Lighting Upgrades for Efficiency, Safety, and Well-Being

We look upon American educational establishments with a great sense of pride, knowing many of its buildings have withstood the test of time. With time, however, comes standard wear and tear, requiring maintenance and upgrades to maintain the campus' appearance and overall efficiency.

Limited funding for these establishments has resulted in a visible increase in tuition, with additional costs necessary for required maintenance trickling down onto the backs of college and university students. To reduce the financial strain on the students and simultaneously make campus maintenance simpler and easier to manage while receiving a quicker payback, many colleges and universities are adopting advanced lighting technologies in an effort to reap the economic and technical benefits-while also becoming more environmentally friendly.

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, lighting represents upwards of 40% of the $7 billion annual energy and utility expenses for higher education, making it one of the largest costs to bear. Incorporating ‘smarter’ LED lighting technologies provides an opportunity for the 4,700 colleges and universities across the U.S. to save $1.7 billion annually by improving lighting efficiency more than 60%. Moving away from traditional fluorescent lighting solutions, campus maintenance managers are increasingly adopting LED technologies as the optimum economic and technical solution for energy efficiency.

LEDs offer numerous economical, safety and environmental benefits, with one of the primary benefits being energy efficiency. By comparison, LED lighting solutions are approximately 40 to 60 percent more efficient than florescent and metal halide lighting technologies, and up to 80% more efficient than incandescent. When combined with simple control solutions such as occupancy sensors to ensure lighting is turned off when not in use, lighting efficiency could improve by an additional 10-20%. As a result, the use of current lighting technology to increase efficiency gives facility managers a great, and simple opportunity to reduce operating expenses.

Extended Lifespan Ensures Less Maintenance

Regardless of the campus size, large or small, it can be time consuming, costly, and a hassle to perform standard operation and maintenance tasks like lighting replacement. As such, it’s important for colleges to not only consider lighting technologies that offer a longer life, allowing campus staff to focus on other critical maintenance priorities, but those that offer greater lumen maintenance to ensure the light quality received remains constant over time.

While some technologies like fluorescents may offer 20,000 hours of life, this does not necessarily mean the lighting quality will remain the same throughout the entire lifespan. In fact, by the time fluorescents reach 5,000 hours of use, they have already lost thirty percent of their lumen maintenance, leaving students with lower quality lighting for three-quarters of the lamp or fixture’s life. LED’s provide a different experience on the other hand, providing lifespan of up to 100,000 hours. With a ninety-two percent lumen maintenance, students receive high quality lighting, ensuring better learning conditions in the classroom and greater safety throughout campus pedestrian walkways and parking areas. This is combined with the long term maintenance benefits, allowing for fewer lighting changes and ultimately less time spent on maintenance.

Lighting output and longevity are only two benefits delivered by LED’s; the physical composition of these technologies can also prove to be beneficial. LED lighting is extremely durable, eliminating the use of glass to provide a highly reliable solution across the technology’s extended lifespan. Greater physical durability results in longer lasting lights, again reducing the need for replacements efforts and costs. In addition, many LED’s offer a 10-year warranty for their products, giving colleges and universities the added comfort that their investment will achieve its results throughout the decade. Even at the end of an LEDs life, its benefits continue, providing a 100% recyclable solution which, unlike fluorescents, does not contain mercury that requires a specialized form of recycling to maintain compliance with environmentally friendly practices.

Lighting and Health Considerations

It is estimated that individuals spend 90% of their time indoors, replacing natural light with artificial as the prevailing light source. General and task lighting, mobile devices, tablets and computers have allowed students and faculty to improve productivity, however recent scientific advancements are now beginning to show us the potential impact of light on individual health, well-being and comfort. These studies show the importance of natural light and its impact on key body functions, influencing our bio chemistry, endocrinology, physiology, metabolism, behavior and even synchronize our internal bodily processes with our external environment that can impact alertness, mood, cognition and sleep quality.

Integration of proper lighting should always consider utilizing artificial lighting that most accurately reflects natural light’s “full spectrum output.” LED lighting is an optimal solution due to its capability to maximize spectral adjustment through its diodes, to closely match that of natural light. Even at different color temperatures, LEDs are able to achieve a broad spectral output, and be modified to ensure strong “blue peaks” of light frequency which medical studies have shown to provide the greatest positive effect on our key body functions.

In addition, proper lighting design at the fundamental level should consider several key aspects. Efficacy, a measurement of the amount of light output versus wattage versus energy used, should always be considered. Choosing solutions with higher efficacy values will ensure both the greatest efficiency and light output. When held against the customary performance standard of lumens-per-watt (lm/W), most LEDs (120-140 lm/W) are five to seven times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, twice as efficient as compact fluorescents, and 30-40 percent more efficient than standard fluorescents.

Correlated color temperature (CCT) is another key aspect, measuring the light’s color appearance. Measured in kelvin (K), studies have shown that LED’s ranging from 6,000K-8,000K have the best biological impact, however this is likely an undesirable light color. 3,500 (neutral) to 5,500 (cool) were found through studies to be the most visually pleasing. While CCT is a key consideration, this must be done in conjunction with proper color rendering (CRI) to ensure color within spaces is accurately depicted. Measured on a 1-100 scale, choosing LED products with a CRI of 80 or higher is suggested, and for spaces that require precise color rendering, above 90 or higher is suggested. These CRI values can be easily achieved by LED solutions, significantly outpacing fluorescent lighting with CRI’s values typically ranging from 52 to 75.

Beyond the impact on individuals, LED lighting is helping universities expand its sustainable initiatives, installing a long lasting high efficiency technology to reduce overall energy use and carbon footprint, while utilizing products that are 100% recyclable to reduce future waste stream, and avoids the use of certain heavy metals, including mercury. Advancement in lighting technology today has unveiled LEDs to drive superior efficiency, safety and individual well-being to universities today. The question is no longer if but when to upgrade. As the cost of LEDs continues to drop and their capabilities continue to advance, universities have a new opportunity to significantly impact long term operational and maintenance costs, while providing a greater campus experience for students.

About the Author
Ron Young is president of Tri-State LED, a Revolution Lighting Company. Tri-State LED is designed to provide the most visible, positive impact for its customers, acting as an invested partner to deliver comprehensive LED lighting solutions.