Pupils talk to the school caretaker about improving heating controls

Pupils can work with the caretaker to improve heating controls to save energy

30 KS2 KS3 KS4 KS5
You will have many allies in your mission to make your school energy efficient.  One of the most important of these is your school caretaker.  As well as often being the first in into school in the morning and the last to leave, they are often the only ones in the school who know how to work the boiler, heating and hot water controls.

One of the biggest causes of wasted energy in schools is the heating and hot water which are often poorly controlled.  In schools with well-controlled systems, heating fuel consumption is typically 15-30% lower than other schools. Good control not only saves energy, but also maintains a consistently comfortable environment for building users, as well as keeping the boiler in better condition. 

Rather than a boiler running 24/7, in a well-controlled system the boiler or heater won't be on unless you need heating or how water so its worthwhile to make sure that your controls are set well.

Ask your caretaker about how often heating time settings are reviewed at your school. Heating needs vary throughout the day - your classrooms will need to be heated up in the morning but often by mid morning, as rooms are filled with warm bodies, heating can be turned off or switched down.  Time settings should be reviewed every month to check that they are correct.  Many systems function poorly because someone made a short-term change to the settings and then forgot about it.

Discuss the best times for the school heating to come on and turn off each day.  Use this activity to help you analyse your heating timings to see whether your heating is coming on too early or turning off too late. The heating timer should be adjusted so that the school reaches optimum temperature as people begin to arrive, and cools down shortly before people leave.  You can do this slowly by gradually adjusting the settings over a small period and checking the response and feedback from teachers and pupils.  Ask pupils and staff whether they feel too hot or cold or just right. If they feel hot or comfortable, you could try changing the heating start time some more.  You could record classroom temperatures hourly across the day, and then work out whether the heating needs to come on earlier or later.  Perhaps it doesn't need to stay on all day.

Remember the recommended temperatures for schools are:

  • Normal teaching environment - 18°C
  • Circulation spaces (e.g. corridors) - 15°C
  • Areas with high levels of activity (e.g. sports halls) - 15°C
  • Areas with low levels of activity - 21°C
  • Special needs schools or areas with very young children - 21°C

If heating needs vary throughout the day and week, perhaps because of after school clubs on some days, review your school’s time settings every month to check they match the times when heating is needed. If you need to make short-term adjustments to your system, don’t forget to change them back. Installing a seven-day timer will allow for different settings for each day of the week, perfect for when the school isn’t in use over the weekend and holidays.