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.