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Industry Spotlight: Lighting Solutions for Healthcare Facilities

By applying energy efficiency upgrades throughout their facilities, business and organizations can slash their top operational costs. These upgrades can vary from LED lighting and lighting controls to water heating equipment and refrigeration motors and HVAC equipment. Certain organizations, such as healthcare facilities, can uniquely benefit from energy-efficiency upgrades, not only from a profits perspective, but also from a patient and visitor comfort perspective, and being recognized as eco-friendly.

Healthcare buildings rely on high-performance lighting and other equipment to operate resulting massive energy consumption. Based on data from the Department of Energy (DOE), on average, hospitals use 2.5x the amount of energy as other commercial buildings—lighting consuming nearly 40 percent of annual energy usage. Because these facilities operate 24/7, their energy bill reflects their excessive energy consumption. Healthcare organizations spend over $6.5 billion on energy every year, and that amount only continues to grow with an increasing demand to meet patients’ needs.

Money lost as a result of large utility costs is often made up from budget cuts to other areas, which could mean cuts to quality of life, cuts to safety, or even cuts to staffing. Organizations can avoid such cuts through the implementation of energy efficient upgrades. In addition to dollar savings, energy efficiency improves the appearance of the space, occupant safety, patient comfort, and is good for the environment.

Some of energy efficiency’s biggest benefits to healthcare facilities:

Cost Savings and Increased Profitability

Improvements to energy efficiency can reduce the cost of energy by as much as 75%. Although the initial investment is larger, LEDs can also reduce maintenance costs, as bulbs can last up to 25 years (a lifespan twice that of CFLs). Fusing the cost savings of lower energy bills and reduced maintenance, coupled with improved patient satisfaction and improved sales, simple efficiency improvements like upgrading to LEDs have the potential to dramatically magnify a facility’s bottom line.

The potential for savings can vary, but most facilities can see significant gains through energy efficiency with minimal investment. Some examples include:

Geiseinger Health System

Based in Danville, PA, retrofitted 24,000 light fixtures and installed occupancy sensors across their facilities—accounting for 50% in energy savings. The company also received $156,000 in incentives from a local utility. The project yielded energy savings of $460,000 annually, paying for itself in less than four years. Read more.

Gundersen Health Systems

Based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin hired Energy Performance Lighting to replace their outdated lighting. Regarding the interior, we installed LED tubes and lamps, and replaced high-pressure sodium (HPS) exterior pole fixtures with new LED fixtures. The project yielded energy savings of $105,185 annually and reduced greenhouse gas emissions over 2 million lbs. per year. Read more.

Creates a Welcoming Environment

Waiting rooms outfitted with old, gloomy light fixtures feel uninviting and grim to potential patients. LEDs can enhance and brighten the space, making it feel more welcoming, and relieve feelings of anxiousness for patients and visitors. With the ability to customize their correlated color temperature (CCT) and brightness, LED lights provide healthcare organizations with the ability to control illumination, not only in the waiting room, or a patient’s room, but throughout the entire building, delivering the desired appearance without sacrificing the quality of care.

Gratifying Patient Experiences

Combining LED fixtures with an intelligent building system—such as an IoT-enabled infrastructure—can further improve energy-related savings through integrated recognition and operation of all building systems. Moreover, the “smart” building systems allow for customized patient preferences for room lighting and temperature, hallway noise management, and indoor navigation for visitors. In patients experiencing a loss of control as a result of a debilitating disease or illness, these technologic amenities can return feelings of composure.

Enhanced Comfort

As lighting technologies evolve, so does our understanding of how light affects us. Research shows lighting has a significant impact on the well-being of staff, patients, and even visitors. Bright light is shown to reduce drowsiness, cause us to feel energetic and lively, and promote feelings of happiness. Insufficient or dull lighting is associated with eyestrain—which can cause headaches and lead to accidents—is associated with higher levels of stress and fatigue, can trigger seizures, and even lead to a mild form of depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Through the application of optimal lighting, healthcare facilities can alleviate these ailments, which will improve the well-being of patients, staff, and visitors.

Improved Operational Processes

Circling back to IoT, hospitals can improve operational productivity through the implementation of intelligent building technologies. Healthcare organizations can employ real time location systems (RTLS) to monitor the location of care-related equipment to prevent essential equipment from stockpiling, and reduce the amount of time needed to locate necessary hardware during immediate care situations. Even hospital staff, from doctors, to nurses, to patients and security can be tracked to quicken response times.

Radiant Exteriors

By upgrading exterior lights to LEDs, hospitals and healthcare facilities can shine as brightly on the outside as on the inside. In an industry where time is of the essence, proper exterior illumination can help guide emergency vehicles and patients to the proper entrance. Replacing inadequate parking lot and parking structure lighting with LEDs can make parking areas brighter and safer for facility staff, patients, and visitors alike.

In Conclusion

There are many more ways in which energy-efficient and smart building technologies can help healthcare facilities achieve their overall goals of patient care, cost reduction, and more sustainable operation. Using these technologies, the general standard of care can be improved and a health facility transformed from a cost center into a self-catering instrument.

The first step in implementing energy efficient upgrades in your facility is to complete an assessment. Energy Performance Lighting performs investment-grade lighting evaluations for hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and other health care facilities. To see how your lighting compares, give our certified lighting efficiency professionals a call at (608) 661-5555 or schedule an assessment online and a representative will reach out within one business day to learn more about your facility needs and discuss potenital options.

Advantage of LEDs on Higher Ed Campuses

There are lots of factors that determine student success in college: good study habits, passionate instructors, valuable campus resources; these all contribute to having a positive college experience. Believe it or not, there’s another aspect of college life that is often overlooked, yet it still influences student success, and touches the lives of every student on campus: lighting.

Lighting has an abundance of applications for Universities and College Campuses – students participate in evening classes, late night lab sessions and projects, and evening social activities – so it’s important to create a well-lit, safe environment for your student body.

“A well-designed outdoor lighting system can offer environmental and financial benefits,” says John Casadonte, the product marketing manager at Cree, Inc. “Colleges and Universities typically have large outdoor spaces or pathways that require significant lighting, and parking structures are often illuminated continuously, providing major opportunities for efficiency and lower costs.” A safer environment, coupled with the desire for younger generations to learn the value of sustainable energy and reducing their carbon footprint, has created a strong desire for LED lighting at college-level institutions.

Fortunately, advancements in lighting technology, ranging from more-efficient components to increasingly sophisticated controls, along with the eagerness of energy providers to boost efficiency, offer attractive opportunities for making the most of your campus’s lighting system.

Practical Applications for Campus LED Lighting

LED lighting is practical for university and college campuses since it works so well for various installations, including: walkways, buildings, parking lots and structures, gymnasiums and admin offices. Along with providing better light quality, color rendering, and reduced energy consumption, LED light bulbs commonly last longer than 10 years, keeping maintenance costs at a minimum.

Common Areas and Walkways

Safety during evening activities and night time transitions between dorms, educational and recreational buildings is essential. On average, walkways and common areas require 12 hours (or more) of lighting per evening.

An investment in LED lights provides a great ROI as LEDs are 50% more efficient than fluorescent lights and most LEDs have a useful life of at least 50,000 hours (compared to 24,000 hours for high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, 15,000 hours for fluorescent lamps, and 1,000 hours for incandescents).

