Training Custodians to Reduce Energy


By Stephen Ashkin, The Ashkin Group

Summers often include training on how to strip and refinish floors, deep clean carpets, procedures that save time/labor, implement new products and equipment, and more.  However there are also opportunities to train custodians to reduce energy without compromising their cleaning duties.

Reducing Energy When Cleaning
It is estimated that energy can be reduced up to 10 percent if cleaning hours are moved from nights to day time and weekend hours allowing lights to be turned-off and the HVAC reduced in an otherwise unoccupied building.

Regardless of the time of day, energy can be reduced when cleaning floors, carpets and hard surfaces by simply switching to cold water.  In years’ past, heat was essential for cleaning.  But today hot water is unnecessary as modern surfactants work well in cold water.  Energy can also be saved by efficiently operating laundry and ware washing operations to reduce the energy needed to heat water and dry clothes and dishware.

Custodians Go Beyond Cleaning
According to NEED (National Energy Education Development Project [i]), it is common that schools use 60 percent of its electricity to operate lights and up to 20 percent from “plug loads” including computers/monitors, printers, scanners, projectors, copiers, and televisions; as well as vocational equipment, vending machines and refrigerated drinking fountains; along with personal devices such as fans, window air conditioners, lamps, coffee makers, refrigerators and stoves.

While some of these should only be addressed by facility management and skilled building engineers, but there is plenty that custodians
can do on a daily bases with the right training and system in place.

Institute a Color-Coded System
Many custodial departments commonly use color-coding systems to make it easy for new custodians to identify which outlet to plug a vacuum’s 50 foot power cord to minimize plugging, unplugging and replugging to vacuum a long hallway.  This is often done by simply identifying the specified outlet with a small adhesive label.

This identification concept can be further expanded by using 3 different colored labels or “dots” to indicate which lights and electrical devices should be turned off, which should remain on, and which should be reported to facility management for action.

Because the small quarter-inch colored dots are unobtrusive, anything can be labeled.  But it is important to understand that not everything needs a label.  And in all cases the facility manager, principal or other responsible person should determine what is appropriate to include in the program.

Developing The Red, Yellow, Green System
Red Dot = Off:  A red dot can indicate that the lights or electrical device should be turned-off if the room is unoccupied.  In this way any custodian, teacher, student or passerby seeing a wall switch with the red dot in an unoccupied room can turn the lights off. Furthermore, the red dots can be applied to electrical devices such as monitors, projectors and televisions as a reminder to turn these devices off when not in use, especially when the school day has been completed and over weekends.

Green Dot = On:  A green dot can indicate that lights and electrical devices should always remain on.  This simple red or green dot system
can then be applied to similar devices, yet indicate that one remains on while the other should be turned off.

Yellow Dot = Contact Management:  When such a label is encountered and the device is on and the room or building is otherwise unoccupied, then a designated person be notified.

No Dot = Don’t Worry About It:  While the red, yellow and green dots all have very specific meanings, it is important to restate that not everything needs a label.

This color-coded labeling system is an easy tactic to help build a “culture of sustainability” whereby everyone from the president of the university and superintendent of schools to teacher and custodians to students and visitors can all make a contribution. And with the cost of electricity expected to continue to rise, this is one simply way to help save money as well.