Are You Still in The Dark When It Comes to Best Lighting Practices?

Below we take a look at how to make the lighting in Schools more efficient, but you can apply many of these measures to your business too. It’s no lie that lighting makes up a large proportion of your energy bill so identifying ways to reduce this will help keep your budget safe and your School or Business eco-friendly. So, without further ado, lets shed some light on the subject… (groan!)

The last thing you want to do is compromise your staff and student’s wellbeing by turning off too many lights and causing stress and strain on the eyes. Glare on screens and glasses can be equally as disruptive and can even cause headaches for some, not to mention the added Health and Safety risk of accidents if areas are not suitably lit up. All of the factors above are things you need to consider when ensuring your lighting practices are sufficient and meeting the needs of your School or Business. By getting the lighting right, you can improve the comfort and productivity of everyone in your School, and studies show that human error decreases as lighting increases. 

The Magic of LEDs….

LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) are often thought of as a modern invention of lighting technology, but they have actually been around for more than 60 years. However, they have become more affordable and more widely used over the last 10 years. Many people are now seeing the benefits which include lower energy usage resulting in lower bills, and longer lamp (bulb) life which limits the maintenance needed (also resulting in a saving for a School/Business). They are also easy to control and have no ‘warm up’ period. 

That said, LED lighting projects can be costly depending on the size of your site, so perhaps you could consider an LED replacement project as and when the traditional bulbs fail. 

Energy consumption in Schools is typically 70% heating and hot water, and 30% electricity. However, because electricity is so expensive, electricity bills may account for over 60% of your energy budget. Of this, lighting accounts for around 30% of the electricity consumed, or 20% of energy spend.

So, for example, when an LED lighting proposal claims to save 50% of your total electricity cost, your first question should be how can this be possible if my lighting only accounts for 20% of my budget? 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that many schools are being misled over potential savings from LED lighting proposals. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish Powerful Allies to provide an independent assessment of any proposals you receive; we are here to help.

LEDs are one of the most affordable energy reduction technologies in existence but this also makes them a target for complex and often “incredible” offers. The argument for converting lighting to LED, particularly in high usage areas such as corridors, sports facilities and classrooms is well proven. Indeed, Powerful Allies is a very strong advocate of LED installations, but please be cautious of costs and if in doubt, ask us to assess the options.

But what else can you do to limit Lighting costs?

Here are some other things you can do to limit the cost of lighting, especially where there are no immediate plans to change to LED? 

  • Limit the lighting to essential use, such as ensuring lighting in classrooms is only switched on prior to the start of a lesson and switched off immediately on vacating a room and during breaks times. To start getting your staff into this habit, you could conduct a ‘walk around’ at certain times of the day and report back on areas where lights are left on. Remember to avoid having the lights on with the blinds closed; natural light is better for us anyway – and best of all its free!
  • There is a common misbelief that it takes more energy to restart a light than it uses over say a 10-15-minute break; this is not true for most lighting types. Whilst it is the case that some lighting may need to cool down before it can be restarted and take a few minutes to reach full brightness, these will generally be found in sports halls and security lighting, and not generally in the classrooms or offices.
  • If we take a typical classroom with 12 fluorescent square light fittings, each fitting rated at 144 Watts, with additional losses for ballasts and drivers, equates to around 1.9 kWh. So, leaving a single classroom lit during the lunch break for 5 days per week over 35 weeks’ term-time would waste around 333 kW of electricity per year. Add in the morning and afternoon breaks and multiply it by the number of classrooms potentially wasting energy and it all starts to add up!
  • Corridors and other circulation areas can make considerable savings by installing sensors; these areas are generally switched on from “building opening until the building close” at the end of the day, yet may only really be in use between lessons with modest footfall in between. Sensors are not hugely expensive and could provide saving up to 30 – 50%! Sensors can be reactive to movement, daylight, or set by a timer so do some research into the best option for the area you’re trying to illuminate.  
  • In order to ensure good energy efficiency in lighting, do ensure light switches are clearly accessible and labeled indicating which lights they switch. Sounds simple, but often when faced with a bank of light switches, we switch them all on, rather than just the one we wanted.
  • Implement a ‘Switch Off Schedule’ with the last people to leave the building. Spending a little extra time to give people the right guidance on this could save you hundreds a year. 
  • According to research by the Carbon Trust, staff awareness can reduce energy consumption by 10%. So, a school using 1 million kWh per year, with lighting consumption around 330,000 kWh, would save around 8.4 tonnes of Carbon-dioxide emissions and almost £5,000 cost per annum – for not a lot of effort really!
  • Ensure nothing is blocking your light sources such as furniture or posters. Try not to place tall filing cabinets or cupboards directly under lights so that the light can spread out across the space. 

It may seem like a daunting task, but thankfully, becoming lighting efficient can be made up of lots of small changes that are mostly easy to implement. You could make it into a student campaign, or a project for your ‘Eco Club’, and get your students involved in making posters, labeling light switchboards, or carrying out the ‘walk arounds’ during their break times. 

Energy efficiency is such an important part to secure a safer and cleaner future and it’s vital that we make conscious decisions to play our part in that. Your school could lead the way in this field just by making a few small changes each day. The key thing is to keep it fresh in people’s minds so that turning off a light switch becomes second nature. 

There are many websites and companies offering help and guidance out there. One of our favourites, The Carbon Trust have some fantastic resources for Schools regarding energy efficiency, including lots more in-depth information about LED lighting and lighting projects. You can also download ‘Switch it Off’ labels and posters (https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/posters-and-stickers) so why not start your staff and student awareness campaign today.