Parking Lots and Garage Structures

Denver Airport Parking Garage Before and After

(Image courtesy of: Business Wire)

From an energy saving perspective, student and faculty parking areas are great for examining the benefits of an LED lighting system. Similar to campus walkways and common outdoor areas, parking lot light fixtures can operate continuously for upwards of 12 hours every day – and can be one of your largest energy expenses – common wattages for HID parking lot lights range from 400w to 1,000w, costing up to $525 per lamp, per year, to operate in electricity alone! In addition to potential lamp lifetime concerns, parking lot and parking structure lights often require the use of a lift or bucket truck to replace a lamp or ballast. Many campuses do not own a bucket truck or lift, and as a result, are required to hire a contractor for fixture maintenance, which can cost up to $1,200 in labor and materials to maintain just a single parking light fixture over 3 years!

Tilting away from an energy efficiency and cost-savings perspective, brighter light with better light quality helps to elevate student and faculty mood by making them feel safer. The improved lighting also provides the opportunity to take notice of, and avoid, slippery areas, irregular surfaces, curbs, wheel stops, and other features that may results in slips or trip-and-fall accidents. Reduced falls and reduced crime reduce your risk of lawsuits that occur due to crime victimization and fall injuries. Poor light quality (and poor lighting in general) is a common reason that property owners are forced to pay damages in these lawsuits.

The improved lighting also makes the parking lot or structure appear more attractive and upscale.

Campus Building Exteriors

Safety around campus doorways and windows is important. Wall pack fixtures and building flood lights can be very effective solutions when combined with LED lighting. In fact, many campuses have already started replacing lights with LED technology; John Casadonte, Cree, Inc. states, “while current technology for outdoor light fixtures—such as halogen or HID (high-intensity discharge)—offers the potential for high light output, they can be more costly than LED alternatives.” Casadonte goes on to note that some outdoor light fixtures deliver better light control and more uniform, white light than metal halide and may provide nearly maintenance-free lighting for up to 100,000 hours.

In addition, those outdoor areas previous discussed (common areas, walkways, parking lots, garage structures and campus building exteriors) tend to be lit for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year. With such a high demand, there is a huge potential for savings if the right technology is utilized.

Gymnasiums and Natatoriums

Since these facilities can stay open up to 20 hours on average, the energy and maintenance savings achieved through high-bay LED fixtures yields an attractive ROI. The solid-state nature of modern LEDs, and the option to remotely mount drivers or power supplies, helps to keep maintenance requirements simple in high-humidity natatoriums. And the ability to withstand severe impacts with minimal-to-no-damage makes LED high-bays are great choice to use in gymnasiums.

D.O.E.—Princeton University Case Study

A great example of the implementation of LEDs on a college campus can be found in this evaluation of exterior LED lighting retrofits at Princeton University—carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy. View the case study here.

Princeton University applied LED lighting to exterior walkways, parking lots, and parking garages; some including the application of lighting controls. The previous HID lighting system on campus used a total of 298,267 kWh of electricity per year. Once the LED lighting retrofits were installed, the system used 102,822 kWh of electricity per year, resulting in an annual savings of 195,443 kWh. Once lighting controls were factored into the equation, the savings were calculated as high as 246,995 kWh saved annually

In Conclusion

When it comes to return on investment, campus lighting may rank among the most-promising of areas. When considering available options, you should take care to select products that are based on proven technologies.

The fact remains that the application of LED lighting retrofits at colleges and universities can easily be justified as economical alternatives based on the energy and maintenance savings. In addition, the younger generations are acutely aware of the need for environmentally-friendly solutions, an LED lighting system can enhance the image of any educational institution.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the environment for your students and teachers, a lighting upgrade may be the solution. For more information, or to schedule on audit, contact the Lighting Certified specialists at Energy Performance Lighting by email or phone at (608) 661-5555, or you can click here to schedule a lighting service. Complete our simple assessment form and an EPL team member will contact you within 24 hours to discuss solutions for your building(s).

Using Shared Savings to Create Sustainable Schools Today

Saving on avoided costs can add up!

School districts across the country are tasked with the challenge of trying to save every dollar they can. Facility managers already know that pushing resources to their limits is absolutely necessary in creating sustainable operations, as the funding for maintenance, capital improvement projects, and educational resources is still lacking.

With so many obstacles, how can school leaders position their facilities and school staff for long-term success and sustainability? Prioritizing energy upgrades and taking advantage of shared energy savings programs is a great place to start since those projects often pay for themselves.

School Sustainability Hurdles

Public schools in the U.S. are already facing an $8-billion shortfall for annual operations and maintenance—more than the cost of textbooks and computers combined—and according to a report by the 21st Century School Fund in partnership with the National Council on School Facilities, the U.S. is projected to underinvest in school buildings by a gap of $46-billion annually. View their infographic to learn more.

Districts have become more creative with how they save money, but it’s still a challenge to manage old infrastructure while attempting to maintain low utility costs. Funding to replace aging equipment, like lighting and HVAC systems, is not always available and students and staff require sufficient spaces that are conductive to learning. For many schools, deferring maintenance becomes the knee-jerk response.

The cost-savings achieved by expanding on energy efficiency enables schools to fund critical facility upgrades, like roof replacement, resolving asbestos and mold issues, security camera installation, classroom remodels, and other critical facility needs.

What is a Shared Energy Savings Program?

A shared energy savings program is a revolving loan fund offered by utility providers (and some private companies) to finance energy-efficient improvements to your facilities.

Your utility provider provides up-front financing and the majority of shared savings programs give your organization the option to repay all or part of the loan through the energy savings generated—often with no up-front investment required.

The energy savings achieved through a shared savings program, and the resulting energy savings, benefit everyone by shifting funds (otherwise spent on utility bills) back into building improvement projects.

Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Shared Savings Programs

Improving energy efficiency can help schools to address the challenges they face, such as increasing energy costs and compromised classroom conditions. Improving your school’s energy efficiency, by eliminating waste and reducing operating costs, frees up a larger portion of your budget to use on educational programs and building improvements, both of which can enhance the quality of your educational services which, in-turn, improves your student’s academic performance.

Life-Cycle Cost of Delaying a Project

We’ve established clear benefits to being energy efficient, but what about the funding for these energy efficiency upgrades? Immediate access to the necessary funding is not available for many schools. However, leaving underperforming equipment to fail prior to upgrading or replacing it is costly and counterproductive.

There are four possible approaches a school can take when dealing with these types of upgrades: use available allowances to install immediately, wait for future capital budget allowances, use financing for the installation of upgrades immediately, or do nothing. The following graph shows the comparative costs of these four options.

Taking no action is your worst option

The option with the lowest cost is to make improvements with capital budget allowances that are currently available (funding available today). Although this scenario is ideal, it’s often unrealistic as many school districts have limited budgets.

The next option is to wait for future capital budget allowances (or delayed funding). The total cost of waiting for future capital budget funding before replacing inefficient equipment is greater than the cost of financing the upgrades immediately, which, in many scenarios, begins paying for itself as the energy saved offsets the cost of financing the replacement equipment.

