Are you underestimating the value of light quality at your institution? Lighting can do more than you might think. Studies show that basic physical variables in one’s environment, such as light, affect learning and may even influence a student’s achievements and behavior. As a decision maker, you have a direct impact on the physical well-being of students, staff and visitors – in addition to overseeing operations and ever-tightening budgets. Reevaluating lighting can be a prime way to address all of these responsibilities, ensuring an effective visual environment for students and staff, while creating operational and energy efficiencies that lower the cost of lighting.
Today, high-quality LED lighting can deliver exceptional clarity and consistent full-spectrum illumination, making schools brighter places to learn, teach and work.. But with increasing options and a lengthy to-do list, how do you make the best lighting choice for your educational facility?
Benefits beyond budget
Energy continues to be a top expense for schools. The nation’s educational institutions spent almost $14 billion on energy in 2013, according to an Energy Star report. Lighting accounts for about 40 percent of those energy costs, according to Energy Trust of Oregon, so it offers a significant opportunity for savings. LEDs often pay for themselves within a few years.
These bottom line benefits are attractive, but with advancements in technology, high-performance LED lighting may provide educational facilities with benefits well beyond the bottom line.
Campus security for students and staff is one growing factor for converting to high-performance LED lighting. Whether indoors or outdoors, well-lighted spaces help occupants travel around campus with confidence. A well-designed, high-quality LED lighting solution can provide superior light coverage that minimizes shadows and dark spots and improves visibility and sense of safety. LED lighting also may improve the performance of other safety systems, such as security cameras, by enabling clearer images.
In contrast, inferior lighting technology has created an array of obstacles for educational facilities, ranging from inconsistent color temperatures and flickering of fluorescents to frequent bulb burnouts. Enhancing light quality with high-performance, high color rendering index (CRI) LED technology may translate into better learning environments and enhance sustainability. Lighting also may affect mood, productivity and even decision-making. Two-thirds of the brain is devoted to visual processing, so optimal classroom lighting is imperative. Additionally, because LEDs last longer than previous technologies, students experience far fewer maintenance disruptions.
Incorporating intelligent light
Educational facilities also may benefit greatly from lighting control solutions. Solid-state LED lighting eliminates the complexity associated with the installation of incumbent technologies. Advanced LED lighting provides easy setup and pre-installed programming that removes the need for added design, components and labor.
Next-generation LED lighting products often embed occupancy and daylighting sensors, so facility planners don’t have to worryi about the best place to locate a sensor. LED technology is inherently smarter than conventional light sources, offering options such as selectable color temperatures. It has the flexibility to adjust the environment for the comfort of students, staff and administration. Compared with traditional lighting technologies, LEDs reduce energy consumption by as much as 50 to 70 percent, and can reach up to 80 percent savings when coupled with smart controls, according to a June 2012 report by The Climate Group.
San Diego Community College, for example, has reduced energy use from lighting by 75 percent by installing new automated sensors that meet California’s Title 24 energy standards. The change resulted in more than $80,000 in rebates for instant savings. The college installed more than 1,200 wirelessly controlled LED light fixtures, with life expectancies of 75,000 to 100,000 hours
Planning for the best results
Understanding the particulars of space and lighting needs is important when determining the best lighting solution. This is especially true with high-output, directional LED lighting; facilities often require fewer fixtures compared with traditional fixtures. Many LED lighting manufacturers can assist with planning. Often, an institution can install a test LED to get a feel for the technology and compare it with the existing system
LED technology advancements can deliver higher efficiency with improved color characteristics, but not all LEDs are created equal. The lowest-cost lighting may equate to lower quality – resulting in failures, insufficient performance, shorter lifetime, limited functionality and an array of other compromises. Be wary of “too-good-to-be-true” solutions, which may not meet expectations. Discuss your potential purchase with others who have installed LED lighting. Pay close attention to product warranty to ensure that solutions are designed to last and perform as promised.
Time is money
Educational facilities that are waiting to switch to LEDs are losing out on energy savings that could reduce operating expenses and energy bills Today, the upfront investment is lower than one might expect, and payback can be achieved in as little as one year. Incentives and rebates available through utilities and government programs may accelerate payback and savings.
LED lighting is enhancing the educational environment by creating better experiences for students, staff and visitors. Thanks to improved economics and environmental benefits, education institutions have plenty of incentives to upgrade to LED lighting.
Casadonte is a vertical marketing manager at Cree, an industry leader in LED lighting for interior and exterior applications. He currently supports Cree’s Education initiative to help sustainability efforts and achieve LEED qualification for the many institutions nationwide.