Is it that time again? Well yes, if you've been inside any retailer lately, you've known it was "back to school" time since June. But we like to preserve what we can of summer, keeping it a break from school. So we don't point out the obvious until August.
But now it's August. And as we acknowledged a couple years ago, by now schools need to be planning for the coming school year. That includes the maintenance staff. Among other things, they have to make sure all the lights are up and running when the first school bell rings.
In our last article on this topic, we noted that a number of schools are still equipped with T12 fluorescent lamps; and while newer T12s are more efficient than old ones, you can keep the same fixtures while swapping out to T8 lamps (and ballasts) to save plenty on energy bills.
The LED School Lighting Upgrade
Of course LED lights are even more energy efficient and last longer than fluorescent lights, but we acknowledged the high price of LEDs in that article. That was two years ago. Today, LED T8 lamps start under $10 each and are easy to fit into a T8 fluorescent system.
Besides the fact that LED bulbs produce more light per watt of energy than fluorescent bulbs, LED technology also provides directional light. Fluorescent tubes, on the other hand, send their light in all directions. This means that some of the light from a fluorescent lamp has to be reflected by the fixture back toward the ground. That's like the moon reflecting light from the sun -- it's nowhere near as bright as when you get the light straight from the sun.
In a similar way, to produce the same effective working light as the LED, a fluorescent lamp has to produce more total lumens, which takes more energy. This is why an LED tube can list far fewer lumens (and use so much less energy) while still providing as much usable light.
There's another place where school maintenance teams can put LED to good use, and that's in the parking lots. Typical lots are filled with HID lamps like high pressure sodium or metal halide bulbs. These lamps last nowhere near as long as LEDs, and given the time and cost of replacing lamps at the top of a pole, long life is a big deal.
LED replacements for HID bulbs are commonly known as "corn cob LEDs" because of their appearance. Besides their benefit of longer life, corn cobs also retain far more of their initial lumens than HIDS, so parking lots stay lit the way they're meant to. And as always, LEDs are huge energy savers. By our calculation -- even at today's cost of corn cob LEDs -- the LEDs will pay for themselves in just a couple years.
This means they're definitely worth a close look before maintenance crews or contractors are up in bucket trucks replacing those lamps. Yes, schools are often strapped for cash; but for school districts that can make the initial investment, LEDs are likely to help relax the budget before long.