Energy efficiency in schools and higher education

Did you know that different classrooms and levels of teaching may have different temperature needs? Or that you could easily save up to 25% of the cost of energy used for catering? Try our simple changes, including ones that you can make for free, and you could make significant savings on your energy bill.

By teaching students to be mindful of how they use energy early on, we can ensure a better future for the energy industry and for the planet.

school and higher education header

Who is this for?

Simple no cost changes

Heating energy efficiency


  • Children have higher metabolic rates than adults so they are comfortable and easier to communicate with in cooler environments. The Department of Education and Skills recommends 18°C for normal teaching, 15°C for corridors and sports halls and 21°C for low activity, special needs schools or those with very young children.
  • For every 1°C of overheating, you increase energy consumption by 8-10%. A reduced temperature of 10°C is sufficient during the night for most buildings.
  • Obtain feedback from staff and students – encourage them to report draughts, or if they are too cold or too hot. This will minimise the amount of people who use additional small heaters or open windows to regulate the temperature.
  • Get students involved by asking them to make suggestions and understand the impact of their actions when it comes to consuming energy.
  • Match heating needs to the time of day and outside environment – review time settings monthly to adapt to seasonal changes.
  • Keep furniture and other equipment away from radiators and vents to improve heat circulation.
  • Reducing the temperature by 1°C can save enough energy to print over 40 million sheets of A4 paper. Turning the heating down by 2°C could save you £140 on a £1,000 bill.
Office equipment icon

Computers and small power equipment

  • Encourage all staff and students to turn off equipment at the end of the day. This saves energy costs, but also lowers cooling costs and extends the lifespan of the equipment. A single computer left on 24 hours a day costs £45 per year. With turn-off and standby features enabled you could reduce it to £10.
  • Assign clear responsibility for switching off equipment.
  • Activate automatic standby and power down modes after set times of inactivity, like 15 minutes. Switch off monitors to save up to 60% of energy during break times.
  • Make sure fume cupboards have the right sash height, use them only for the stages of the experiment that present a hazard and switch them off when not in use. Don’t use them as bench space or to store chemicals.
  • For arts and crafts studios, make sure kilns are full when fired and try to fire them at night. Soldering irons shouldn’t be turned on when not needed as they are heavy energy users.
  • Switching vending machines off at night and during weekends can save enough energy to print 7m A4 pages.
  • A lower use of paper leads to a more efficient workspace, less printing, less storage and less damage to the environment (through overuse of resources and incorrect recycling).

MYTH: Screensavers save energy. TRUTH: No, they are designed to increase the lifespan of the screen but may even use more energy than during normal operation if particularly colourful or animated.

Catering icon


  • Raising awareness with your staff is an important step; implementing simple practices can reduce your bill by as much as 25%. Advise them to:

    • Not switch on appliances too soon
    • Avoid using kitchen equipment to warm the space
    • Switch off cooking appliances immediately after use
    • Avoid overfilling saucepans and kettles
    • Use lids, keep refrigeration unit doors closed and defrost regularly
    • Switch off lights and extraction fans when not in use
    • Make sure refrigeration units are well ventilated and not placed against the wall
  • Oven and cookers can be on for around 10 hours per week so make sure they are only on when needed, not warmed up just in case. They shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to warm up, otherwise they may need maintenance attention.

  • Use microwaves where possible as they use less energy, due to not needing to pre-heat.
  • It's more efficient to run a dishwasher on an eco-mode that it is to wash the same load of dishes by hand.
  • Check seals and adjust thermostats on fridges and freezers and avoid opening the doors too often to keep the cold air in.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and cooling

  • Take advantage of natural ventilation and free cooling by opening doors and windows, which could halve your energy costs. Just make sure you don’t do it in such a way that it poses a risk to your business or staff.
  • Decide on an outdoor temperature range (for example between 19-24°C) when neither heating nor cooling will be turned on.
  • Use curtains and blinds to keep rooms comfortable. Close them at the end of the day during winter to help retain heat.
Lighting energy efficiency


  • Making use of daylight in a classroom can reduce lighting costs by 19%. Artificial light should only be used to supplement natural light.
  • Get the students involved by raising awareness during assembly in schools or as they go around university campuses by placing stickers and posters around the building.
  • Keep windows, skylights and light fittings clean to let through as much natural light as possible.
Leisure and fitness

Swimming pools

  • One of the highest sources of energy consumption in establishments that are equipped with them.
  • If you have a swimming pool, consult the manufacturer details about backwashes. This can be an energy-intensive process Keep the water temperature between 28-30°C and the air temperature no more than 1°C higherto reduce condensation and prevent unnecessary use of ventilation.

