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Energy expenses are one of the largest expenditures schools face, second only to personnel costs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), schools spend a staggering $130 per student on electricity each year. Regardless of the size of your school or district, those costs add up quickly! Many educational institutions are adopting energy-saving measures and pursuing efficiency upgrades to reduce these expenses. Lighting systems account for roughly 40% of a school’s energy consumption, making it a prime candidate for energy-saving upgrades. By improving your facility’s lighting system, you can save between 40-60% on energy costs while enhancing the quality of illumination and comfort of your learning environment.

Illuminating Issues with Inefficient Lighting

The average school keeps their lights on for 10-12 hours per day, so it plays a significant role in creating the atmosphere and functionality of the building. Outdated lighting systems not only increase energy costs, but also contribute to eye strain, fatigue, and headaches. While the prolonged use of lighting in schools takes a toll on both budgets and well-being, a beacon of efficiency emerges in the form of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology.

LED lighting systems have become incredibly popular due to their high energy efficiency, versatility, and the positive impact it can have on student performance. They are up to 90% more efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs and last significantly longer. Incandescent bulbs have a lifespan of about 1000 hours whereas LED light bulbs can last up to 25 times longer, reducing long term maintenance costs as well. Beyond cost considerations, LED systems often include smart technology integration, resulting in higher quality illumination that can be customized for student comfort or specific classroom needs.

How Classrooms Benefit from LED Lighting Systems

The benefits classrooms receive from upgrading lighting systems is far-reaching. Adopting advanced lighting technologies, like LED lighting, not only leads to significant cost savings and improved efficiency, but it also improves the educational atmosphere of your institution. A well-known 2012 study illustrates the importance of lighting in educational environments. The conclusion of this study found that classroom lighting affects student cognition, energy levels, and participation. Essentially, dynamic lighting that can emulate natural daylight, like LED lighting, is likely to improve student performance, participation, and overall attitude. Upgrading to efficient lighting systems is a win-win renovation, resulting in improved student performance as well as lowered utility and maintenance costs. 

Implementing Lighting Upgrades in Schools

During the transition to energy-efficient lighting, schools should carefully consider the unique lighting needs of different areas within their building. Classrooms and offices benefit most from smart LED lighting that provides focused illumination and adjustable settings for student comfort or instructional needs. Depending on the school’s infrastructure, hallways and other shared spaces might be better suited for the evenly distributed illumination provided by energy-efficient fluorescents.  Gymnasiums and sports facilities require lighting with higher output, making a combination of high-output fluorescents and LED fixtures ideal. Additionally, outdoor spaces demand durable fixtures equipped with sensors or timers to ensure the safety and security of students and faculty. Mindful consideration of each area’s lighting needs ensures that you make informed decisions to balance energy efficiency with comfort and functionality.

After determining the most suitable lighting for each area of the building, schools should take a calculated approach to renovation planning. Conducting an energy audit serves as a crucial starting point, providing in-depth analysis of the building’s energy performance and identifying areas for improvement. These assessments are vital tools for establishing additional sustainability and cost reduction goals. Calculating cost savings and the school’s return on investment (ROI) provides additional clarity on the financial benefits of the lighting renovation. 

Prior to construction, administrators should consider implementing a lighting management system to customize settings and timers according to your school’s specific schedule.  Furthermore, schools should strategically schedule their renovation, prioritizing school breaks or summer vacation to minimize educational disruptions. After renovation, ongoing monitoring and evaluating energy performance are necessary to track progress and inform future sustainability initiatives.

Student and Faculty Education and Engagement

As your school embarks on its lighting system upgrade, seize the opportunity to cultivate a culture of collective engagement. This efficiency project isn’t just about physical renovations; it’s a chance to instill a lasting commitment to energy conservation. Encouraging energy-saving practices and providing additional education amplifies the impact of the renovation throughout the school and beyond. Fostering a collective effort to reduce energy consumption has a greater effect than the renovation alone while also laying the foundation for continued participation in sustainability goals. Here are a few examples on how to get students, parents, and faculty involved:

Student-Led Initiatives

For younger students, creating student competitions for energy saving measures is a great way to educate students about energy, raise awareness about conservation, and reward students for being a leader in energy saving practices. Celebrating energy conservation efforts encourages students to incorporate these habits into their daily lives – spreading awareness beyond their classroom.

For students who want to take energy efficiency to the next level, consider creating an Energy Conservation Club. Allowing like-minded students to collaborate on how their school can improve its carbon footprint empowers students to get involved in their community while further reducing the facility’s energy consumption.

