Note: The information contained in this section offers general advice but is not a guarantee of specific level of power savings. Students must always make sure they get the help of a teacher when power saving in the classroom. This guide is for teachers and students who are looking for ways to reduce power being used in the classroom.
In the following sections you'll learn things like:
- Managing the classroom computer.
- Good habits with lighting.
- Making class heating more efficient.
Being more energy efficient in the classroom
We have over 2,500 schools in New Zealand. Each of those need electricity to run. Think about how many classrooms using power that is! These days, we use power for more than heating and lights – computer equipment, TVs, and in classes like cooking, all the appliances!
Teachers and students can work together and save on power use because it’s good for the environment and our future.
Lights in the classroom
It’s important that lighting in the class is bright, evenly spread and doesn’t cause glare for students doing their work. But there are times where we can save on lighting.
Switch off lights when the class is empty.
Morning breaks, Lunchtime, PE sessions...any outdoor time when the classroom isn’t full is a perfect opportunity switch off the lights and save some power at school. Get the whole class involved and make turning lights off part of leaving the class as a group. If the class forgets, it might be a good idea to put signs up by the door. See our checklist resource for a print out of power saving tips.
Take advantage of sunlight.
If your class has skylights – or even reasonably-sized windows, there might be times of day where some lights can be flicked off in favour of sunlight. Break-out times like book reading are often a good time to sit by a window and have your page lit up by daylight. Just remember to take care of glare – avoid sunlight on computer or tablet screens!
Have school staff (not students) find out if lights are efficient.
Students should never go near light fittings or any other electrical equipment with risk of accident. With the help of a certified electrician, teachers and other school staff can investigate if the lighting in the classroom is environmentally friendly and saves power as much as possible. Modern fluorescent lights are usually OK on power. However, LED (stands for Light Emitting Diode) are lights that are much more efficient on power (according to Energywise, up to 85% more efficient than standard incandescent light bulbs for the same light output). Work with your school staff to review lighting options for classrooms and other school spaces.
Heating in class
During winter (and cold days throughout the rest of the year), classes will be heated to keep students and teachers warm so everyone can concentrate on learning! Classroom heating can vary depending on region, when it was built and other factors. So we’ll offer some tips that apply for all general heating options: wall heater, central heating, heat pumps etc.
Search the classroom for draughts
Any large gaps in windows, under doors and in ceilings can be places that heat can escape. This means your classroom heating needs to work extra hard to bring the room up to temperature – this uses more power! Get the class involved and search around for any draughts (this is sometimes easier on a windy day!).
Remember natural air flow into and out of the class is important, so you don’t want to close off every space – just the areas where there’s clearly a cold draft. Work with your school to decide the best ways to reduce draughts.
Consider a draft stopper
A cheap option is a draft stopper/excluder. These are long cylindrical items, covered in fabric and placed at the bottom of a doorway to stop draughts. Draught stoppers come in all sorts of styles – you can even buy ones that look like snakes, cats or dogs! On a cold windy day the class will notice the difference these make.
Put up signs and remind students to keep doors closed on cold days
When it’s cold outside, doors to the class left open will let the chilly air in! All the effort to heat the classroom can be wasted before too long. This makes heating systems in classrooms work much harder and use more power. Get the students and teachers into good habits by putting signs up reminding everyone to keep doors closed after coming in or out. The same goes for windows. Always make sure the classroom is well-ventilated no matter the temperature outside!
Let the sun in!
Depending on the position of your classroom and window placement, there will be times of day where the sun will be shining into the class. Take advantage of both the natural heat and light of the sun – and flick lights and heating off for a bit! Do think about glare and whether your class heating system is able to be adjusted easily.
Keep the class dry and mould-free
Dry spaces are often easier to heat than damp ones. Keeping the class condensation-free (like the moisture that you see on windows) is often a mixture of things. If your classroom has ventilation this will assist in reducing condensation and mould.
Other easy ways to reduce chance of classroom mould include:
- Keep natural sunlight coming in to the class whenever possible.
- Open up classroom windows on nice days.
