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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- Environmental Impacts

by Allison Kelley 3 November, 2015 04:12

Over the past few weeks, Bulbs.com has sought to unearth various costs associated with lighting that the average consumer might not consider while purchasing a light bulb. These costs, including operation, maintenance, and replacement costs, culminate in what is called “Total Cost of Ownership.”

Each of these unexpected costs means that incandescent and halogen light bulbs are increasingly expensive to operate in comparison to their energy efficient counterparts. Therefore, if you make purchasing decisions based on monetary incentives, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) are your best options.

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Total Cost of Ownership- Labor and Maintenance Cost Savings

by Allison Kelley 21 October, 2015 03:38

As we learned a couple weeks ago, the obvious and hidden costs associated with purchasing and operating a lighting system factors into the Total Cost of Ownership, or the true cost of a light bulb. This week, I will explain the cooling and labor maintenance costs associated with lighting systems. These costs differ according to bulb type; therefore bulb type should be the most important factor to consider when purchasing new bulbs.

The first bulb type to consider is incandescent. According to Merriam-Webster, the word incandescent means “to produce bright light when heated”. In this bulb type, an electrical current is passed through a metal filament in the bulb. The electricity heats the filament until it glows, just like a hot iron rod does when exposed to a flame. Unfortunately, unless you are using your lamp as a heater, this energy is wasted every time you turn on the light. In fact, approximately 90 watts of a 100 watt bulb escapes as heat and only 10 watts actually generates light.

What’s more, halogen incandescent bulbs produce twice as much heat as standard incandescent bulbs. If you live in a warm climate, your air conditioning and lighting systems could be at odds with one another. This brings us to the first unexpected cost that lighting poses: increased cooling costs. Upgrading your lighting system to one which produces less heat is one way to save money on your utility bill.

One Bulbs.com customer, the Grand Canyon Association (GCA), realized these savings when it replaced halogen track lighting in two of its facilities with LED bulbs. After the GCA’s Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Kolb Studio replaced 218 halogen bulbs, the buildings saw an 84% decrease in energy consumption. In part, this is because the new LED bulbs operate at 95 degrees, a much lower temperature than the 220 degrees that the old halogen bulbs were operating at, resulting in reduced cooling costs.

Many retailers featuring jewelry, clothing or products know firsthand how much heat these halogen light bulbs can put off- often times requiring year round cooling. By switching from halogen to LED, retailers can save hundreds of dollars every month in cooling costs.

LED bulbs are the most energy efficient bulbs on the market today because they produce light in a radically different way than their predecessors—through the play of electricity throughout a semiconductor. Because of this technology, LEDs are able to convert more energy into visible light and waste far less energy in the form of heat and UV radiation. They also don’t have a filament to burn out, helping LEDs last anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 hours—that’s up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This brings us to the second, hidden cost within total cost of ownership, installation and maintenance costs.

Though changing out a single light bulb may take a homeowner 15 minutes at most, when a building has over 200 bulbs, lighting maintenance quickly becomes both labor-intensive and time-consuming. Someone needs to be paid to keep track of each of these bulbs and to spend the time replacing them when needed.

So, how much does lighting maintenance really cost? Let’s assume that the individual responsible for changing these bulbs earns $12 an hour and that it takes approximately 15 minutes to change a bulb. Replacing a single bulb would cost $3 (for 15 minutes of labor). However, though it would only cost $3 to change a single LED, during that time 50 incandescent bulbs will have burned out. At $3 per bulb, the labor costs for incandescent bulbs reach $150 (50 x $3).

On a larger scale, if a building has over 200 bulbs, like the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Kolb Studio, replacing 200 LED bulbs would cost $600 (200 x $3.00). But replacing the equivalent amount of incandescent bulbs would cost $30,000 (200 x $150) for labor maintenance costs alone! As you can see, bulbs with longer expected lives reduce labor and maintenance costs significantly. At the Verkamp’s Visitor Center, the LEDs installed are rated to last 50,000 hours—that’s over 10 years of use per bulb if each is used for 12 hours/day!

Total Cost of Ownership includes far more than just purchase price and operating costs. There is a lot to consider and if you’d like to learn more about Total Cost of Ownership, check out the video above. Next week look for a post discussing the environmental costs associated with your lighting purchases. If you have other questions about a transition to LED or Total Cost of Ownership, 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.

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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.

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