Students Help Their School, Local Businesses Save Money with Energy Efficiency

What’s a green high school student to do about energy waste? Just ask David Fischer, a student at West Branch High School in Iowa who helped his school save energy with efficiency, and a little help from his classmates.

“We noticed significant energy waste in our school and we decided that something had to be done to fix it,” Fischer said.

Given the tight budget at West Branch, Fischer joined forces with four other students – Ryan O’Neil, Justin Roth, Sarah Fischer and Emily Corr – to form a Total Energy Action Management (TEAM) group. Their goal? To find out how their school could save money and reduce its environmental impact.

Saving Energy Beyond the Classroom

With the support of teacher Hector Ibarra, TEAM found that their school could save $10,000 annually by conserving energy. They spoke with local energy experts, had a professional conduct an energy assessment and zeroed in on recommendations for lowering West Branch’s electric bill. These recommendations included retrofitting lights and wiring a new gym building to be solar-ready.

After uncovering savings opportunities at their school, TEAM visited small businesses to help them do the same. In particular, students helped business owners calculate the savings potential for replacing T12 fluorescent lamps with more efficient T8 lamps using General Electric’s Eco Estimator.

Consequently, TEAM won a $10,000 Lexus Eco Challenge Air/Climate regional contest. TEAM used the money to provide college scholarship to its members and establish a revolving loan fund for businesses to upgrade florescent lighting.

“Our team learned about how doing something simple like completing an energy audit can realize significant savings and can have a tremendous impact on the environment,” Fischer said.

How to Shrink Energy Bills at Your School

If you want to get started in saving energy at your school, check out TEAM’s website, which documents its efforts. In addition, follow Fischer’s recommendations for saving energy at school:

  1. Conserve Lighting: Remember that lighting accounts for more than 25% of energy usage in most buildings. So, replace inefficient T12 fluorescent lights with energy efficient T8 or T5 lights. Also, use sensors that turn off lights in areas that are not used continuously, like restrooms and locker rooms.
  2. Get an Energy Assessment: Schedule and conduct an energy assessment with a professional energy auditor. Call your utility company to see if they offer a free service.
  3. Make Plans: Prepare for the future. Whenever new construction is taking place, look into whether efficient technologies are being designed into the plans or whether they can easily be added on later.
  4. Spread the word: Tell neighbors, family, friends and community members about energy efficiency, and encourage them to do their part to save both energy and money.

Iowa Students Help Their School, Local Businesses Save Money with Energy Efficiency

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