Don’t make this mistake: Why your school CAN afford clean air this winter…

With the cost of living crisis worsening, parents have reached out to us with alarming reports. A minority of schools are turning their HEPA filters off—mistakenly assuming this will save money. We’ve done some maths, and here is what it actually costs to run a HEPA filter and why schools really CAN’T afford to stop them running this winter:

Under the October cap, electricity will be charged at a unit rate of 34p per kWh

A typical classroom air filter (e.g. Smart Air “Blast Mk2” medium setting 80 Watts) cleans pollution, viruses, and dusts like asbestos from the air.

Running daily for 7 hours uses 0.56 kWh = 19.04 p of electricity per class of 30. Less than 1p (0.63 of a penny) per child that is being protected, and protecting employees comes for free.

On the above basis, assuming children spend all 195 days in school, the annual electricity cost is at most £1.24 per child per year.

That is £1.24 of a £6,970 per child education budget and would protect against things such as asbestos, PFAS pollution and novel coronaviruses. These airborne hazards harm children. The negative impacts of poorly maintained environments can reduce a person’s quality of life after leaving the school. Our youngest have the most to lose from polluted environments, and they do – the UK’s international track-record on this is very poor.

But £1.24 is an overestimate-

Even if dismissing child quality of life (£0 value) and access to learning (maximising attendance) at £0, savings on heating alone are possible when portable electric filters are used. Fuel oil and gas make up over half the energy requirement per child. The electrical energy used to run the HEPA filter is tiny by comparison, and offsets some of the fuel oil/gas cost (a much bigger total). This happens mainly through behavioral change (better environmental management). For example, when a HEPA filter is running, windows don’t need opening so widely, and don’t get left wide-open. Secondly, in energy terms, the filter distributes the energy as heat, into the air it is cleaning. This heating and mixing in class reduces the energy input required, from the boiler, to the thermostat. These should be factors in an accurate budget sheet. The improved airflow from portable filters also works with the natural ventilation system – speeding up the removal of pollutants through part-open windows.

So besides protecting your children against dangerous airborne hazards (that the UK government says should not be there), running portable HEPA units could even SAVE on school’s energy bills by enabling improvements in heat and air management.

Other questions that our members have circulated include: What is the national energy cost of hospitalisation? What is the personal cost to children and families from long-term illness? How do we stop our children missing out on key lessons at school? What is the impact on the economy?

We have an asbestos crisis, we have an infection crisis.

School authorities are also in crisis, being sued for negligence:

If nothing else, heads, governors and authorities must demonstrate competent accounting. Assuming the financial cost of energy for HEPA is a straightforward wattage conversion is an obvious mistake that undermines confidence in the administrator. This also contributes to greater liability and risk of expense that an organisation opens itself up to by not providing clean air.

But let’s not erase the importance of child health from the balance sheet. Is £1 per year too much energy for our children’s health?

SafeEdForAll supports children’s attendance and wellbeing

Whatever anyone’s experiences or views of schools over the last two years, one uniting aim is surely to improve the attendance of children and school staff. Non-attendance due to avoidable ailments and illnesses is nothing new.”

For a long time, it has been inevitable that if a student or staff member attends a class with a stomach ‘bug’ or an illness like chicken pox, influenza or a cold, it’s not long before many more in class also have to take some time off to recuperate.

Time away from class can lead to students trying to catch up with class programs or missing out on key lessons. Staff absence means reliance on costly supply staffing and a lack of learning continuity”. 

Let’s focus efforts, not just on claiming to want to improve attendance but also finding practical solutions that improve the indoor environment, ensuring it isn’t contributing to increased absenteeism.”

—Sarah Saul, SafeEdForAll Parent Advocate

Read the Government report on Asbestos in Schools.


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