Be a Control Freak: Understanding Energy Costs in Your School

a guest post by Tim Hogan, Vice President – Education Market at Acuity Brands Lighting

Be a Control Freak Understanding Energy Costs in Your School

Campus facility directors are under pressure to lower their energy and maintenance costs, while also improving the functionality and appearance of their facilities. Since electric lighting is one of the largest consumers of electricity in K-12 schools, progressive districts are looking for proven strategies and best practices for implementing lighting upgrades. In this five article blog series join Acuity Brands Lighting Vice President Tim Hogan to learn about the lighting control techniques your school could adopt today to start saving money on your energy bill.

I love what lighting can do for a campus and how it can improve its visual appeal. It can make learning more productive and with the latest technology, it can save a lot of energy at the same time. I’m interested in creating a better space and a better learning environment that costs less to power and maintain.

The Educator’s Challenge

Think about your campus. What percentage of the lighting is controlled at the switch? I mean that a person turns it on or off manually every day. One of the things we know about lighting is that it is left on. One of the greatest ways to save energy, as we all know from yelling at our kids, is to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

The Facility Director’s Challenge

A facility director is challenged with improving the campus environment while spending less money.

When there is a hall of fame for people who can squeeze the most out of a nickel, a facility chief will be the first person inducted!

One of the things we know is that K12 schools and higher education facilities spend about $14 billion on energy through the course of the year. That’s more than we spend on the school nutrition program. And we also know that at least a third of that energy is wasted.

We are approaching something like $5 billion that is sent to the utility company. Don’t get me wrong, I love utility companies but I would rather keep the money for education.

I want to help facility leaders figure out how we can save money while improving the learning environment.

First, we need to understand where the opportunity is. I am a huge fan of using data, analytics and research to understand what efforts we need to take to produce the best results. See how we do this in the next article.

Inefficient Lighting

When I looked at the educational stats from the Department of Energy (DoE) a couple of things stood out to me. The vast majority of the lighting in the space is linear fluorescent. This is probably not a surprise to anyone.

Lighting Stats for Educational Facilities

Lack of Control

The other thing that was striking is that 83 percent of the lighting is not controlled. There is no lighting control other than the light switch. And I can tell you how many educators and facility leaders I talk to who said “Oh, we have a training program…we have signs…we teach people how to turn the lights off”.

I always say how is that working out for you? And they say, “Not too well.” It’s really difficult to get people to change their behavior.

What we know is that more than one-third or about 40 percent of the energy that is spent in the school is spent on lighting. If you combine heating, cooling, air handling -- those three add up to be about what lighting is.

There is a huge opportunity just by turning off the lights and implementing smart controls that can save money, extend lamp life and give you a lot of flexibility and design.

Have a Graybar Lighting Specialist contact me about a lighting assessment in your school.

Stay tuned for the next article: Find the Energy Leaks in your School.

Tim Hogan

Tim Hogan works with educators, facilities directors and design professionals to improve lighting solutions for both K-12 and Higher Education campuses. His articles have been published in numerous magazines for education facility designers and managers. He is a frequent presenter at local, regional and national events. Acuity Brands is one of the world's leading providers of lighting equipment, solutions and services.


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