maintain regularly

A number of energy efficiency measures can be carried out as part of routine maintenance procedures at no extra cost.

Air-conditioning Units

Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can reduce your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

  • Clean or replace air conditioner filters every month or two during the cooling season
  • Check the evaporator and condenser coil every year and clean it as necessary
  • Clean the area around the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) allow for adequate airflow around the condenser.
  • Inspect window seals between air conditioner and window frame to ensure tight contact
  • Cover the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner to protect the unit from rain and debris


  • Regular maintenance helps to maintain desired light output and optimum comfort levels, which can fall by 30% in 2–3 years otherwise. So design and follow a maintenance schedule:
  • Set a schedule for cleaning fixtures, windows, and surfaces which reflect light such as walls and ceilings
  • every 2-5 years to maximize lighting performance.
  • Schedule for lighting levels checking and replacement dim and failing lamps every 4 years.
  • Ensure the lighting control systems are set and working properly. For instance, if there are any changes to
  • building use, the timer schedule should also be changed accordingly to match with new needs. If possible,
  • select a wireless lighting control system which can flexibly adapt to different building use and layouts.
  • Encourage staff and students to point out failing lamps for maintenance when possible.


Refrigerators and freezers operate 24/7 and contribute significant energy consumption in a building. Regular checking, maintenance and good user habits can help to maximize its efficiency with no cost. Here are a few actions you can take:

Fridge location

  • Keep your refrigerator away from heat sources, such as an oven, a dishwasher and direct sunlight from a window
  • Clear objects on top of and next to the fridge to keep enough airflow around for it to radiate heat.

Usage habits

  • Keep the temperature in your refrigerator at about 4-5℃ and -18 to -17 for freezer. Settings may need adjustment when the refrigerator is empty
  • Keep the fridge 2/3 full at all times. This allows it to operate at its optimum efficiency
  • If the fridge is not full, store water-filled containers inside. The mass of cold items will enable the refrigerator to recover more quickly after the door has been opened
  • Adjust the thermostat at the right level for the fridge’s contents
  • Encourage students and staff not to open doors unnecessarily
  • Allow hot foods to cool before placing them in the refrigerator
  • Don’t store uncovered liquids in your fridge as this will increase the humidity of the interior space and increase energy use for dehumidification
  • During long holidays, consolidate the contents in fridges so that some can be turned off and unplugged.

Regular maintenance

  • Defrost regularly – the frost increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running
  • Check to see if the door seal is intact to avoid cool air escape
  • Clean condenser coils at least once a year – this makes the fridge 15% more efficient

School Equipment

  • To maintain optimum efficiency, check and clean ICT equipment, copiers, kilns and fume cupboards regularly, ideally based on manufacturer’s advice

Next Steps…

There are many easy options to help you save energy and improve school operations. But the key to ensuring solid results is to track your actual energy consumption and verify savings after these actions are made. You may choose to monitor it manually by reading the utility meter, but the best approach is to deploy an energy management system.

This system can automatically collect your energy data and consolidate it into intuitive charts. With the right software and analysis, you can easily find the answers to your questions about the school’s energy profile. “How much energy is used on an average morning?” “Where are we wasting energy?” The answers are but a few clicks away.