5 Tips for Maximizing Energy Efficiency During the Summer Break

August 17, 2015 By Domenic Armano

Domenic Armano

5 Tips for Maximizing Energy Efficiency During the Summer Break

With summer in full swing, most schools across the nation have another month of silent halls before students come back. Despite empty or mostly empty facilities, many schools often continue to use more energy than needed during the quiet summer months. In fact, schools this summer are still using up to 85 percent of the energy utilized during the busy academic year.

By taking advantage of slower summer break to optimize energy programs, schools can further reduce their energy costs through low-to-no cost operational changes and retrofits. Here are a few things schools across the country are doing to help to reduce bills and steer extra dollars back to teachers and students.

Adjust HVAC scheduling or shut off all HVAC entirely: In the summer months, most schools have limited, and in some cases no, regular daily activity. This presents an opportunity to shut down HVAC systems for the duration of the summer recess. In cases where limited activity is taking place and AC is needed for those scorching hot summer days, school administrators can schedule their systems through a central building management system or through individual programmable thermostats to make sure the heating and cooling systems are on only when buildings are occupied.

Unplug refrigeration: For schools that don’t have summer activities or programs that require food service, simply unplugging or shutting off refrigeration equipment can lead to a 10–15 percent savings off their annual costs. If there is food that needs to remain frozen over the summer months, schools can have their cafeteria staff coordinate to consolidate items into a limited number of freezers to reduce the number of unnecessary equipment that remains active.

Regulate lighting activity: According to the Alliance to Save Energy, lighting accounts for 50 percent of electric bills in most schools. While it may seem like an obvious energy saver to turn off lights, more schools than you might think leave lights on during the unoccupied summer months. If lights are needed for security purposes or during modified hours of occupation, administrators can take advantage of automatic timers or building management systems to maximize their energy reduction.

Install vending machine controllers: Vending machines typically remain on 24/7/365, and most schools have multiple machines throughout the building. These machines can be a huge energy drain all year round as they are rarely used during evening hours, and throughout the summer months usage drops even lower. Vending machine controllers, more specifically Vending Misers, can be used to automatically shut off lights and decrease refrigeration compressor usage when the vicinity is not occupied. This implementation can reduce electrical consumption even beyond the summer months to provide energy savings throughout the year.

Shut off domestic hot water: Most schools have large domestic hot water tanks used for bathrooms and kitchens during the school year. If the school does not have any athletic activities during the summer, it is best to completely shut off these domestic hot water tanks to conserve thermal energy.

By making these small changes, most of which are simple, low-to-no cost tweaks, schools can drastically improve their energy efficiency performance and kick-off the new academic year this fall with a green conscience.

Domenic Armano is vice president of customer solutions at FirstFuel. Before joining FirstFuel, he was director of strategy and innovation at Johnson Controls.  Before that, he was a regional engineering manager responsible for developing over $300M in energy efficiency and renewable projects, including the comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit at the historic Empire State Building. Domenic holds an master of business administration degree from Boston University, a master of science degree in engineering management from Tufts University and a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He is a licensed professional engineer.

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