The Energy Chronicles

Iowa School Begins LED Retrofit Process

The Energy Group (TEG) recently helped a local 4A school district begin the process of converting their schools’ lighting to LED. This was part of a larger energy study conducted by TEG to analyze the district’s electricity and gas usage and identify points of improvement in lighting and HVAC. Since these schools HVAC systems are mostly efficient and are overseen by an experienced professional, it soon became clear that lighting would be the most cost-effective approach to cutting energy costs.

The existing lighting is primarily T8 fluorescent lamps, common to most schools. Outdoor lighting consists of conventional fixtures using high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. While various options for upgrading to LED exist, TEG recommended the use of LED lamp retrofits for most low-bay interior light fixtures, and LED fixture replacements for most outdoor and high-bay gym light fixtures. Going this route allows for significant savings, and control where needed, while minimizing costs.

Nearly $90,000 in annual cost savings potential have been identified for switching to LED lighting and installing controls in five district buildings. TEG estimated a total cost of $350,000, a four-year payback and 26% return on investment. The 815,113 kWh of annual electricity savings represents a 64% reduction, and is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions savings of taking 122 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

This extensive lighting study gave the school district’s managers valuable insight into the reasonable cost and savings estimates of a lighting retrofit, what product options exist and which projects offer the best results.  TEG was able to provide 3rd party professional information to better evaluate contractor bids and the potential of various lighting projects.

Now, the school district is moving forward with updating to LED fixtures in one of their main gyms. Apart from cost savings, a significant concern for this space is the poor quality of lighting and lack of control. New LED lighting, properly designed, will not only improve the brightness and evenness of lighting over the playing court, but will enhance the experience by allowing user control to spotlight various areas and activities.

In addition to the improved lighting, reduced costs and long life associated with LED lighting, it’s worth noting the investment begins to pay itself back immediately once installed. While in the past it may have been reasonable to wait for the technology to be tested or for costs to go down, LED lighting has rapidly matured and costs have leveled out. In addition, the LED products of tomorrow are likely only to save marginally more energy than today’s products. That’s why installing LED now pays off, and waiting often means lost savings opportunity.

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