Using that same logic, doing nothing (taking no action) should be your last choice, as it’s the most-costly by a wide margin, as schools continue paying costly energy bills and defer required maintenance.

Shared energy programs enable schools to pay for upgrades over time by using the future savings generated by those same upgrades thus bridging the financial gap to make energy efficient upgrades a reality today.

Sustainability that Pays for Itself

Shared savings programs, and other energy performance contracts, give schools the power to cover the expenses of energy efficiency over time by utilizing the savings created via those same upgrades—known as energy conservation measures—essentially turning the savings-generated into avoided costs.

These programs operate on the understanding that schools will utilize the avoided expenses to satisfy the cost of the installed upgrades. The following graphic is an example of a school that is initially paying an amount “A”, which equals $200,000 per year in utility bills. The school in this example predicts that by installing energy saving upgrades it can reduce its utility bills by $80,000 per year, resulting in a post-upgrade bill “B” of $120,000 per year. The difference is the “avoided annual cost,” money that would have been spent on energy bills but can now be used to finance further energy conservation methods.

Utility cost vs avoided cost

Over time, these yearly avoided costs aggregate, allowing the school to pay for the initial overhaul and then implement additional upgrades that save even more energy (see graphic below). Essentially, these programs allow the upgrades to pay for themselves. After satisfying the initial cost of financing, the outcome is a permanent decrease in operating expenses. Even before full reimbursement, the school, its student, staff, and teachers can enjoy the environmental and health benefits of new hardware.

Avoided costs accumulate over time

How to Get Started

Step 1: Contact

Reach out to your utility provider (Alliant Energy, MG&E, We Energies, etc.) for more information, and speak to the account manager, or energy services representative, that oversees your organization to determine your eligibility.

Step 2: Analyze Savings

You can review the energy-saving benefits of the improvements you are considering with your account manager, or instead chose to work with other experts (i.e. designers, contractors, consultants, engineers, Focus on Energy, etc.) to determine the value of savings for your project. If you elect to use an outside expert, it's recommended that you get the opinion of your account manager on your savings estimates.

Step 3: Analyze Costs

Financing options that match your project's estimated savings will be provided by your account manager, in an effort to structure financing payments that fit the pattern of energy savings created by your project. You can then choose which financing options is the best fit for you.

Step 4: Making a Decision

Based on the cost and savings estimates, you decide whether to proceed with the project or not. There may be additional analysis required, or you may choose to proceed with the project itself.

Step 5: Shared Savings

If you choose to follow-through with using Shared Savings funds to finance your project, your utility provider may then seek to obtain financial information from your organization. After fufilling a review, and establishing your company's creditworthiness, a loan agreement is prepared.

Step 6: Loan Agreement

Your account manager will gather the necessary information and prepare a draft financing agreement that you can review. If accepted, your utility provider, or financing company, will finalize the documents for you to sign.

Step 7: Signatures

You can instruct your project's contractor to begin the work only after all the signatures needed have been obtained on the loan agreement.

Step 8: Funds Released

Your utility or financing company will disburse progress payments until all the required funds have been released.

Step 9: Repayment

Your utility company will begin billing you for repayment of the Shared Savings loan; typically repayments can be satisfied using the reduced energy costs supplied by your energy-efficient upgrades.

Shared Savings Programs FAQ

How can the funds be used?

Funds received from the program can be applied to the direct costs of your qualifying project. Typically, this includes the equipment, materials, and labor for a complete project. In some cases, indirect, or soft costs, related to the project may qualify to be included in the project scope.

How are savings shared?

It’s up to you. You can choose to allocate all of most of the project energy savings created in the early years toward paying off the loan, or you might choose to pocket a larger portion of the savings up-front (however, this may prolong the time needed to repay the loan). Regardless, you decide how quickly savings are applied toward loan satisfaction versus other financial choices.

Are shared savings the same as a rebate?

No. Shared savings programs are not an up-front cash incentive, and do not have the same immediate financial reward for energy conservation projects as rebates provide. Since the savings program’s loan must be repaid, the financial reward stems from the subsequent excess energy savings.

Why use a shared energy savings program?

The main benefit to these programs: they help save energy. But other indirect benefits can also prove to be substantial, such as: reduced maintenance costs, increased comfort, productivity, and morale, increased property value, and environmental benefits. As mentioned above, a shared energy savings program can also aid in preserving your capital dollars and credit lines for other projects.

4 Ways To Reduce Your School's Electric Bill Without Breaking The Bank

Think back to Super Bowl XLVII, February 3rd, 2013. For the first time, the Super Bowl featured two brothers coaching against one another—Jim and John Harbaugh, the head coaches of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, respectively—earning it the nickname “The Harbaugh Bowl.”

You may not remember every detail of the game (unless you’re a football junkie), but there’s probably one specific moment you can recall: the moment the lights went out.

Minutes into the third quarter, a piece of equipment monitoring the electrical load of the facility detected an abnormality in the system, partially cutting power, plunging both teams and the 71,000 fans in attendance into near-darkness for over 30 minutes. Suddenly, lighting was on the minds of millions of people across America.

Although schools don’t have to worry about a power outage affecting millions of people across the country, lighting remains significant in the classroom—and on the budget sheet. According to the Department of Energy, about 30 percent of electricity consumed by a typical school is for lighting alone. In some cases, additional electricity is required to run air conditioning units due to the coincidental heat generated by outdated light fixtures. (Jim Messner, 2017)

Whether you’re remodeling your school, looking to reduce energy and maintenance costs, or simply want to improve light quality, a lighting upgrade doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few ways to reduce your school’s energy bill through lighting:

Occupancy Sensors

Schools and universities are a niche where occupancy-based lighting controls can drastically cut down on the energy costs of a lighting system.

Occupancy Sensor

Most building codes now mandate occupancy sensors that turn off all non-emergency lighting when a room is empty. Occupancy sensors can be programmed to turn off the lights after a time delay of 15 or 30 minutes of non-use (the delay period can also be adjusted to maximize energy savings). (Jim Messner, 2017)

In fact, occupancy sensors are the single most-effective energy-saving upgrade for restrooms. Since restrooms are typically vacant more than they are in use, using an occupancy sensor to shut off the lights during vacant hours can yield an outstanding payback. Similarly, occupancy-based lighting controls can be installed in hallways and stairwells, which see highly-intermittent traffic throughout the day, and where constant lighting is unnecessary and wasteful.

A key study, developed for the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), found that installing occupancy sensors in public restrooms yielded energy savings of 73-86%; additionally, the Department of Interior states that occupancy sensors reduce energy usage up to 46% in classrooms, and according to a UC Davis study, occupancy-based lighting controls in corridors can reduce lighting power during unoccupied periods by 46-65% while automatically restoring full light output when occupants enter the space.

Blending Natural Light with Artificial Light

Taking advantage of the natural light produced by the sun is the next step to improving lighting and reducing energy costs in your school. Studies have shown that natural light provides a wide variety of benefits in an educational environment, including improved focus, boosted productivity, and better student health.

A study carried out by the Heschong Mahone Group—a consultancy firm in the energy efficiency industry—found that students scored a staggering 25 percent better on standardized tests in a naturally-lit environment than they did under artificial light.

