There is a great deal that can be done within homes and businesses to reduce energy use, and one of the easiest is to replace your old incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact flourescent lightbulbs (CFL). These produce equivalent light for about one fifth of the electricity.
They do however contain a small amount of mercury, about 5mg, which is toxic if it escapes from the bulb. This has implications for how to clean up a CFL if it breaks, and that they should be properly recycled at the end of their life rather than sent to landfill. This goes for traditional straight flourescent lights as well unless they are special mercury free tubes.
The american EPA has produced a fact sheet on this issue which can be accessed here:
Several CAN members have been actively working with schools to help them reduce their energy usage, so that they save on their bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
We undertake an energy audit by plugging every appliance into a hand held meter (such as the one pictured) to measure how much electricity all the appliances such as photocopiers or refrigerator uses. We also count up all the lights and calculate the electricity they use. We enter all this information into a spreadsheet and input the length of time the items are used for. The figures will start to reflect the electricity used as itemized in the schools bill. Once we know where all the energy is going, we can start to think of some solutions to reduce the consumption of high energy users.
Typical wasteful uses in schools have been:
Instant ZIP style hot water services which are left on 24 hours, 365 days per year
Poorly installed equipment such as computers which can’t be individually switched off and consume standby power
Over lit classrooms
Security lights which are poorly positioned and the timer function has been bypassed
Glass fronted refrigerators in the canteen which use four times the electricity of a regular fridge.
Items of equipment that are no longer necessary such as a paper warmer but have not been switched off or removed
The schools have been delighted that we are helping them save money and greenhouse gas emissions - all for free of course!
Newcastle East Public School– an energy audit report completed by Ben Ewald calculated the school could reduce energy consumption by 43% without reducing the utility of the buildings (download here). They also want to build a wind turbine and are currently writing a funding submission.
Hamilton Public School– an electricity audit report completed by Ian Wilcox & Roger Reece (download here), found that school had 11 fridges with many underutilized.
The following resources have been helpful in compiling the energy audits and determining the solutions:
The first thing the school should do is register for the program, then they will be told how much they have to spend. (Some schools might be reduced if they have spent money on water tanks, it depends on whether they used Green Vouchers or not).
We have found many of the solutions cost little or nothing and just require a little common sense. Examples of this include turning off under used appliances, appointing electricity monitors in the classroom who turn off the lights at lunch time. Using 7 day timers which cost only $15 on appliances.
Roger Reece has come up with an easy to use spreadsheet which can be adapted for your school and contains instructions in the file. It will automatically produce graphs and charts. Download it here.