Identifying Energy Problems at Educational Institutes
Educational institutions tend to run up large energy bills but, in their defence, it can be difficult to take a holistic approach to energy conservation when buildings are constantly expanding and everything is split into different departments. That said, it’s definitely not impossible and, with a few changes, a school or college etc. can make a significant reduction in energy consumption. But first things first, you need to identify the problem areas.
Sadly, finding out where those issues lie isn’t always clear cut. We wrote a blog about how to identify where specific power drains are coming from, so feel free to check that out! In the meantime, allow us to show you some of the main power drains in your buildings, and what you can do to reduce them.
Before you start to pinpoint problem devices and apparatus, have a think about the buildings themselves. Different departments use energy differently. You might notice that boarding houses – if you have them – use much more energy than classrooms, but that doesn’t mean they should be the first place to start reducing energy. Boarding houses are required to have lights and heating etc. on constantly, while classrooms are not.
To make sure your buildings aren’t using up unnecessary energy, you could think about automating the building functions. In some institutes, heating and/or air-conditioning are left running all day, but the buildings themselves might be empty for a majority of this time. By automating the utilities in the building, you can arrange for power-draining facilities to be turned off during off-peak times.
Schools finish several hours earlier than most offices and they also have frequent, extended breaks when the building is empty – such as the summer holidays. Automated or not, the facilities manager or caretaker should be cautious about how much energy the grounds are using while empty.
When you think of educational institutes, a kitchen isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But when it comes to energy consumption, the kitchen is one of the major culprits for wasting energy. One of the biggest offenders is the refrigeration units, which work by forced circulation evaporators, powered by fractional-horsepower motors, to cool the air. Essentially, there are fans in the appliance and they are left running continuously. Sadly, simply turning off the unit isn’t always an option – they’re kept cold for a reason!
There is a way you can reduce the energy consumption, however. By installing Electronically Commutated (EC) motors on evaporator fans and refrigeration controllers on walk-in coolers or freezers, the amount of energy wasted will drop significantly. The controllers will stop the evaporator fans from operating when they aren’t necessary and the EC motors can increase efficiency in the fan by 30%.
Vending machines in schools have been a debate issue for about as long as there have been vending machines in schools. Of course, the debate is about health concerns, but another vending machine issue that is rarely brought up is the fact that they consume a lot of energy.
It’s not immediately obvious when you look at them, but the mechanics and the built-in cooler running all day every day adds up to a huge amount of wasted electricity. Luckily, there are products that can help out. One such product is VendingMiser, which comes with a motion sensor. When there is no evidence of anyone nearby, VendingMiser will power down the cooler and lights until it detects people approaching. Don’t worry about the products still in the machine, though, because VendingMiser will intermittently power up the cooler to protect the products. Overall, VendingMiser claims to be able to decrease energy consumption of your machines by 50%.
Of course, another way to deal with vending machines is to get rid of them altogether, but we leave that up to the discretion of each educational institute.
The benefits to saving energy as educational institutes don’t just stop at the lower carbon footprint or the savings on the energy bill. There could be government subsidies available to schools, universities, colleges etc. that have less wasted energy. But if you’re not quite ready for these measures yet, there is a way to help with your energy consumption that won’t cost any extra: teach about energy conservation at your educational institute. Informed students are more likely to help reduce the energy they use, and may end up helping to find new renewable energy sources in the future!