Investigate whether the school's heating and hot water is switched off during the school holidays

Batheaston Church School, Wednesday, 29 April 2020
10 Detective KS2, KS3, KS4, KS5

What you did

Alf and Paula spotted that Hazel class's heating was still on full. Alf will speak to Phil about it. 

Activity description

Do you know how many hours your school is open in one year?  How about how many hours it's closed and empty?

For most schools the opening hours, even including teacher's prep time and maintenance staff working before and after school, barely reach 2000 hours.  The hours when your school is closed however number almost 7000 hours.  If your school is being heated for all of that time, your school will be wasting a lot of energy!

Background information

  1. Gas is the most common energy source for heating in schools, although some schools use electricity or oil for heating. A gas boiler works by burning gas to heat up water, which is then pumped around the school to heat up the radiators.
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  2. This pie chart shows you how much gas your school uses at different times. For most schools there should be no gas use in the school holidays. The only reason gas might be used is to protect the pipes from freezing in very cold weather. 
  3. By getting rid of holiday gas use at your school, how much could you save? 
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  4. The red bars on this chart show the gas used during holiday weeks. In which holidays is the most gas used? Does your school remember to turn off the heating in some holidays but not in others?

What can you do?

  1. Talk to the school caretaker or head teacher about turning the heating and hot water off during the school holidays. You could write them a letter telling them how much the school could save if it turned off its heating and hot water in the  holidays.
  2. If someone is working in the school in the holidays it is usually more efficient just to heat that room with a fan heater or other small electric heater than the whole school.
  3. Sometimes the caretaker is concerned about the school getting too cold and the pipes freezing. This is a very rare event, and because most school boilers can be programmed to automatically turn on in very cold weather (called 'frost protection') it is unnecessary to leave the boiler on all holiday. If the school boiler doesn't have automatic 'frost protection' then the thermostat (that tells the heating when to come on) should be turned down as low as possible to 8°C - this will save 70% of the gas compared with leaving the thermostat at 20°C.

Energy Sparks supports Batheaston Church School in partnership with Schools Climate Network