school children running to school

Report | 2023

HVAC Choices for Student Health and Learning

What Policymakers, School Leaders, and Advocates Need to Know about All-Electric, High-Performance HVAC

By Emma Hines, Sara Ross (UndauntedK12)
Download the report below

K-12 schools need all-electric, high-performance HVAC systems that deliver health and learning benefits to students and provide broader climate and economic benefits for decades to come. This report, HVAC Choices for Student Health and Learning: What Policymakers, School Leaders, and Advocates Need to Know, makes the case for transitioning schools to these modern systems — most often featuring electric heat pump technology as a centerpiece.

This report comes at a time when around 41 percent of school districts need to update or replace HVAC systems in their schools. Our original analysis shows that the HVAC systems currently installed in schools result in carbon emissions imposing an estimated $2 billion a year in societal costs. To reduce this cost, schools must shift away from outdated, inefficient HVAC systems reliant on polluting fossil fuels in favor of efficient, electric systems. This choice directly serves schools and their students by meeting growing cooling needs, improving air quality, and reducing school operational costs, among other benefits. Stark inequities in the condition of school facilities from chronic underinvestment in low-income communities and communities of color make it even more urgent that these schools can access these technologies.

New funding opportunities, such as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, give school district leaders a generational opportunity to make HVAC investments to better support their students and communities.

In the report, we introduce:

  • Research connecting HVAC systems to student health, learning, and equity
  • Six big ideas about school HVAC technology, paired with original analysis profiling school HVAC systems nationwide
  • Six benefits of selecting all-electric, high-performance HVAC systems
  • A framework for evaluating costs and approaches to funding HVAC investments

This report is intended to support informed decision-making by school district leaders as well as policymakers and advocates at the local, state, and federal levels.