LED Lighting Goes Back-to-School

A student at James Monroe Elementary school in Everett, Washington under new LED lights

Fall means that it is time to go back to school, but with fewer resources due to the down economy school districts are looking for ways to save money – including the switch to LEDs.  With fluorescent fixtures popular in K-12 schools, fluorescent retrofits can help the schools save money.  With the recent DoE “ban” on T-12 fluorescent bulbs, many schools will need to look to alternatives as the supply of fluorescent tubes dwindles. In fact, New Jersey is offering $6 million in incentives to K-12 schools to replace inefficient T-12 fluorescent fixtures.

Monroe Elementary School in Everett, Washington, made the complete change to LED lighting for nearly every lighting application in January 2012.  After successfully trying out LED lighting in one of their middle schools, the staff recently installed nearly 450 LED fixtures by Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), making it the first predominately LED-lit school in the Everett Public Schools district.

In addition to saving money on energy and maintenance costs, LED lighting reduces student disruptions from replacement and maintenance as well as improving lighting quality at Monroe Elementary School.  Local TV news station King5 shows off the improvements at the school in this report.

“Proper illumination is essential for academic settings,” said Al Safarikas, marketing director, Cree lighting in a news release. “Using Cree’s LED lighting solutions is a win-win for educational institutions. Not only do the students get to work under much higher quality light than the previous fluorescent fixtures, but schools can also save significantly on maintenance and energy costs, allowing administrators to invest in other academic priorities.”

In 2010, the Springfield City School District in Springfield, Ohio, retrofitted their lighting to reduce lighting costs without compromising quality. The district spent $332,400 on retrofit lighting fixtures and labor and expects to save $104,240 per year in electricity costs, recouping the cost of the upgrade in a little more than three years.

There are cost savings to be had beyond replacing the typical fluorescent bulb.  LED-based exit signs can save a lot of money over traditional incandescent exit signs.  According to Michael Fickes in School Planning & Management, a school district with 1,000 exit signs in more than 60 school buildings and administrative offices and maintenance facilities can switch incandescent exit signs for LED exit signs and reduce electricity costs from $535,200 to $76,500 over 10 years and from $53,520 to $7,650 per year.

Finally, LED lighting is more flexible and brings advantages for multi-use rooms. For example, the lighting in an elementary school cafeteria can have multiple settings that make it suitable for use as an auditorium with dimming, multiple colors and spotlight features.

For Further Reading

NJ.com, Schools offered funds to replace fluorescents, http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2012/07/schools_offered_funds_to_repla.html

King5.com, Everett elementary school leads LED revolution (video), http://www.king5.com/news/environment/Everett-school-is-nations-LED-leader-136771243.html#

Cree, Cree Lights Remodeled Everett, Wash. Public School, http://www.cree.com/news-and-events/cree-news/press-releases/2012/february/120229-everett-school

LEDs Magazine, Virginia Beach school system finds LED lighting pays for itself…and more, http://ledsmagazine.com/casestudies/18378

EC&M, LED Lighting to Save Dallas County Schools Big Bucks, http://ecmweb.com/content/led-lighting-save-dallas-county-schools-big-bucks

School Planning & Management, K-12 Energy-Lite Lighting, http://www.peterli.com/spm/resources/articles/archive.php?article_id=2788

Clearlysapphire.com, Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=247