Dimming lights saves school money year-round
Dimmer switches mostly are used by homeowners to set a romantic tone for a fancy dinner. In Brighton, Colo., however, the local utility is using dimming to save power and money at the city’s charter school.
The building lighting system at Brighton Charter School has been retrofitted to feature a dimming ability that is expected to save the school about $9,000 annually in power costs. The project is one of the first in the country to employ a load management strategy that allows the local utility a measure of control over the building’s lighting.
The approach involves controllable ballasts, used to dim lighting during peak utility demand periods. Manufactured by Newark, Calif.-based Electronic Lighting, which engineered the retrofit project, the ballasts are controlled via remote powerline carrier control signals. The process works because the school needs to be lighted only during the 2,500 hours it operates each year.
In exchange for allowing the utility to control its lighting, the school enjoys a lower electric rate schedule. A special load reduction electrical power rate is expected to add savings of at least another 10 percent on the school’s light bill.
“We inherited an older building built in the early ’60s, and we had to renovate some lighting anyway,” says School Administrator Jim Greule. “So we decided if we have to do it, let’s do it right and save some money. In Colorado, [environmental awareness] is topical. We have to start modeling that as a school. If we don’t model energy efficiency and recycling and all of those things, then we can’t expect our kids to do it. It has got to be more than celebrating Earth Day once a year.” Greule notes that saving money on energy bills helps the school buy more textbooks, projectors and athletic equipment.
The system includes 2-foot, 4-foot and 8-foot T8 Low Mercury Alto lamps from Somerset, N.J.-based Philips Lighting; 60 fixtures using specular reflectors; and 57 energy- efficient, 3-watt LED exit signs. Roughly 25 percent of the fixtures were removed, relocated, reinstalled and reconfigured to help balance lighting in the building.