Straightforward low-cost changes

Heating energy efficiency


  • Is your thermostat inaccurate because of its location? Moving it could incur a small cost but it will mean it’s more accurate if not affected by radiator heat or placed in a draughty place. The location of the thermostat could make it raise or lower the temperature unnecessarily, based on inaccurate needs.
  • Maintain boilers and pipe work. Having your gas boiler serviced annually and the oil boiler twice a year could save you 10% on heating costs.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and cooling

  • Make sure you review the performance of your ventilation and air circulation systems. If you’re not getting the desired results, there might be a fault with certain parts that you could easily replace. A system that is well maintained every year could lead to a 60% increase in efficiency.
Building fabric energy efficiency

Building fabric

  • If you can insert a 1p coin on its side between a window or door and its frame, fit draught strips.
Office equipment icon

Computers and small power equipment

  • Install plug-in seven-day timers which will switch off equipment when not in use outside of organisational hours – anything from computers to water coolers and vending machines.
  • A red light on a monitor or any other appliance will usually show that it’s in standby. Every of those red lights will cost about £1 a year, which adds up.
  • Purchase equipment that is at least Energy Star ratedand use flat screen monitors as they use 65% less energy.
Lighting energy efficiency


  • Use blinds to redirect daylight to the ceiling or wall rather than block it altogether and open blinds when there is no glare.
  • Use timers to match working hours and/or occupancy of the space so it happens automatically and you don’t have to rely on others
  • Occupancy sensors in toilets or less used areas save 30% to 50% on lighting costs, while daylight sensors turn artificial light off when there is enough daylight
  • Replace conventional bulbs with CFL (Compact fluorescent lightbulbs) – they last 8x longer and use 80% less. What’s more, LEDs could give you 30,000-50,000 hours of use.

Cost per lamp: LEDs vs CFLs vs halogens

  LED CFL Halogen
Watts (equivalent lamps) 6W 11W 35W
Purchase per lamp £6.00 £3.50 £2.00
Typical annual lamp use (hours) 1,000h 1,000h 1,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (in hours) 30,000h 10,000h 2,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (years) 30 years 10 years 2 years
Cost of lamp purchases over 30 years £6.00 £10.50 £30.00
Annual energy consumption per lamp 6kW 11kW 35kW
Annual electricity cost per lamp at 14.05/kW £0.84 £1.55 £4.92
Total cost per lamp per year (Averaged over a typical LED malp life - 30 years) £1.04 per year £1.90 per year £5.92 per year

*Data from the Energy Saving Trust's "Selecting low energy lighting" guide.

Long-term savings from the right investments

For larger savings from energy efficiency you might need to spend some money upfront, especially when you’re planning refurbishments.

Heating energy efficiency


  • Upgrade your heating controls. For example, use a compensator which works based on external weather to regulate the temperature. Or use an optimum start controller which optimises heating based on the time it takes to reach desired temperature. These two devices could give you a return on investment in about two years.
Building fabric energy efficiency

Building fabric

  • Better insulation increases the value of the buildings as well as lower costs. Consider insulating hot water, heating pipes and loft spaces as 25% of the heat escapes through the roof. Did you know that insulating pipework can reduce energy losses by 70%?
  • An insulation of 100-150mm of glass fibre could reduce energy loss by up to 90% in lofts.
  • Improve window glazing. The most efficient is triple glazing, or you can also coat windows for insulation.
  • When doing refurbishment, plan for draught lobbies at entrances. These have two sets of doors where one is closed when the other one is opened. Automate doors where possible to reduce heat loss.
Catering icon


  • Buy energy rated A+ equipment, preferably with built-in sensors that automatically switch off when not in use.
  • Buy ovens with large double-glazing viewing to prevent doors being opened too often, which can lead to heat loss.
  • Consider heat recovery from the kitchen to be used for heating water. The Carbon Trust has a guide that can help you understand how it works.
Leisure and fitness

Swimming pools

  • Using a pool cover to maintain the heat and reduce ventilation could save tens of thousands of pounds. The payback period is estimated to be about 18-36 months.
  • A humidistat could be fitted to automate when ventilation is needed (above 65-70% humidity).
  • Consider solar thermal technology to heat pool water and the building’s heat system.

Action plan


Start by making a note of your current consumption.

By default, your smart meter will record consumption data in 30-minute intervals. You can use this starting point as a benchmark.


Do you notice any variations during the year?

Make a note of them and think about what could cause them. For example, if your business is affected by the weather, you could save energy by investing in better insulation and save money in the long term.


Benchmark your current energy use

How does it compare to last year or last season? Make sure you analyse similar time periods (for example, December 2018 with December 2019) to make sure the improvement in efficiency isn’t influenced by other factors.


How much are you going to reduce your consumption by?

Set a realistic goal and a target date of when you’ll measure consumption again to track how you’re doing.


Choose the steps you’ll take to achieve those goals

Use the categories above to put advice into practice and involve your employees. To motivate staff, try to make it into a competition. Why not offer a free meal out to the team that comes up with the most energy saving ideas or commit to donating the savings to a local charity that they choose?


Make the changes and measure the results

Communicate all improvements with your staff, no matter how small, to encourage an energy efficient state of mind. And when you're ready to make more changes to become energy efficient, come back to this action plan and start again.

The facts, figures and advice have been sourced from the Carbon Trust, Energy Trust and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly known as the Department of Energy and Climate Change).