Students at Hood River Middle School enjoy passively daylit classrooms

On top of improving educational achievement and learning skills, being exposed to natural light improves overall health. A study found that students who studied under in naturally-lit classrooms were happier, healthier, and less likely to be absent due to illness. Surprisingly, the same study revealed that students who studied in artificially-lit environments had lower rates of educational achievement, increased fatigue, higher rates of absenteeism, and higher levels of stress.

Of course, natural light isn’t always available. At night, on cloudy days, or short winter afternoons, schools need to be able to augment and increase light through artificial sources. Luckily, advances in lighting control systems and lighting fixtures have made artificial lighting more affordable and efficient. A common practice that has begun finding its way into more schools is daylight harvesting—or varying the amount of artificial light produced based on the amount of natural light that is available.

Daylight harvesting works by placing sensors in around a classroom that measure the amount of natural light and automatically adjust the lights to meet the desired light levels. As more natural light floods the classroom, the artificial lights get dimmer to maintain a consistent light level. If a cloud passes overhead, the lights in the room automatically increase their output to again maintain consistent light levels.

Often times, the brightening or dimming of the lights is so subtle that teachers and students rarely notice. School administrators will notice, however, when they see the savings on their electric bill.

Brief History of Natural Light in Schools

Back in the 1970s, it was believed windows were an opportunity for distraction among students. Architects would scale down school windows in an effort to curb these distractions off the simple—and completely incorrect—idea that big windows would cause students to look out into the environment instead of focusing on schoolwork.

Jumping ahead to present day, many of those architects have adopted the opposite approach—with a far better result. Rather than distracting students, natural lighting can actually help students focus and become far less distracted. (Jim Messner, 2017)

LED vs Fluorescent

Switching from fluorescent light fixtures to LED light fixtures is another way for schools to save money on their electric bill. On average, the operational lifespan of new LEDs is 50,000-100,000 hours or more. By comparison, the lifespan of a typical fluorescent bulb is 10 to 25 percent as long, at best (roughly 10,000-25,000 hours). In addition to longer lifespans, LED light fixtures are up to 15 percent more efficient than their fluorescent counterparts.

Although LEDs have a higher cost than fluorescent lights, the price of LEDs has dropped more than 85% in recent years. To further offset the cost, most utility companies offer rebates that cover nearly 50 percent of the fixture cost to help incentivize the use of LEDs. Between the rebates offered by utility companies and the decreased operational and maintenance costs, an LED lighting system in your school can have a payback in as little as three years.

LED fixtures also have the benefit of being dimmable right out of the box. This is an improvement of fluorescent fixtures which require expensive dimming ballasts. Dimming is another energy saver for schools, in terms of daylight harvesting as previously described and manually dimming when teachers need to dim the lights to use a whiteboard, projector, or other AV device. Providing a manual dimming system allows teachers to tune the lighting to meet the needs of a specific activity or to create a mood within the classroom. (Jim Messner, 2017)

Lighting Control Systems

Lighting control enhancements were hard to justify in the past. Contractors or building owners would need to visit each room and make adjustments at each sensor to adjust the time delay for an occupancy or daylight sensor. This process made it difficult to verify that each sensor had the correct adjustment.

Lighting ControlsSince then, lighting control systems have improved by integrating them into a networked lighting control system which feeds data to a central processor regarding the electrical usage of light fixtures for the entire school. Facility managers can receive real-time updates on energy savings and electricity usage instead of having to wait for a monthly electric bill or having to wait a full calendar year to benchmark results.

System-wide changes become easier, as well; instead of a technician manually resetting every single switch in the entire school, the settings for occupancy and daylight sensors can be adjusted from the central processor, saving time and money.

How Can I Get Started?

If your school is interested in installing a new lighting system, lighting controls, and/or lighting sensors, the first step in the process is to conduct an audit of your facilities. An audit should be carried out by a lighting professional; the lighting company will gather your district's energy consumption data, evaluate which solutions are the best fit for your school(s), and then present the findings to your administration's decision-makers to obtain their support.

Energy Performance Lighting provides investment-grade audits using a comprehensive assessment with room-by-room exact pricing of exterior and interior lighting. Once the assessment is complete, EPL develops lighting upgrade options in a “Good, Better, Best" format with varying savings, price points, and payback windows. In addition, EPL offers budget development at no cost to school districts. We calculate within 10% of the project’s total cost and payments can be broken up into annual plans.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to improve the environment for your students and teachers, a lighting upgrade may be the solution. For more information, or to schedule on audit, contact the Lighting Certified specialists at Energy Performance Lighting by email or phone at (608) 661-5555, or you can click here to schedule a lighting service. Complete our simple assessment form and an EPL team member will contact you within 24 hours to discuss solutions for your building(s).



(This blog was adapted from School Lighting Design: Systems, Sensors, and Controls, 2017)

What's CRI?

Have you ever noticed that objects look different under artificial lighting than they do under natural lighting? This effect on our perception can cause us to make hasty judgements, like "eating with our eyes," or cause us to make mistakes, like matching black socks with navy ones. Whether we appreciate it or not, the traits of a light source can have a significant effect on our daily lives.

Consider when you go shopping for light bulbs; what are some products facts you typically look for on the lighting label? The brightness and lumens output, the estimated annual energy cost, the light’s color temperature (either warm or cool), and of course the bulb’s life expectancy. Now it’s time to add another trait to the list: the bulb’s CRI.

What is CRI?

CRI stands for color rending index measures and compares (on a scale of 0 to 100) the ability of a light source to accurately reproduce the color of an object under artificial light. An LED bulb that perfectly replicates the sun has a CRI of 100, allowing objects to appear clearly, and naturally, and colors to appear truer across a wide spectrum. Surprisingly, halogen and incandescent bulbs, despite their awful energy efficiency, produce a full, natural and excellent light spectrum with a CRI of 100.

Understanding the CRI value of a light bulb is easy: the higher the bulb’s CRI, the more vibrant the colors will appear. The lower the CRI, the duller the colors will appear. A light bulb with a CRI rating of 80 or more is good for most applications, and a bulb with a CRI of 90 or more is considered excellent. Bulbs with a CRI of 80 and below are generally considered poor and cause colors to appear washed out and harder to differentiate.

Be aware that a light’s color rending index is a separate measurement from its color temperature (or “CCT”—correlated color temperature—in fluorescent lights and LEDs). Color temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000.

How Color Works

Natural daylight is the combination of all the colors in the visible light spectrum. The color of sunlight itself is white, but the color of an object under the sun is determined by the color reflected by the object.

For example, an apple appears red because it absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum except for red, which it reflects. When using an artificial light source, such as an LED lamp, we’re attempting to reproduce the colors of natural daylight in such a way that objects appear the same as they would under natural light. In some cases, the reproduced color will appear similar, and other times it appears quite different. The similarity of the color reproduced compared to the color under natural light is what CRI measures.

Natural Light vs Artificial Light CRI

As illustrated in the example above, our artificial light source (an LED lamp with 5000K CCT) does not produce the same redness in an apple as natural daylight (also 5000K CCT). This is due to the LED lamp having a different spectral composition than natural daylight, even though both light sources are the same 5000K white color. In particular, the LED lamp is lacking in red, so when the artificial light bounces off the apple, there is no red light to reflect.

