Jun 30

Top 4 Energy Saving Tips for Schools – and How to Get Them Done!

There are literally hundreds of things that you, your staff and students can do every day to save energy within your schools – here are our top four tips for saving energy…and some helpful hints on how to make sure these things are being done every day in your whole school district!

What:Turn out the lights anytime you leave a room.

How:Make the students responsible! Make it a classroom job and assign an official “energy monitor” each day or week. Ask a student group, such as JNHS/NHS, Student Council, before/after school care or an environmental or science club to monitor the building. Let them do periodic checks to be sure that lights are not being left on in common areas that are empty, such as gyms, cafeterias and work rooms.

What:Shut down computers nightly.

How: Get your IT department involved. If it’s not being done already, ask your IT team to implement a district-wide shut down sweep sometime after school hours. Even if this isn’t done until 8 or 9pm, it’s still saving a ton of energy compared to having computers left on all night …or during weekends and holidays!

What:Run your buildings at the optimal temperature (set points) for energy efficiency.

How:Talk to your building operators. Have them set your building to between 68° – 70° F during heating season, and between 76° – 78° F during cooling season. If this feels like a drastic change, try adjusting by just a degree or two. For every 1° you adjust by, you will save 1% on your energy bill!

What: Reduce plug load.

How:Start by doing a plug-load audit of your building. How many things are plugged in 24/7 in the average classroom? In the staff room? In the administrative areas? How many of these things are being used all day? Are they essential for teaching, learning or staff job duties? Are there mini-fridges, space heaters or other personal appliances throughout your building? Start by simply asking people to unplug items that are not in use. The biggest energy-wasting culprits are the ones that have a constant display, such as microwaves with clocks or SMARTboard projectors with an indicator light that tells you it’s “off.” Next, provide power-strips if possible. These allow several items to be plugged into one outlet and unplugged all at once. Power strips are ideal for things such as chargers, task lamps and printers that don’t need to stay plugged in overnight. Finally, ask folks to do away with things like personal appliances, mini-fridges and space heaters. These are major energy hogs and end up costing your school a lot of money in wasted energy.

The most important thing to remember when doing any of these things is to communicate, communicate, communicate!

Be sure you are conveying to your staff not only the action or behavior you’d like to see from them, but why it’s beneficial and how it will help save energy. Go a step further by doing some fun calculations to find out how much energy and money will be saved through simply changes such as shutting down computers or lowering the lights!

Jun 15

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – November & December

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed the first installments of our Month-by-Month School Green Team Tasks, click here to start from the beginning. If you’ve read them, we hope that means you’ve organized your team, held a few events, and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for September and October.


November : Raise awareness about proper building shut-down

The holidays are coming up, and that means people are out of the district for long stretches of time. Many districts close down completely for a week or more – and that means major opportunity to save energy and money! Be sure everyone in your schools know what it means to properly shut down and prepare for being gone. Hand out this Building-Shutdown-Checklist to ensure that no one is wasting energy while out on holiday break. Don’t forget to provide this list to your building operators as well – there is plenty they can do to help during off-hours, too! The best part about this checklist? It’s not just for holidays! Use this is as reminder year round to shut down properly at night, over weekends, during spring or summer break and anytime normal operating hours are not being used.


December: Host a district wide holiday swap

Become a drop point for recycling Holiday lights and put together a swap/donation area. Things such as gently used toys, movies, clothing, tools and home décor can be traded or given to your local donation ID-10046744location.  Consider having staff and students donate items, and then opening up the swap to the community. Many families in your district may need the additional support to provide gifts for their children and would be very appreciative of this opportunity to both give and receive! Encouraging reusing and recycling amongst your staff and students is a great way to show the district’s commitment to sustainability, and raise a bit of Holiday cheer!  BONUS: Couple the swap with a fun and green holiday celebration! Serve local, organic treats on reusable or recyclable dinnerware; set up a donation to an environmental charity; or adopt a family as a district and pay-it-forward.




Thanks for following our Green Team series! Missed a section? No problem! Here are links to each post:

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – March & April

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – May & June

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – July & August

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – September & October


Or, download the entire 12 month plan here: 12_month_green_team_plan

Jun 11

How Much Can Your School Save Using a Behavior Based Energy Efficiency Program?

When a school district – decides to become more energy efficient, one of the reasons is often to save money.

The most common approach to save energy involves adding or upgrading equipment and or/assets either on your own or through a performance contract. Before heading down this path, most organizations want to know how much they can save, and the “payback,” or how much time it will take to recoup their investment. Sometimes the threshold is as low as one year, sometimes two years, almost certainly schools want to recoup their costs by the end of five years.

