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Energy Efficiency: Ways to Save in the Classroom

by Allison Kelley 16 November, 2015 10:45

Each year, America’s schools spend more on energy than they do on textbooks and computers combined according to ENERGY STAR®. After salaries and benefits, utility costs are the largest operating expense for school districts and strained budgets often lead to fewer maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades, compounding these issues. With this in mind, it is important for school districts to identify affordable, energy-reduction strategies to lessen this financial burden. Lighting upgrades are a good start.

Lighting typically represents around 26% of a school’s energy consumption and fortunately, lighting is one of the few expenses which can be easily reduced. Retrofits can save between 30 and 50 percent of energy costs without negatively affecting the classroom experience. Read on for tips on how to select the most effective, energy-efficient lighting system for your school.


Inside a classroom, it is important to maintain comfortable lighting. Students should not have to strain their eyes to adjust between tasks on their desks and the board. Minimizing high-contrast lighting can help improve mood, concentration, and visual comfort. Each of these factors enables better learning.LED recessed troffers and pendant fixtures are often great mechanisms to create even, uniform light which minimizes contrast. Additionally, troffer retrofit kits, which come with built-in bulbs and ballasts, make transitioning to energy efficient lighting stress-free. These fixtures are often fully dimmable, allowing for versatile classroom lighting.

Classroom lighting must be versatile and controllable due to the variety of teaching methods that require different light levels. During a creative period of artwork, reading, or social time, daylight glare should be controlled. Choose lighting which provides 30-50 foot-candles (lumens per square foot), for these tasks.  30-50 foot-candles are also optimal for a lecture at a chalkboard or whiteboard and lighting the board with additional vertical surface lighting also improves board visibility. During a multimedia presentation, however, it is important to be able to dim the lights to 15 foot-candles or less.

Using sunlight to provide supplemental lighting to rooms during daylight hours is one way to reduce energy costs. Using daylight, or “daylighting”, creates optimum conditions for learning and should be used wherever possible in classrooms, administrative offices, gymnasiums, and meeting rooms. Daylighting sensors can be used to balance artificial light and create optimum lighting conditions.

Soft, uniform, electric lighting should supplement daylighting wherever necessary to create a comfortable learning environment.  As stated previously, LED recessed troffers are ideal for lighting a room uniformly. Replacing T12 fluorescent lamps with T8 and T5 lamps with electronic ballasts can also reduce energy consumption by 35%. Gymnasiums, in particular, benefit from T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps because of their quick startup times and low heat output. If you wish to convert to LED technology, LED high bay fixtures and LED HID retrofit lamps are great, energy-efficient choices for a gymnasium as well. Investing in ENERGY STAR LED exit signs will also significantly reduce energy costs, with LED exit signs lasting 25 times longer than conventional exit signs. LED bulbs also out-perform incandescent bulbs in scoreboards and will not need replacing for years to come.

In combination with occupancy sensors and timers, lighting retrofit savings-per-classroom can double. Sensors and dimmers are equally appropriate for other school settings, such as hallways, bathrooms, storage areas, libraries, and faculty offices. Occupancy sensors in particular can reduce lighting use in these lesser-used areas dramatically.

Though operating budgets in school systems are tight, school facilities typically operate for 50 years or more. Therefore, school systems benefit from a long-term perspective and should take life-cycle costs associated with Total Cost of Ownership into account. Though some upgrades are costly up-front, payback for many upgrades occurs within a few years with a high return on investment. Additionally, a variety of rebate programs directed specifically at school systems help reduce upfront costs. If you are curious where your school system could save money, sign up for a FREE Lighting Assessment with Bulbs.com. A member of our Energy Services team can assess your current lighting system and identify products and rebates to help you save.


If you have any questions about rebates in your area or our Free Lighting Assessment, please contact one of our certified Lighting Specialists at 888-455-2800.

Total Cost of Ownership- Added Savings with Utility Rebates

by Nicole Michaud 14 October, 2015 03:50

Last week we introduced the topic of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for lighting. In the post we showed a simple equation to calculate the TCO of a bulb. The cheaper or less expensive upfront cost of a bulb may not always be the best option in the long run. Factors including the wattage, kWh rate, product cost, rated life, are all considered in your cost of ownership.

There are other ways to save when considering a switch to energy efficiency lighting such as LED. In addition to your long-term cost savings, utility sponsored rebates are an excellent way to reduce your upfront or initial costs- further reducing your Total Cost of Ownership.


What is Total Cost of Ownership?

by Nicole Michaud 5 October, 2015 04:19

**An earlier version of this post included inaccurate information regarding Total Cost of Ownership and has since been corrected**

When deciding which light bulb to purchase, the cost of the bulb can be a major factor in your decision. But the cheapest bulb on the shelf might not always be the least expensive option in the long run. The truth is that the bulb you buy will determine your cost in the long term. Some bulbs cost more to use, operate, and maintain than others. These costs, all together, are known as your total cost of ownership. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a financial estimate intended to help consumers and business owners determine the direct and indirect costs of a product. In terms of lighting, the cost of ownership takes into account the upfront cost of the product, the hours used, kWh rate, and the rated life of the light bulb.


Top Lighting Picks for Summer

by Elizabeth Karpinski 10 July, 2015 06:23

With July 4th behind us, it’s officially summer and time to think about your outdoor lighting needs. Here are some of our favorite products to light the night!