As a result, the apple no longer has the same vibrant red appearance it had under natural daylight. CRI attempts to characterize this phenomenon by measuring the general accuracy of a variety of objects’ colors under a light source.

Natural Light vs Artificial Light CRI 02

Industries Where CRI Is Important

As previously mentioned, for the majority of indoor and commercial applications, the general baseline for acceptable color rending is 80 CRI and above. In industries where color appearance can have an effect on the work completed, or can contribute to improve aesthetics, 90 CRI and above is recommended.

Organizations where 90 CRI may be needed for professional reasons include hospitals, dentist offices, printing facilities, textile factories or paint shops. Areas where improved aesthetics could be important include high-end hotels, retail and grocery stores, residences, and photography studios.

CRI might not be important if you’re lighting a parking ramp, warehouse facility, or in an application where you don’t particularly care if the objects you’re viewing are in B&W or in color.

Questions About Lighting? Give EPL a Call

The team at Energy Performance Lighting understands the color rendering index and can answer any questions to help you make the best decision for your lighting needs. Give us a call at 608-661-5555 or send us a message – we’re more than happy to help! 

Common Issues with Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lights (also known as High Intensity Discharge, HID, or arc light) are a specific type of gas-charged luminaire that produce light through a chemical reaction that involves gases and mercury vapor interacting to produce UV light inside of a glass tube. The UV light illuminates a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass tube, emitting a white “fluorescent” light.

Using Fluorescent Lighting

In the past, fluorescent lights required a “warm up” period in-order to evaporate the gases into plasma. Several near-instantaneous starting technologies have since been developed, including “quick start,” “instant start,” and “rapid start.”

As fluorescent lights heat up, more voltage is required for them to operate. The voltage requirement is controlled by a ballast—a magnetic device that regulates voltage, current, etc.—which is necessary for a fluorescent bulb to light. As a fluorescent light ages, and becomes less and less efficient over time, it requires more and more voltage to produce the same amount of light, until the voltage eventually exceeds the capability of the ballast and the light fails.

Fluorescent Tubes vs Compact Fluorescents

The primary difference between the two is size and application. Most CFLs come in special shapes that allow them to fit in standard household light sockets. Linear fluorescent tubes also require an independent ballast that is separate from the bulb, whereas most compact fluorescent light bulbs have an integral ballast built into the base.

Both linear and compact fluorescent bulbs produce artificial light using the same technology. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) still use tubes but, as the name implies, are much smaller than linear fluorescent tubes. CLFs were designed to replace standard applications for incandescent bulbs, and are simply enhancements to linear fluorescent technology, by having a longer lifespan and being more efficient.

Drawbacks of Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lighting has been around over 100 years and remains an inexpensive option for retrofitting old light fixtures. Fluorescents are typically a highly-efficient way to provide lighting over a large area, and are more efficient, and last longer than incandescent bulbs; however, it still has its drawbacks.

1. Fluorescent lamps contain toxic materials. The mercury, as well as the phosphorus, inside fluorescent bulbs is hazardous. If a fluorescent lamp is broken, a very small amount of toxic mercury can be released as a gas and contaminate the surrounding environment. The rest is contained in the phosphor on the glass itself, which is often considered a greater hazard than the spilled mercury.

When cleaning a fluorescent tube break, the EPA recommends airing out the location of the break and using wet paper towels to pick up the broken glass and other fine particles. Disposed glass and used towels should be placed in a sealed plastic bag. Avoid using vacuum cleaners as they can cause the particles to become airborne.

2. Frequent switching results in early failure. Fluorescent lamps age significantly if they’re installed in an area where they are frequently turned on and off. Extreme conditions can cause the lifespan of a fluorescent lamp to be much shorter than that of a cheap incandescent. Be that as it may, the life of a fluorescent lamp can be extended if left on continuously for long periods of time.

The aspect of early failure rates is something to consider if you are using fluorescent lights in conjunction with lighting controls, like motion sensors, that will activate frequently and time out.

3. Light from fluorescent bulbs in omnidirectional. Light that comes from fluorescent bulbs is omnidirectional. When a fluorescent bulb is lit, it scatters light in every direction, or 360 degrees around the bulb. This is grossly inefficient because only about 60-70% of the light given off by the lamp is being used and the rest is wasted. Certain areas tend to become overlit from the wasted light, especially in office buildings, and may require additional accessories in the light fixture itself in order to properly direct the output of the bulb.

4. Fluorescent lights emit trace amounts of ultraviolet light. In a 1993 study, researchers found that UV exposure from sitting under fluorescent lights for eight hours is equivalent to one minute of sun exposure. Health problems relating to light sensitivity may become aggravated by the artificial light in sensitive individuals.

Ultraviolet light can also affect valuable artwork like watercolors and textiles. Artwork must be protected by the use of additional glass or transparent acrylic sheets placed between the source of light and the painting.

5. Older fluorescents suffer brief warm-up period. You typically have to wait anywhere between 10-30 seconds for older fluorescents to reach their full brightness. Many newer models now utilize “rapid” start or similar technology, like that mentioned above.

6. Ballast or Buzz. Magnetic ballasts are required to operate fluorescent lights. Electromagnetic ballasts with a minor flaw can produce an audible humming or buzzing noise, however, the hum can be eliminated by using lamps with high-frequency ballasts.

7. Environmental impact and cost of recycling. As mentioned earlier, disposing of the phosphor, and more importantly, the toxic mercury in fluorescent lamps is an environmental issue. Regulations imposed by the government require special disposal of fluorescent lamps separate from general and household waste.

Most of the time, the energy savings outweigh the cost of recycling, but recycling remains an additional expense to ensure the bulbs are properly disposed of.  In some cases, if the disposal of lamps is too expensive, people are no longer encouraged to recycle them.

If you have questions or would like additional information on whether fluorescent lighting is right for your business, call our office at 1-608-661-5555 to speak with Lighting Certified expert at Energy Performance Lighting.

Using Light to Treat Seasonal Depression

December 21st marked the return of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Here in Madison, Wisconsin, we got just nine hours of daylight. Some of the northern-most US cities, like Barrow, Alaska, didn’t get any. As the days get shorter, the lack of sunlight can trigger changes in our body and disrupt some of the brain’s daily chemical functions.

These changes cause some to experience the “winter blues.” At times, even the most-optimistic personality can be diminished by cold, dreary, endlessly stale and gray days. For many people, however, the winter months can cause them to experience feelings of depression, lethargy, and irritability—all of which usually improve once spring arrives.

This is what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). It’s more serious than the typical “winter blues,” and is more common than most people think. Those with SAD can get bogged down and lose steam as the days become short-lived and the nights get longer. Although the winter solstice marks a seasonal turning point, for those with seasonal affective disorder, it’s just another day of feeling blue.

In this blog, we’ll go more in-depth as to what Seasonal Affective Disorder is, and explore how you can manage its symptoms using light therapy, so you can experience a greater sense of well-being and stay positive during the winter months.

What is SAD?

“Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a sub-type of depression that is linked to the change in seasons,” as defined by Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of SAD include: feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, social withdrawal, the inability to concentrate, less energy, loss of interest in work and other activities, uncontrollable urges to eat sugary and high-carb foods and the accompanied weight gain. Although these symptoms typically fade with the arrival of spring, SAD can leave you overweight, out-of-shape, and with strains on relationships and employment.