The fact is that your school can save enough with a behavior based energy efficiency program that the payback is often less than one year.

Here’s an example of what the ROI for an average school building in the U.S. might look:

  • 100,000 square feet of space @ $1.00 energy cost/square foot = approximately $100,000/year in energy expenses
  • $5,000 investment in CLASS 5 Energy’s Behavior-Based Energy Efficiency Program
  • 5% energy decrease over the course of 1 year = cost avoidance of $5,000
  • ROI for investment is one year!

CLASS 5 schools reduce their energy use by 8%, on average, by the end of the first year using CLASS 5’s behavior based techniques. Plug your own energy numbers into the equation above to find out what your potential for savings is!

Jun 01

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – September & October

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed the first two installments of our Month-by-Month School Green Team Tasks, click here to start from the beginning. If you’ve read them, we hope that means you’ve organized your team, look at IT and plug load strategies, and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for September and October.


September: Revisit your results

Remember when we talked about stepping on the scale back in March?   If you haven’t yet – it’s time to energy-awarenesscheck in again! We recommend communicating results quarterly, but you can talk about them as often as you feel is right for your district. Good measurement and verification isn’t just about looking at the surface, however…take this opportunity to dig a little deeper into what tools you are using, how, and why, you are tracking your sustainability goals. Ask yourself: What good can this information do for my school district? What is the purpose of our sustainability goals? Perhaps your particular district would like to save money – if so, are you tracking monetary savings?   If not, look into the best way to do that. If the end game is PR – how can your results help tell the story of the good your district is doing? Communicate results in a fun and interesting way. Percentages and dollar signs are good for some – but most people won’t know what that means. Convert kilowatt hours to things like propane tanks and acres of trees using this greenhouse gas calculator from the EPA.


October: Energy Awareness Month – plan an event

It’s been 6 months since Earth Day, so a great time for your second big event of the year! October is National Energy Awareness Month, and a perfect time to re-energize your district around energy conservation. Just like Earth Day, there are many ways to celebrate. Here are 2 ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Hold an Energy Carnival. Not only will the fun and games get people excited about energy efficiency, but kids and adults can participate in the planning, running and enjoying of the games! Consider inviting the community to attend your Energy Carnival. Proceeds can go to funding an energy efficiency project for your school – what a great way to fundraiser for energy efficiency! To get started, here are some fun ideas to incorporate into your Energy Carnival:

o   Set up a Human Power Generator or Energy Bike for people to get moving and actually feel how much energy it takes to power different household items

o   Create a recycle relay or sorting game. Ask game players to sort items into: rubbish (trash), reuse (donate) or recycle.

o   Serve energy-free treats, and have a no-bake cake walk. Bonus points for using local, organic ingredients!

  • Have an Energy Month Staff Challenge. Ask everyone to conserve as much energy as possible this month! Match up classrooms, grade levels or buildings for some friendly competition. Hand out tips, such as these  Building-Occupant-Strategies, to get everyone started. Encourage creative thinking, such as changing your font to an eco-friendly one or carpooling with a colleague. Assign points to different behaviors and let the games begin! Don’t forget to have a prize for the winner.


Miss a post? No problem – here’s the year’s plan so far:

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – March & April

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – May & June

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – July & August 

May 26

Top 5 Energy Saving Tips for Schools


We spend a lot of time talking about behavior-based energy efficiency tips, especially as it relates to changes all employees in schools can make to reduce their energy use. The other side of behavior-based energy efficiency involves operations; especially the changes building operators can make to ensure the systems and equipment at a school are running as efficiently as possible. Of course, to us, it’s all behavior because it’s people who are making the decisions and people who are taking the actions to increase energy efficiency.

Because our programs include a focus on both education and operations, we often work closely with engineers. We recently asked one of our favorite mechanical engineers what he thought the top 5 energy saving tips a school building operations team could do to save the most energy and money without spending a lot.

Here’s what he told us…

  1. Calibrate your building automation system – including temperature, CO2 and humidity sensors. Adjust the sequence of operations to ensure that occupied vs. unoccupied times are being accounted for and set points are correct (68-70°F for heating and 76-78°F for cooling).
  2. Verify that your outside air temperature sensor is on a North facing location of the building and is mounted 6”-18” horizontally from the building.
  3. Is your chiller staging in line with the correct cooling load requirements? Be sure the most efficient chiller to handle the load(s) needed are the ones that come on first – stage them so that you are using the least amount of equipment needed for building loads.
  4. Often times VAV boxes are set to general or factory set specs. Review the parameters listed in your BAS with the design documents for your building. Adjust to your specific requirements.
  5. Be sure that during low load conditions (heating and cooling), your Supply Air Temperature set point is increased (during cooling) or decreased (during heating) to the most energy efficient value without negatively affecting building humidity, comfort or recovery rates.

