Why should schools be interested in reducing their energy consumption?

There are several reasons, each more compelling than the other, that schools should be highly interested in reducing energy consumption.

Here are just a few of those reasons:
  • Schools need all the money they can raise to provide high quality education. Reduced energy bills can free up much needed cash for other pressing and important requirements like building an auditorium or upgrading teaching infrastructure.
  • Our children will determine the future of earth. Schools are the custodians responsible for many of the moral, personal and lifestyle choices that they will make - now and later in life.  An energy efficient way of life is only one of those.
  • Global temperatures are rising and climate patterns are becoming difficult to predict. Each one of us needs to do his best to help cap the change.



New or Retrofit - It Depends

As a facility manager of a school, you can convert over to LED but keep your investment in your fixtures. Outdoors, you can replace HID with LED units. Alternatively, you can go with next outdoor fixtures; such as parking lot LED and others. It's as simple as a bulb and ballast replacement. Indoors, you can replace fluorescent tubes with ballast compatible tube LED. So converting to LED doesn't have to be difficult or costly if you understand how you can retrofit.

There are many other reasons but the ones above are some of the most important. Some estimates peg the electricity bills of schools in the United States at $6 billion annually – more than the money spent on books.

How Much Money can a School Save?

40 schools in Austin are saving $480,000 annually ($12,000 per school) after energy saving retrofits.  The Twin Falls school district revamped the energy systems of 11 schools and achieved savings of US $3.5 million per annum that works out to almost $319,000 per school. The US Green Building Council estimated that on an average a green school would be able to save at least $100,000 per annum. Translated into education equivalent terms – these green schools would save enough money to “hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.” They further estimate that over the next ten years green schools could save $20 billion in energy bills alone. With over 95,000 public elementary and secondary schools and 29,000 plus private schools in the United States - the target seems to be well within reach.

How Can a School pay for the green building initiatives?

Savings in utility bills is an obvious answer. Most energy saving devices make for sound financial investments. LED lights for example pay for themselves in a little over a year! Finding money for energy saving initiatives is therefore hardly an insurmountable problem.

It is possible to design a fundraising initiative for the school that can let the school and students work together to do the needful towards raising the resources needed for greening the school building. We can help your school design and implement such an initiative. There are several thousand Americans committed to making America the shining light when it comes to energy efficiency who are working towards the goal of a cleaner greener America.

How can schools improve energy efficiency?

There are many ways but the basic methods are easy to understand. Lighting and heating are the two most important heads of energy consumption in a school. Electricity used by computers, refrigerators, water purifiers, projectors etc being the others.

Lighting is the single biggest energy using application in a school. As much as 50% of the electricity bills of a school are due to lighting alone. Interestingly it is also an area where it is the easiest to reduce electricity bills.

a)    Replacing Incandescent bulbs with LED lights – they are the ultimate in energy savings. What an incandescent bulb will do an LED bulb can do 9 times better. In other words, they can help achieve the same levels of illumination as those achieved by an incandescent lamp but it uses 87% less electricity. Lighting is not a fixed expense that cannot be tampered with. The amount of lumens – yes the kilowatts definitely not.

b)    Using lower wattage bulbs and de-lamping – It is possible to reduce electricity bills and maintenance costs by de-lamping. Often the lighting levels in different areas of the school exceed the required the amount of light needed. Areas near the windows for example have more light than those that are far from it. Having the same intensity and number of light bulbs in both areas makes little sense.

Additionally LED's provide better light levels as they produce directional light. Thus when a 65 watt incandescent lamp is replaced with a 9 watt LED bulb in a light cluster it is often possible to reduce electricity consumption further by de-lamping.

Often it is possible to have lower light levels in areas like corridors that do not require light for precise work, and around computer screens that themselves emit light. Using high intensity light bulbs will lead to unnecessary over lighting. A light intensity of 150 lumens may be enough for hallways as compared to 250 lumens for general classrooms and 500 lumens for the laboratory.

It is practical to invest in a small lux meter that can help you plan out your lighting strategies to cut costs without compromising on lighting levels. It is also advisable to check the light intensity on the desks where the pupils will work and need light instead of placing the lux meter randomly when measuring light levels.

Generally a range of lighting levels are suited for the same work. Also research has shown that it is possible to adapt to lower or higher amount of light without compromising on performance. There is a compelling biological basis against over lighting too. If an area is over lit the pupil of the eye will constrict and allow a much lower amount of light to enter the rest of the light will be simply wasted.

Why LED's for Schools?

LED lighting systems are the arguably the only practical lighting solution for a multitude of uses. Here are some of the reasons that make a compelling case for this energy efficient lighting in schools over incandescent bulbs, HID lights, and fluorescent lights. 

1)    Besides phenomenal savings in electricity - LED's last a decade or more, resulting in far lower maintenance expenses. 

2)    They don’t burn out like traditional bulbs. Over a period of time the light of the bulb gradually dims before it fail thus giving ample warning of its failure. 

3)   They are cool to touch. Traditional lamps operate at temperatures of thousands of degrees of centigrade. They can result in nasty and painful scalding injuries to children and maintenance staff alike. 

4)    They don’t shatter like bulbs and fluorescent lights. This results in lower risk of laceration injuries. 

5)    LED's do not contain mercury a known neurotoxin. Students and their parent alike would be able to rest in peace when LED lights are around. (For more details on this safety issue,  read our article ‘A Safer, Brighter, Better Home with LED Lights.’)

6)    Not only do they save electricity, they also help reduce the emission of green house gases and reduce the carbon foot print of your lighting devices.

7)    LED's do not emit heat like bulbs do. This makes for a much cooler classroom. A traditional 65 watt lamp will convert 61 watts of electricity to heat – releasing 210 BTU of heat per hour and raising temperatures in the process. If you think that this would make them better in cold weather – think again. Resistance heating without a hot air pump is a highly wasteful method of heating. Furnaces and oil filled radiators can do the job much more efficiently and at a far lesser financial and environmental cost. 

Besides energy savings, lower carbon dioxide emissions and safety issues, LED are the ultimate solution to light pollution. The light will not go where it is not needed. Light pollution makes it near impossible for amateur astronomers to explore the skies. 

Light pollution is not small change either. Estimates of the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) peg the wastage of light due to light scattering and light pollution at a staggering $ 1.5 billion per year. The IDSA estimates that 30% of the light produced by outdoor fixtures is wasted. That is the reason why municipalities all over the United States are adopting Street Lighting LED.

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