Although anyone can be affected by SAD, a study by American Family Physician found that women are four times more likely than men to experience the disorder, and a separate report found SAD is more prevalent in those who are younger, those who live further from the equator, and those with a family history of depression and/or bipolar disorder.

Researchers are still unclear about the exact causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but many experts agree that the condition is linked to the reduced hours of sunlight in winter months, and the lack of sunlight preventing the hypothalamus (that part of the brain that controls circadian rhythm) from performing properly. As a result, chemicals produced by the brain that affect mood- and sleep-related hormones, like melatonin and serotonin, are inconsistent.

These changes in our environment cause the brain to overproduce the hormone melatonin in-response to less sunlight and extended periods of darkness, causing sleepiness. In addition, in those who experience SAD, serotonin is quickly swept away from the space in-between neurons, caused by excess levels of transporter proteins, moving the chemical back in the presynaptic neuron, which can lead to depression.

Some find that taking an antidepressant medication helps relieve the symptoms; however a unique approach to fighting seasonal depression is the use of light therapy.

Using Light Therapy for Treatment of SAD

One of the most-effective ways to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder is Bright Light Therapy. It’s based on the idea that if the lack of sunlight contributes to SAD than getting the appropriate dose of light may reverse its symptoms. The practice involves exposure to high levels of intense light, emitted by a special “light box,” for 30-minutes a day, typically as soon after waking up as possible. These light boxes produce 10,000 “lux” (a measure of light intensity), which is about 20 times brighter than typical indoor lighting.

Bright light therapy works by stimulating intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) in the eye that connect to and activate the hypothalamus. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day controls the release of hormones like melatonin and cortisol, restoring a normal circadian rhythm, and thus dismissing seasonal symptoms. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that lamps with a dosage of 10,000 lux can effectively treat SAD after one week of use.

Although it’s considered to be as effective in treating seasonal affective disorder as antidepressants, light therapy may not work, or be an appropriate method, for everyone. Some may require additional, or brighter, light. Others may not be able to tolerate bright light; for those with bipolar disorder, bright light can trigger hypomania or mania; be sure to consult with your doctor before trying light therapy.

Researchers are currently looking for ways to improve and increase the effectiveness of light therapy. One method currently being investigated is “Dawn Simulation,” where a lamp, controlled by a computerized timer, simulates a natural sunrise by gradually increasing in light intensity from darkness to 300 lux. Another method is “Negative Ion Therapy” that uses a special electronic device to deliver negatively-charged particles, similar to those created naturally by the sun, wind, and moving water.

Getting the Most Out of Light Therapy

The following tips have been adapted from Dr. Merlynn Wei’s advice to getting the most of and increasing Bright Light Therapy’s effectiveness:

1. Make sure your light box is 10,000 lux.

You’re trying to mimic the full spectrum of light found in natural sunlight, so using a normal light won’t suffice. Use a light box made for Bright Light Therapy or “phototherapy.” Your light box should emit 10,000 lux, which is 20 times stronger than typical indoor lighting. Using a lamp with few lux units may require you to use it for longer periods of time to achieve similar benefits.

2. Use light boxes that provide the full spectrum of white light and avoid ultraviolet rays.

To best mimic natural daylight, you’ll want a light box that utilities the full spectrum of white (or visible) light, and filters out 99% of UV rays, which are harmful to your body.

3. Position the box at eye level or higher.

The position and distance of your light box relative to your eyes makes a difference. For the best results, your light box should mimic being outdoors.

4. Position the light box about two feet away from your eyes.

If you have a traditional 10,000 lux light box, it is recommended practice to sit about two feet away from the box to avoid any possible retinal damage. Having a weaker light box means you will need to sit closer to it to produce the desired effects.

5. Keep the box at an angle to the right or left.

Avoid positioning your light box directly in front of your eyes. Instead, put it about 45 degrees to the right or left of your eyes (about 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock, respectively).

6. Use your light box for 20 to 60 minutes in the morning.

This will depend on your individual needs, but recommended practice is to start with 20 to 30 minutes of using the light box every morning to see if it improves mood and energy. If it isn’t making a difference, try using your light box for longer periods of time, up to 60 minutes each morning. Users of light boxes like to employ bright light therapy into their morning routine, and multitask while they have their morning coffee and breakfast, check their emails, etc.

7. Use the light box daily from early fall through winter.

Consistency is important in bright light therapy. Using your light box daily is more-likely to boost your mood and energy levels. If you’re prone to getting the “winter blues,” start using your light box every morning in the early fall. Using your light box later in the year, or only using your light box a few times per week, can reduce its effectiveness.

8. Avoid light therapy if you take medications that are photosensitive.

Photosensitive medications include lithium, melatonin, certain antibiotics, and some acne medications like Accutane. These meds make your skin sensitive to light, which can lead to skin changes that appear similar to a sunburn or rash.

9. Monitor your mood to see if it’s working.

Most people begin to notice more energy and an improved mood within one to two weeks when used daily. Others notice a more immediate response to light therapy. If you’re looking to try Bright Light Therapy, please talk to your doctor first. As mentioned earlier, some people may have a bad reaction to the bright light in the first few days, including suicidal thoughts or hypomania.

10. Combine light therapy with other effective approaches for seasonal depression.

Bright light therapy is considerably effective when combined with other approaches to treating seasonal depression. This study found that cognitive therapy twice a week for six weeks was just as effective as 30 minutes of bright light therapy every morning.

As our understanding of light spectrums and how they influence our physiology expand, our methods and technology continue to branch out in niches that help us learn and improve our daily lives. Although there is no substitute for sunlight or being outdoors, practicing bright light therapy can lift our spirits when we can’t be in the sun.

7 Ways A Lighting Upgrade Will Benefit Your School

Lighting plays an important role in schools in many different ways. It can directly affect how well students see and learn; it’s also a significant consumer of a district’s energy.

As a school leader, you have the opportunity to create a true learning environment through lighting that improves productivity, engagement levels, and focus in the classroom.

Since schools are ranked—and often financially penalized or rewarded—depending on academic performance and graduation rates, money saved through the installation of a new lighting system is also money available for initiatives that have a direct impact on student performance.

Still looking for reasons to justify a lighting upgrade for your school (or district)?

Here are seven reasons you should get started:

1. Better Light Quality & Output

Many students already have visual problems—i.e. focusing, eye tracking, visual acuity, perception, etc. A lighting upgrade will aid students in properly seeing all areas of the classroom (and the rest of the school). Additionally, an upgrade using LED lighting can effectively reduce glare and flicker, which not only have a negative impact on students, but on teachers as well.

Fluorescent lighting, the type of lighting most-commonly used in schools, has been shown to bother students with autism. Those with autism are sensitive to the subtle flicker of direct fluorescent lighting, causing headaches, eyestrain, and increased repetitive behavior.

This is another case where an LED lighting upgrade would be a benefit since LEDs do not flicker when fully dimmed. This makes them a great option for special education classrooms.

2. Healthier Circadian Rhythm

When discussing the benefits of a lighting upgrade, another important topic is circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is an internal, biological clock that helps our bodies determine when to wake up, when to go to sleep, and even when to concentrate and when to relax.