Download a printable version of the top 5 tips here here to give to the person in charge of your company’s building operations and start seeing savings today!

May 15

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – July & August

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed the first installments of our Month-by-Month School Green Team Tasks, click here to start from the beginning. If you’ve read them, we hope that means you’ve organized your team, completed your building walk-throughs, and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for July and August.

For many school districts, July and August are times when there are not a lot of staff members around. Teachers and much of your school-year only staff have taken off for these two months. This doesn’t mean that school districts are completely deserted though! Many district staff are year round employees, and the empty buildings make for an ideal environment to make large-scale changes. Even if your Green Team is minimal during these summer months, there are big things that can be accomplished!


July: Focus on IT

Computers are one of the biggest energy users in any school district – there are probably several ID-10015475computers in each of your buildings. This means major opportunity for savings! Start by speaking with your IT manager about system-wide settings. Do all machines shut down automatically at night? Is there a standard time set for sleep mode? Do computers needs to be up and running to do updates? How many laptops vs desktops are in your building? If you don’t have an on staff IT manager, find out who runs your technology. It may be an outside company – if so, start with the contact person at your district that deals with this company. Consider these simple tips, and head to this blog post to learn more about saving energy and money via computers:

  • Shut down computers nightly. It’s a myth that shutting down computers too often can cause damage. Modern machines are meant to withstand 40,000 on/off cycles!
  • Monitors use the majority of energy consumed by desktop units – be sure staff and students are turning off monitors not just nightly, but anytime they are away from a computer.
  • Not convinced that shutting down computers can save you big bucks? Check out this example from a CLASS 5 school client (Computer-Costs-Calculations-Flier) showing just how fast it can add up!


August: Tackle plug load

Plug load is one of the biggest energy and money wasting culprits of all time. But what exactly is it? You may have also heard the terms “Vampire Energy” or “Standby Power”– these all refer to the same thing: energy (typically electricity) being drawn by items that are plugged in, but not in use. You may think that just because you’ve hit the off switch, that your electronics are not sucking any power from the outlet – but often times, that is not the case. Things such as projectors, SMARTboards, chargers, printers, coffee makers and microwaves all draw a constant stream of power, even when completely shut down. Take a look around a typical classroom in your district – how many items are plugged in right now? How many of those items are used every day? How many are directly related to teaching and learning? How many could be unplugged each night, or over weekends, when school buildings are closed? Consider lowering plug load by simply eliminating items that are not needed. Take this time to do a plug-load audit of your district. Record what type of items are plugged in and where. Note special teaching equipment, such as kilns or power tools. Make note of what is necessary, and what kind of personal additions you are finding. For example, you may find that there are several personal mini fridges in classrooms, individual space heaters or personal printers. Consider asking staff to either consolidate and share, or remove these items all together. Come up with a district-wide plan to provide community fridges, printers or other conveniences to serve your entire staff. A good rule of thumb when discovering plug-load culprits is to look for constant displays: Does your coffee maker have a clock, or your radio have an indicator light that tells you it’s off? If so – these items are contributing to plug load. Ask your district if there is a way to provide power-strips for each work space or classroom. By plugging multiple items into one strip, you can easily unplug many things all at once.

When school is back in session, have a communication written and ready to distribute about plug load. Make reducing plug load one of your main priorities for the next school year!


Miss a post? No problem – here’s the year’s plan so far:

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – March & April

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – May & June 

May 07

Does My School Need an Energy Efficiency Program?


With all of the important initiatives facing K-12 schools today, we know that energy efficiency and sustainability is sometimes not a first priority. Schools know it’s important – and most people agree that saving energy is the right thing to do – but turning good intentions into actions is rarely easy unless there is a true need

Schools talk about including energy conservation in their overall goals, missions or plans, but rarely is a comprehensive energy efficiency program put in place. One common reason is the assumption that energy efficiency is the sole responsibility of the building operators. Another common reason is the fear of adding yet another thing to teachers’ plates. A third common reason is the lack of knowledge about putting a program together. Unfortunately, this means that thousands of school districts across the U.S. are missing out on a major cost-saving opportunity.

The majority of schools today are facing a budget crisis. Funding is being cut. Levees are more difficult to pass. Jobs are being cut. It’s difficult in every situation – and devastating to districts in some cases..