Education Programs and Workshops

Teachers and faculty can get involved through educational programs, workshops, or assemblies. School administrators can conduct faculty meetings or training to inform staff of the lighting renovation while encouraging additional energy-saving practices. Additionally, administrators can coordinate a school assembly with guest speakers within the energy industry or STEM fields to provide further awareness and context for the upcoming renovation. At a classroom level, science teachers can also incorporate energy efficiency and sustainability into their curriculum, providing students with hands-on activities and instruction that relates to active efficiency projects.

Awareness Campaigns

Beyond the traditional didactic approach, schools should consider creating a visible awareness campaign for additional education about becoming a more sustainable school. Awareness campaigns can include posters and signage that illustrate different aspects of energy, consumption, and conservation. Interactive displays or exhibits can help school administrators share and track the school’s sustainability goals or highlight recent conservation efforts. Furthermore, schools can send informational literature home with students, encouraging families to have additional conversations about saving energy and promoting a healthier environment.

Financial Support and Incentives

Government programs play a pivotal role in supporting energy efficiency initiatives in schools. Various grants and incentives are available to alleviate the financial burden of lighting upgrades, facilitating access to resources that promote sustainable practices. Energy performance contracts offer another avenue for schools, allowing them to fund improvements through the resulting energy savings. Additionally, schools may explore state or local programs that provide financial incentives, further encouraging the adoption of energy-efficient lighting systems. By leveraging financial support opportunities, schools take a cost-effective approach to creating an energy efficient and environmentally conscious learning environment. 

Case Studies: School Lighting Upgrade Success Stories

Case Study 1: From Retrofit to Energy Education at McKinley Elementary School

McKinley Elementary School is part of California’s San Leandro Unified School District. In 2006, they embarked on a large-scale lighting retrofit project that resulted in reducing the energy consumption of their lighting system by a substantial 49%. Inspired by these savings, a group of teachers got together with the California Public Utilities Commission’s School Energy Efficiency Program to create an energy conservation open house. This event provided hands-on educational activities for students, parents, and faculty about energy conservation. It was so successful that the group of teachers collaborated on another project – incorporating energy conservation and efficiency into the school’s yearly curriculum which will continue to educate students for many years to come.

Case Study 2: Smart Lighting Initiatives for Lewiston School District

Maine’s Lewiston School District partnered with the Maine Green Schools Program to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions. One of the main recommendations from the Green Schools Program was overhauling the district’s lighting systems. With the support of this program, Lewiston School District installed advanced lighting systems in all of their schools, resulting in a 50% reduction of energy consumption. Their new system includes a smart management system that incorporates occupancy sensors and timers as well as allowing individuals to manually control lighting levels. Additional features automatically adjust illumination to account for available daylight and each classroom can be modified for student comfort or instructional needs.

Energy-Efficient Lighting: Investing in a Bright Future

The adoption of energy-efficient lighting in schools not only yields significant cost savings but also enhances the learning environment while contributing to sustainability goals. Through strategic planning, financial support, and community involvement, schools can embark on a transformative journey towards energy efficiency, creating a brighter and more environmentally conscious future for students and educators alike. To take your energy-saving journey even further, consider contacting Integrity Energy. As one of the leading energy brokers in the nation, Integrity Energy is committed to finding the most cost-effective energy plans for educational institutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do energy-efficient lighting systems benefit schools financially?

Schools benefit from efficient lighting systems through reduced energy costs and minimal long-term maintenance expenses, resulting in overall operational savings. 

Are there specific types of energy-efficient lighting suitable for different areas within a school?

Yes, different areas of a school may benefit from different types of energy-efficient lighting. For example: LED fixtures are great in classrooms, high-efficiency fluorescent lights work great in hallways, and integrating smart lighting management tools will benefit every area of the school.

What are the environmental benefits of switching to energy-efficient lighting?

Energy-efficient lighting benefits the environment by reducing carbon emissions, minimizing source depletion, and lowering hazardous material usage.

Do energy-efficient lighting systems affect the quality of light in classrooms?

Yes, energy-efficient lighting systems, particularly LED technology, positively affect the quality of light in classrooms. Studies have shown that LED lighting provides a more natural and consistent illumination that enhances student performance, concentration, and overall demeanor.

How can schools fund the transition to energy-efficient lighting?

Schools can fund lighting efficiency upgrades through budget reallocation, participation in energy performance contracts, or by applying for government grants, rebates, and tax incentives. 


For more answers to your energy efficiency questions, please visit our general FAQ page.