If your school uses a lighting system that doesn’t align with our natural circadian rhythm, the sleep-wake cycle of both students and staff can get disrupted. This can have a negative affect on the ability to concentrate and may result in additional tardies and absences.

On average, students today already sleep approximately two hours less than they did in the past. This is due to reduced exposure to natural daylighting, and other factors, like using electronic devices before bedtime. Both of which influence our circadian rhythm. This pattern of disruption in sleep can potentially lead to behavioral issues, and one study suggests that “in 50 to 80 percent of cases for ADHD, the most-likely factor for the findings is sleep deprivation resulting from disruption of the biological clock and circadian rhythm.”

It goes without saying: students who don’t get enough sleep are not able to perform to their full potential in the classroom.

3. Improvements in Mood and Behavior

Utilizing your lighting system properly can increase focus, aid in concentration and relaxation, and improve the overall mood and behavior in students. Color temperature, for example, can play a huge role in the health of students.

Cooler (or bluer) color temperatures (4100K-5000K) in the morning can help students wake up and become more alert, helping with their mental cognition and their ability to learn and comprehend material.

A study completed by the Universities of Mississippi and Texas, respectively, shows that cool color temperatures can improve the behavior of students who are hyperactive or have learning disabilities.

Light levels, like color temperature, are very important in the classroom. Various types of depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or “the winter blues,” which is very common in school and office environments, can be treated with bright light. Spending too much time in a dimly-lit room can negatively affect a person’s mood, and cause them to feel depressed. Bright lighting is so useful for treating depression because it helps encourage bright and upbeat moods.

This study, carried out at two schools in Germany, investigated the effects of light on student performance. The research found that students working under artificial LED lighting designed to simulate daylight showed improved concentration and classroom performance, with some students even reporting being able to tell the difference in their mood and concentration.

4. Better Test Scores

There is also growing evidence that LED lighting itself may improve academic performance.

A 2016 study investigated the effects of light on two classrooms of students taking math tests; one classroom was equipped with standard fluorescent lighting, and the other classroom had LED lights that were fitted with an artificial “daylighting” option that mimics natural daylight, similar to the one mentioned previously.

The result: students were more alert and scored significantly higher on tests in the classroom outfitted with simulated daylight-like lighting.

Similar studies have conclusively shown that proper LED lighting can improve concentration, reading speed and comprehension, lower errors rates, and boost productivity.

5. Tunable Lighting & Lighting Controls


The Department of Energy describes the next-generation integrated classroom lighting system as “a highly energy efficient, fully-dimmable, tunable white-lighting system,” noting that classroom lighting must be flexible and easy to use to accommodate different teaching methods, how students of all ages learn, and visitors/substitute teachers.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of classrooms in the U.S. only have on/off controls, and even simple dimming is available in less than 2 percent of classrooms.

A tunable lighting system can provide teachers with an additional tool in the classroom, by offering tunable color temperature, which helps gain the attention of students, promote relaxation or cool down time after recess, and provide the right lighting levels for specific tasks—i.e. direct instruction with white boards or smart boards, note taking during presentations, and computer work.

Dimming can save money, too. Many LED light fixtures feature “daylight harvesting” which automatically respond to ambient light levels to further reduce energy costs.

6. Save Money (and the Planet)

This is usually the first argument for a lighting upgrade in any facility. Energy costs are the second largest operational expense for school districts and lighting accounts for as much as 30 to 50 percent of those costs.

Additionally, many schools throughout the U.S. that still use fluorescent, or even incandescent, spend more money trying to compensate for the heat generated from their outdated fixtures than the fixture itself. A lighting upgrade could potentially cut energy used for lighting by half – in some cases up to 70% -- and another 10 to 20 percent for cooling, further reducing energy costs!

LEDs are the best “bang-for-your-buck” in terms of a lighting upgrade. You won’t have to worry about replacing yours for years or possibly decades to come. LEDs in-particular have a lifespan of approximately 100,000 hours (or up to 20 years), several times longer than the 10,000-hour operational life of fluorescents. LEDs are also built for durability and require little, if any, maintenance.

With the price of LEDs dropping more than 85% in recent years, making the switch is easier and more cost-effective than ever, and also provides a much shorter payback period—in some cases payback occurs in as little as three years!

7. Prepping for the Future: Smart Lighting

Today’s advanced LED light fixtures can create entire “smart schools” with embedded sensors, intelligence, and networking capabilities. The development of smart lighting solutions will continue in the coming years based on increased connectivity and internet of things (IoT) solutions becoming a key element in areas around the globe.

The opportunities available to schools with the installation of smart lighting solutions go far beyond energy and maintenance savings.

Modern smart lighting products can help schools and universities in monitoring their environment, to increase student and staff safety or to upgrade connectivity as “LiFi” hotspots.

How to Start Your Upgrade

If your school is looking to install new lighting, consider the following:

  • Conduct an Audit. This should be done by a lighting professional; the outside party will gather your district’s energy consumption data, evaluate the best solution, and then present to your administration’s decision-makers to obtain their support.

Energy Performance Lighting provides investment-grade audits using a comprehensive assessment with room-by-room exact pricing of exterior and interior lighting. Once the assessment is complete, EPL develops lighting upgrade options in a “Good, Better, Best” format with varying savings and price points.

  • Organize a Mock Up. Once you have your administration’s support, mock-up an area of the school where the new lighting will be installed so students, teachers, and staff can visualize the changes.
  • Utilize Rebates. Inquire about rebates from your lighting professional. Your utility provider may offer incentives for lighting upgrades. Rebates may also be available at the state or federal level, which can speed up the project’s payback period.
  • Funding. This is often times the most-challenging aspect of any school improvement project. If funding is not available in your budget, consider breaking the project into annual phases. Cooperative purchasing and financing are other options to get your project in-motion.

EPL offers a budget development at no cost to school districts. We calculate within 10% of the project’s total cost and payment can be broken up into annual plans.

  • Installation. Determine when the lighting upgrade when take place (weeknights, weekends, over summer break, etc.) and if an outside party or your maintenance team will handle installation. Using a professional to install your lighting frees up your staff to handle other maintenance issues throughout the district.

Energy Performance Lighting performs all installs with in-house electricians; we do not use any third-party sub-contractors. We also provide controlled construction timelines, as needed.

In Conclusion

Schools looking for options that reduce operational costs, improve student performance, and create better performing learning centers should consider an LED lighting upgrade or lighting retrofits. The LED market is more consumer-friendly than ever, and is now the standard in commercial and industrial applications, including educational facilities. LEDs provide better and safer performance, increased energy efficiency, and a longer operating life.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the environment for your students and teachers, a lighting upgrade may be the solution. For more information, or to schedule on audit, contact the Lighting Certified specialists at Energy Performance Lighting by email or phone at (608) 661-5555. 


How Will Tariffs Affect Your Lighting Project in 2019?

Tariffs have been a growing concern for importers in the United States since President Trump’s first two rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods earlier in 2018. For those unaware, you can essentially summarize a tariff as a tax on imported or exported goods between nations.