Here’s why you need an energy efficiency program:

According to ENERGY STAR®, the nation’s K-12 schools spend more on energy annually than on computers and textbooks combined. The EPA breaks down energy use in a typical building into several categories. The top 3 are lighting, cooling and office equipment. Depending on the part of the country you live in and the type of fuel you use, heating may also be a large expense.

An energy efficiency program provide strategies for reducing use and cost in these areas and more. And a behavior-based program addresses them without any capital investment.

By implementing a district-wide, people-based energy plan, your schools can start seeing a decrease in energy use and costs today. In fact, CLASS 5 K-12 clients see reductions of 8% on average in the first year alone. Districts that make the energy program a priority see even higher levels of savings.

Interested in learning more about why you school needs an energy program? Watch this video to hear how one district in Minnesota saved $2.6 million dollars in energy costs.

Start seeing your savings today.

May 01

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – May & June

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed the first two installments of our Month-by-Month School Green Team Tasks, click here to start from the beginning. If you’ve read them, we hope that means you’ve organized your team, established a way to measure and report goals, and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for May and June.


May: District Wide Spring Clean

Set aside time this month to have each staff member clean their workspace, each teacher clean their classroom, and each student clean the common areas of a building. Take this chance to reorganize and choose more energy efficient options such as: plugging into power strips; consolidating small appliances and recycling or selling extra things your school no longer needs; ensure all shades are in working order; clean the coils on refrigerators and the fans on computers, copiers and printers; replace air filters and check for leaky faucets or toilets.

Get the students involved as well! Staff can help oversee as elementary students clean their classrooms and older students help out in places like the gym, cafeteria or auditorium.


June: Do building walk-throughs and meet with facility operators

Does your Green Team know what type of heating and cooling systems are in your school buildings? How about what your thermostat set points are? Do you have T8 or T12 lights in your ballasts? These are all great questions to ask your facility operators! Set up a meeting with the lead engineer for year district, or at each school, to discuss which operational strategies can be implemented in your iStock_000011083906Smallbuildings to cut energy use and costs. Don’t have a building operator? Find out who runs your building – whether it’s a volunteer, a custodial service, someone in a leadership position or an outside contractor – and go over these Top-15-Strategies-to-Jump-Start-Your-Facilities

Once you’ve established how your buildings run, you can come up with some great strategies for how to run them even more efficiently during the next school year! Work with your building operators to come up with a plan. By allowing them the entire summer to make the changes necessary, you can help ensure that things are in place before the buildings are fully occupied again.


Miss a post? No problem – here’s the year’s plan so far:

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

Month by Month Green Team Tasks – March & April

Apr 27

10 Facts About Why Energy Efficiency is Good for Your School District


Depositphotos_18396911_originalIf you are thinking about an energy conservation program for your school district, you are probably wondering how much of an impact it could make. What kind of money can be saved? How much will you actually be helping the environment? Can an energy efficiency program affect staff or student performance?

Here are 10 facts about why energy efficiency is good for your school district:

  1. U.S. schools spend more than $6 billion a year on energy. Most schools could save 25% of these costs by being smarter about energy. Energy improvements have the potential to save our nation’s schools $1.5 billion each year (U.S. Dept of Energy, 2002).
  2. Improving energy efficiency in school buildings will help reduce GHG emissions and air pollutants by decreasing the consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel consumption from electricity accounts for 40% of the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a principal GHG, and 67% and 23% of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, respectively, which can lead to smog, acid rain and respiratory problems for many people (U.S. EPA, 20081; U.S. EPA, 2008m).
  3. The increase in computer labs and personal computers in schools has added a significant load to school energy budgets. When turned off over a 7-day break rather than being left in “active on” mode, one desktop computer and monitor would save $2.70 on average in one week. While this may seem inconsequential, multiply that by 100 computers in a school, or 1,000 computers in a district and the savings add up quickly. Institute a policy to turn off monitors when not in use to extend savings throughout the year (KY Energy and Environment Cabinet, 2011).
  4. Investing in energy efficiency can stimulate the local economy and encourage development of energy efficiency service markets. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), approximately 60% of energy efficiency investments goes to labor costs, and half of all energy-efficient equipment is purchased from local supplies (U.S. DOE, 2004). Across the nation, energy efficiency technologies and services are estimated to have created more than 8 million jobs in 2006 (ASES, 2008).
  5. Schools spend approximate $75 per student on gas and $130 per student on electricity each year (U.S. EPA, 2008). By implementing energy efficiency measures, many K-12 schools have been able to reduce energy costs by as much as 30% in excising facilities (U.S. EPA, 2004b). According to the EPA, modification of a pre-existing building for energy efficiency can save a typical 100,000 square-foot school building between $10,000 and $16,000 annually, and simple behavioral and operational measures alone can reduce energy costs by up to 25% (U.S. EPA, 2008).
  6. (2005 Buildings Energy Data Book). Using a technique such as delamping will reduce unnecessary lighting as well as cut significant costs each month.
  7. (2005 Buildings Energy Data Book). For every 1° you adjust your thermostat, you can reduce energy use and costs by 1%. Reducing temperature set points for just 8 hours per day will yield you these savings. (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012).
  8. Energy-efficient school building designs often use natural daylight to reduce the energy needed to light a building. Natural light has been proven to have a positive effect on student performance. According to a study for the California Board for Energy Efficiency, students exposed to natural daylight in classrooms progress as much as 20% faster on math tests and as much as 26% faster on reading tests than students with no daylight exposure (HMG, 1999). Another study concluded that students in schools that offer environmental education programs have higher test scores than students in schools with no such programs (U.S. EPA, 2008).
  9. Some energy efficiency upgrades can improve occupant health by enhancing indoor air quality. Installing energy recovery ventilation equipment, for example, can reduce infiltration of air contaminants from outdoors while significantly reducing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning energy loads (U.S. EPA, 2003). One study on building performance found that average reduction in illness as a result of improved air quality in buildings is about 40% (Carnegie Mellon, 2005).
  10. For every 1,000 kwh you are able to shave from your energy consumption, you are reducing CO2 emissions equivalent to 79 gallons of gasoline, 29 propane cylinders or carbon sequestered by 18 saplings. Each 1,000 therms of natural gas you reduce avoids GHG emissions equivalent to 2 tons of waste in the landfill or CO2 emissions from 12 barrels of oil (U.S. EPA, 2013).

Apr 15

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – March & April

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed our first installment of Month-by-Month Green Team Tasks, click here to read it. If you read the first one, we hope that means you’ve already started your 12-month calendar, organized your school’s Green Team and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for March and April.


March: Establish a System for Measuring and Reporting Results

How many times has your team wondered about or been asked these questions:

  • How much energy does our school district use? Is that more or less than we should be using?
  • How does our energy use compare to other schools just like us?
  • How much money do we spend on energy?
  • How much money have we saved since we starting working to be more green?


At CLASS 5 Energy, we stress to our clients that measuring and sharing energy use and costs is one of the most important aspects of a district wide energy-saving effort. That’s because it’s very hard to manage something you don’t measure. Think of it like losing weight – after a few weeks of dieting, your clothes might fit better and you may have more energy, but will you really know if you’ve reached your goal if you never step on a scale? Whether you are using a certified measurement and verification tool, such as the one developed by CLASS 5 Energy, or simply a checklist to mark when goals have been completed – now is the time to start thinking about how to communicate where you are starting and what you are hoping to achieve.

Most school districts track their energy use and costs monthly, in conjunction with receiving their utility measure-energy-savingsbills. In order to share this information, we recommend reporting results quarterly. This gives enough time to see trends and patterns, but doesn’t allow for too much time to pass and people to forget that you are working towards these goals. Work with your communications team to decide how and when results will be announced.

As a school district, it’s important to share this information with your staff as well as the community! Saving money through saving energy is a great way to show that you are being responsible with tax dollars and value the property and buildings within your district.


April: Earth Day – Plan an Event

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day – cleaning up trash, planting trees, donating to an environmental cause or simply raising awareness around your building are all great places to start. If you are looking for ideas, visit the Earth Day website to pledge an act of green.

Not sure what to do in your district? Here are 2 ideas:

  • Have an energy-free staff potluck to raise awareness about conserving energy. Ask everyone to bring a dish that requires no energy (heating or cooling) to make or store: salsas, crackers, hard cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies or these no-cook desserts and other recipes
  • Hold a district-wide campus clean up! Get staff, students and even the community to come and clean up your buildings and grounds. Since everyone in the district will be out cleaning, it’s a great time to save some energy as well! Shut down computers, turn out lights, shut off office equipment and unplug any electronics that won’t be used for teaching or learning during the campus clean up.

Community building events such as these tend to pay dividends far greater than the resources they require: in staff, student and community satisfaction, stronger team development and increased morale. And all the while you are doing your part to make the world more sustainable.

Miss a post? No problem – here’s the first post:

Month-by-Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

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