Bug Lights

Anytime you’re outside in the summer, there’s one thing that’s sure to ruin it: bugs. The problem tends to be worse at night because traditional lights attract them.

Most people are so used to seeing bugs on their outdoor lights they’ve never wondered why, or how to stop them. Insects see light differently than people do, and they’re most attracted to shorter wavelengths—light at the far end of the spectrum, close to ultraviolet light. So all too often, the most attractive light in the area will be the manmade outdoor light around your deck, porch or patio.

Bug lights use filtered yellow glass to minimize the short spectrum light—so they don’t attract insects. If you haven’t yet, this summer is the time to switch.


Energy Efficient Lighting Assessment for Commercial Customers

by Elizabeth Karpinski 26 June, 2015 04:59

Most of the time it’s easy to see when technology is improving: new smartphones roll off the shelves every few months. But for other technologies, change can be harder to recognize—especially if you’re used to your current set up.

According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which is the most current data available, more than 2 million facilities built between 1980 and 2003 have been using the same lighting systems for the past few decades- despite the number of advances in lighting technology made since then. Three quarters of commercial buildings have outdated technology.

Do you know if yours does?


Outdoor Lighting Tips

by Christina Crow-Dufault 14 March, 2013 10:00

While the bottom half of the country is getting warmer, those of us in the northern states are starting to defrost.  As the spring season approaches, we start to think about projects in and around our homes.  You might refer to yourself as a Weekend Warrior or an avid DIYer.

Whatever you call yourself, the outdoor season is coming and it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your yard! And with all the work you put into your landscaping, why not show it off into the evening hours. Plus, you can add a little more security to your home with entry way spot lights and dusk-to-dawn sensors.


Lighting for Property Managers: Time for a Change?

by Christina Crow-Dufault 2 October, 2012 11:15

For decades, choosing a light bulb was a fairly simple task. We didn’t have all these choices we now have today. Wattage meant brightness and we didn’t have to worry about dimmer compatibility.  

Yes, there is a lot of new products and information out there now, but that’s okay. Change is good.

These new products can help us save energy, money and the planet through innovative, lower-wattage, long-life products that don’t produce nearly as much pollution during the manufacturing process as older types of lighting. 

Products such as CFLs and LEDs will help to reduce your energy bills, labor costs and even HVAC related costs. And as a Property Manager -of one location or many- that can make all the difference.

Phased-out bulbs, new efficiency standards, updated packaging labels and LED improvements over the last few years have presented some challenges, but they have also opened up a number of opportunities.

Whether you’re upgrading for the first time from incandescent to CFLs or you’re making the move to LEDs, here are some things you should keep in mind. 


Lighting for Retail: Make Your Products Shine!

by Christina Crow-Dufault 7 May, 2012 04:02

Retail store lightingMuch like our recent blog post about the different types of lighting for the hospitality industry, the retail industry requires just as much attention when it comes to the products you sell and the environment you are creating for your customer.

It’s safe to say that just about every manager or business owner is looking for ways to save.  Energy costs from HVAC and lighting are no exception. The most common options are energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs.  Both can produce quality light with the CRI needed for retail locations.

In the past, CFLs did not perform as well as they do today.  Light quality, color temperature and average rated life of the bulb have all made significant improvements over the years.  Still, it is a wise choice to purchase a reputable brand as there are some very inexpensive CFLs that often fail to meet their claim. Here is a great post if you would like to delve deeper into CFLs as an option. There are even dimmable options for spiral CFLs and CFL reflectors.  Tip: Speak with one of our Lighting Specialists as some lighting controls (dimmers, occupancy sensors) are not always compatible with dimmable CFL lamps. Additionally, if you are currently using a large quantity of halogen lamps to light your space, CFLs are a great solution as they produce very little heat.


Meet the winning L Prize LED! *UPDATED*

by Christina Crow-Dufault 27 January, 2012 12:10

Back in 2008, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition, as instructed by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The L Prize challenged the lighting industry to develop an efficient LED to replace the common 60 watt incandescent bulb. Any entries received were put through rigorous short-term and long-term performance testing. The winning bulb was required to produce more than 900 lumens and also have a 25,000 hour life. In addition, it must also have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) higher than 90 and a Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) between 2700K and 3000K-all while using less than 10 watts of electricity!


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LED – Is It Right For You?

by Eric Cole 23 September, 2010 05:18

Eric Cole is Bulbs.com's Category Manager for LED lighting products.


I know that many of our customers are trying to educate themselves about LED technology. In a sense, most of us in the industry are doing the same thing. LED technology has been around for some time and we at Bulbs.com have been following its progress very closely, but what LED is going to look like as a widespread, effective, and reliable everyday lighting solution is still evolving.  Here are some thoughts on what to look for, and what to look out for, when considering a transition to LEDs.

Let’s look at the benefits

LEDs are most well known for their extremely long life and energy efficiency. LED useful life is based on the number of operating hours until the LED is emitting 70% of its initial light output.  Top quality LEDs in well-designed fixtures are expected to have a useful life of 30,000 to 50,000 hours, significantly higher than the 1,000 hours for a typical incandescent bulb and 8,000 to 10,000 hours for a comparable CFL. LEDs usually don’t “burn out” like incandescent bulbs do.  Instead, they get progressively dimmer over time. This can be helpful in critical lighting areas. They also tend to use less than one-sixth as much energy as their incandescent or halogen counterparts, and 2-3 times less than most CFLs. More...

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