- Avoid any wet clothing drying inside the classroom.
- Cover any class fish tanks up as these can put out moisture into the classroom.
- Make sure cupboards and closets aren’t completely full as lack of airflow can cause mould.
Recycling at school
Students (and teachers!) create a lot of rubbish – our lunches, scrap paper, and other discarded stationery to name a few. But rubbish removal has an impact on the environment and our energy use in New Zealand, so try and make your school a clean, green, recycling machine!
Have clearly labelled bins for different items.
Sometimes it’s not that we don’t want to recycle, it’s just hard to know what can be recycled! So, help the students and teachers out by having a number of clearly-labelled bins. Some categories to get you started:
- Cardboard – any boxes in the class that can be broken down?
- Paper – any scrap paper, discarded exercise books, diaries, etc?
- Plastic – any packaging from your lunch like glad wrap, chip packets etc?
- Glass – be careful when placing glass in recycling bins – any broken glass let a teacher know!
- Food waste – food like eaten fruit and sandwich crusts can be used as compost!
Your classroom may have a shared desktop computer. Otherwise, your school may have a ‘computer lab’ with a large number of desktop computers. Lots of computers in a school on at once can use considerable power and are often left on constantly.
Shut off monitor and computer when not in use.
When the computer in the class is no longer being used by students, switch off the monitor and save energy. Consider turning off the whole computer at the end of the day – this doesn’t take long and avoids wasting power!
Manage computer time.
Have set periods of time that students spend on the class computer. Each student can have scheduled time – making sure that everyone gets a turn and uses their time wisely. Make part of computer time include the switching off of the monitor when finished if there’s no one else using it straight after.
Keep monitor brightness down to a comfortable level.
Computer screens often don’t need to be turned all the way to the max! Each monitor is different, but most could be turned down by even 10-20% brightness. This can save power usage and if you’re using an old ‘CRT’ monitor lowering brightness can extend its lifetime. Newer LED monitors should have built in power saving technology already.
These days it’s common for schools to be full of students using personal devices. While these are good learning tools, we need to be careful how we use these.
Everyone charging tablets, phones and personal computers at school at the same time is going to use a fair bit of power. Try getting into the habit of having these charged before you go to school. Many schools have guidelines about pre-charging devices and don’t guarantee (or even don’t allow) charging at school. Students can keep their device going by managing the screen brightness and wireless functions carefully!
Being outside at school is part of break times and physical education. But with some creative thinking, other subjects can be taught outside every so often too. On a nice day, being on the field, quad, basketball court or other outdoor area removes the power used in running a classroom – not to mention it being good for our health and mood!
Teachers might consider parts of the curriculum that can be taught outdoors such as safe science experiments, reading, speech time, music class and much more. Changing the learning environment to outside, especially in the afternoon, can be a great way to keep the class inspired!
The cooking classroom is full of electricity-draining appliances. This is hard to avoid, but there are some habits that the cooking class can get into to try to keep power usage down.
Plan the oven and stove use out carefully.
Don’t leave an oven or stove preheating for longer than needed. A class of ten ovens all preheating can use plenty of power! And when food is cooking, don’t open the oven and let hot air out! Ask your cooking class teacher for directions instead.
Don’t leave the fridge open.
Get the ingredients you need and make sure the fridge is closed. Like an open oven wastes hot air and has to work hard to heat back up, a fridge opened will need to work harder to regain the cool temperature once closed. Try to get all ingredients out at the same time if possible.
Getting the students involved
Keen to get your classroom saving on power? Here’s some quick ways to get started:
- Have a class lesson on power and how it’s generated and paid for.
- Cover off the parts of the class that demand the most power (need some ideas? This guide should help!)
- Get the class to share their own ideas on how they could save power.
- List out 2-3 power saving lessons a week on the board (e.g. outdoor science lesson).
- Print out the power saving checklist for classrooms under our resources section. Put this on the wall (and if you can, have it laminated for repeat use).
- Before lunch and at the end of the school day, nominate a class member to check off the power saving tips with a non-permanent marker.
- Set a month project of power saving with a class incentive at the end!