Many UK schools have seen their energy bills soar in 2022 and 2023, with some reporting a 300% rise in annual costs.
As a result, some were left wondering how they would pay their heating bills and reallocating other school funds to cover the expense.
In light of the energy crisis, in December 2022, the government allocated £500 million for energy upgrades in schools and colleges, with an extra £2 billion for schools in 2023.
What’s more, like all public buildings, schools and colleges are the focus of government policies on reducing the carbon footprint of our building stock.
But finding ways to save energy and cut carbon in a modern school building can be challenging.
Another reason to avoid opening windows is that outdoor air is rarely ‘fresh’, particularly for schools near busy roads
The need for a balance
A critical factor for schools is balancing the cost of heating against the need for good indoor air quality through ventilation. This is critical for classrooms (and required by BB101).
The Covid pandemic, of course, brought home the importance of good ventilation for health – but cold and flu season arrives every year, so the problem is not going away.
Teachers shouldn’t have to worry about opening a window because they’re losing heat from the building.
Ventilation systems improve indoor air quality, but introducing outside air into a building impacts energy use and occupant comfort.
When outside air is cold, bringing it into an occupied space like a classroom means turning up the heating and increasing energy use.
It’s vital to balance these requirements.
Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) is a cost-effective solution to this problem.
The Lossnay range for example, simultaneously extracts stale air from a building and supplies fresh, filtered air. It uses a paper core to transfer the heat energy without mixing the air flows. And while doing this, the units will simultaneously recover valuable heat energy for optimum efficiency.
Another reason to avoid opening classroom windows is that outdoor air is rarely ‘fresh’, particularly for schools in urban areas or near busy roads. MVHR systems can also be fitted with filters to help deliver clean air to classrooms.
The impact of pollutants on health, particularly in children, is now well-documented, so filtration is an important option for school ventilation.
Heating is one of the most significant energy users in school buildings, and for many, the school boiler is central to keeping classrooms habitable in winter.
But with the government’s drive to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, this is an excellent time to consider switching to clean electric heating in the form of a heat pump.
Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps have been installed at several schools around the UK, including St Andrews in Chedworth, where Ecodan heat pumps replaced an oil-fired boiler and Chapelford, which achieved a Very Good BREEAM rating and uses the Commercial Ecodan heat pumps.
An important point for school governors is that there is funding for upgrades, including low carbon heating systems.
The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (also known as the Salix scheme) provides grants to fund heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures. For example, the St Andrews project received £120,000 from the PCDS for its energy efficiency upgrades, including insulation measures, solar PV panels, LED lighting, and the heat pump.
Schools face many challenges at the moment, but getting to grips with energy use can help to put money back into teaching budgets rather than heating bills. As the government states: “It’s important that schools and colleges are energy efficient so they can provide the best possible learning environments for young people, minimise operating costs and reduce carbon emissions.”
As the Let’s Go Zero campaign points out, schools can broadcast the message about our low-carbon future to the broader community: “With school-aged children in 42% of all UK households; our classrooms can inspire progress right across communities…Low carbon schools plant bright ideas in our homes, streets and workplaces.”
For further information about our Lossnay MVHR systems, and our new RVX3 model, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Walker is M&E Business Development Manager for the North of England