SF schools saving energy to save cash 

Saving on energy bills will net cash for San Francisco schools during a push for sustainability next school year.

Nik Kaestner, director of sustainability for the San Francisco Unified School District, said schools that reduced their gas, heating, electric and water bills will get half of the savings put back into their budgets.

“With budgets the way they are,” he said, “every little bit will matter.”

Kaestner said the district spends roughly $4.5 million annually on gas, electricity, water and sewer.

Saving energy is as simple as turning off a light in an empty room, lowering the heat in warmer months or keeping the front doors of the school closed to reduce escaping heat or cool air.

Kaestner said the most surprising way teachers found they could lower costs was overheating. Many teachers did not know they could control their own classroom temperature. When rooms became too hot, teachers would simply open windows.

Schools will be able to participate in lowering their bills on a volunteer basis, Kaestner said.

In March, two city schools — Monroe Elementary and John Muir Elementary — saved a combined $1,500 by adopting simple cost-saving measures, according to district officials. At Monroe Elementary in the Excelsior district, the entire school agreed to keep its doors closed on chilly days. While at John Muir, teachers agreed to keep their classroom doors closed during the day, turn down classroom radiators instead of opening windows, and shutting off hallway heaters.

This savings would have resulted in $250 for the month to Monroe and $500 for the month to John Muir, Kaestner said.

The other half of the money saved, Kaestner said, would be put in a districtwide fund that would help pay for sustainability projects including lighting sensors in classrooms.

Kaestner said 105 buildings will be able to participate and reduce their bills. The savings will appear in the following school year’s budget.

Cutting the bills

$4.5 million: Money spent on utilities districtwide
105: Buildings eligible to participate
50: Percent of utility savings going directly to school budgets
2: Schools that took part last year
$1,500: Combined savings at those two schools

Source: San Francisco Unified School District


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