Overview of U.S.-China Trade War

Within the first few months of 2018, the Trump Administration enacted tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines, steel, and aluminum. By July 6th of 2018, the U.S. began implementing the first China-specific tariffs as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began collecting a 25% tax on imported Chinese goods valued at $34 billion. Shortly after, on September 24th, 2018, the United States implemented a second round of tariffs at an initial rate of 10%—which will later increase to 25% by January 1st, 2019—on an additional $200 billion worth of goods, including: semiconductors, consumer products, textiles, food and agriculture products, commercial electronic equipment and more. The additional tariffs are on top of penalties enacted earlier this year on $50 billion worth of goods, which are estimated to impact nearly 50% of the products that China sells to the United States every year.

The key goal of the Administration’s trade war with China is to reduce the US’s trade deficit with China and offset China’s weak intellectual property protections. The hope is that putting tariffs on key imports like steel and aluminum will lower U.S. demand for Chinese goods and help to stimulate domestic manufacturing. Another objective of the trade war is to undermine the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, which aims to make the Chinese the global leaders in advanced technology. The Administration’s hope is that the tariffs will provide U.S. manufacturers of advanced technologies a continued competitive advantage over the Chinese.

Some U.S. companies like Cree, who manufacture semiconductor technologies like light emitting diodes (LEDs) and power semiconductors, have denounced the effect of the tariffs on its business. Cree claims Trump’s trade war with China will only diminish their competitive edge and provide their Chinese competitors with an opportunity to surpass U.S. innovation. Greg Merritt—VP of Marketing and Public Affairs for Cree—insists that the tariffs will bring adverse effects, including: slowing Cree’s R&D, raising the cost of Cree products, and allowing China to gain on the company’s technological advancements.

How Will the Tariffs Impact the Lighting Industry?

Some claim the new tariffs will contribute to the reshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs, but many manufacturing and engineering companies are already suffering from the new laws. A large number of manufacturers in the US have already announced price increases due to the tariffs on components or lighting imported from China. These manufacturers will have two options if the trade war continues to escalate: adopt a new approach in their manufacturing process in-order to curb pricing or engage the supply chain to source cheaper parts and materials. For lighting companies, the biggest impact will be the taxes implemented on steel and aluminum, which most-certainly affect imported items such as LED fixtures, lamps, and lighting components.

The current tariff list includes:

In Conclusion

The additional costs will likely have a direct impact on the cost of any lighting upgrade project and may potentially increase the longer you wait. If you're looking for strategies on counteracting the addtional costs prompted by the new tariffs, contact the lighting experts at Energy Performance Lighting by phone at (608) 661-5555 or email us at The trade war may seem inescapable in the short term, and may result in damage on both sides, but that won't prevent the folks at EPL from preparing in-advance and developing a plan to minimize losses.

Guide to Energy Efficient Lighting Incentives and Rebates

The staff at Energy Performance Lighting can provide a laundry list of benefits for an energy efficient lighting system, but when contemplating a lighting retrofit project, typically the first thing that comes to mind is project cost. Expenses for lighting retrofits can vary wildly depending on the size and scope of work for the project; however, on top of appreciating the huge energy savings you’ll experience after making the switch, you’ll be happy to learn that there’s even more money you can save by taking advantage of energy efficient lighting rebates and energy efficient grants.

Many of the products used by EPL are eligible for rebates from utility companies, including basic LED lighting rebates and government rebates for commercial LED lighting. The best part is that it’s just as good as it sounds – your utility company wants to give you money to save electricity, and we want to help you as much as we can in that process.

Rebates for Upgrading to Energy Efficient Lighting

Curious if your project qualifies for a rebate? There are many factors that can depend on. The first step is to talk with your local electric utility company to see what they can offer for your lighting retrofit or other energy efficient project. The rebates they provide can influence your purchasing decisions, so it’s important to know early in the process what kind of savings are available to you. One added bonus, is utilities’ incentive programs are somewhat insulated from politics and are less likely to change with an election.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency is an online resource with comprehensive information on incentives and policies that support energy efficient upgrades in the United States.

Some of the lighting certifications that often qualify for rebates are Design Light Consortium (DLC) and Energy Star products. Purchasing products with those certifications should be seen as a great first step, and can help you get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is a good way to access even more lighting rebate programs in the future.

Energy Star, which is a government program managed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, also offers a Rebate Finder that allows you to search for incentives by zip code and product type. As an additional resource, the U.S. Department of Energy maintains a list of tax credits, rebates, and other savings available for a variety of green technologies, including an extensive list for LED lighting projects.

If the rebate process has you confused, don’t worry. The Energy Performance Lighting team of certified lighting efficiency professionals is available to provide advice on your rebate over the phone from 8AM-4PM CST, Monday-Friday at 1-608-661-5555. Or, feel free to tell us about your lighting project via email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

In the meantime, feel free to review more information about the different types of energy efficient lighting rebates currently available on the market.

What is a Prescriptive Lighting Rebate?

Prescriptive rebates help businesses reduce their payback period by offering a predetermined dollar amount for a specific type of fixture that you’re planning to install from the utility company. The great thing about a prescriptive lighting rebate is that it has wider availability. This type of rebate is very explicit, straightforward, and is easy to apply for. On top of fixture incentives, some prescriptive lighting programs will offer labor incentives as well. When use together, these rebates can save your organization a ton of money, boosting the project’s ROI. Some refer to prescriptive lighting rebates as “instant rebates,” however, incentives are paid out based on the parameters relating to the item sold, and are typically not claimed instantly.

What is a Custom Lighting Rebate?

Custom lighting rebate programs offer incentives for lighting projects which do not meet the requirements of existing instant or prescriptive rebate programs. In essence, you are proposing your own specific rebate to an electric company. This can be especially true for large projects with many various types of light fixtures and that doesn’t fit any current rebate on the market.

In the scenario, you will want to submit a proposal and have an auditor from the electric utility visit your facility to assess the energy savings. Once you have your energy efficient lighting system installed, the auditor will return for a final inspection before approving the funds earned in the rebate. The good thing about custom lighting rebates is that they offer more profitable incentives on the same application, but the bad thing is that there is typically a lot of complexities to sort through to get the larger incentives for your project.

Reasons to Invest in Energy Efficient Lighting

Energy efficiency is one of the best investments any business can make because it’s the easiest way to affect your bottom-line without the trouble of having to increase top-line operation costs. Slashing energy use by 20% is equivalent to boosting your bottom line by 5%. According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), for every dollar invested in energy efficient measures yields up to $4 in benefits over the life of the project.

Lighting retrofits can reduce your environmental impact as technological advances continue to improve the energy efficiency of many building systems by as much as 30%-60%. This results in lower utility bills and a reduced carbon footprint—often without sacrificing quality or comfort. Using less energy reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide, air-borne mercury, and other harmful pollutants released from power plants which burn less fossil fuels to meet the lower energy demand.

Keep pace with your competition—if your peers are going green, why aren’t you? More than 100 leading industrial firms, from 3M to Whirlpool, have committed to reduce their energy intensity by 25% over the next decade, because they know it’s the best way to save money, reduce risk, and maintain their competitive edge, even in the most challenging economic environments.

Energy efficient lighting can also increase the productivity of your employees. People prefer working in energy-efficient buildings because they’re designed to provide fresh air, daylight, and a great sense of control over their environment. A Cornell University study shows productivity increases by 3%-5% and sick days decrease by 20%-25% when the proper lighting programs are implemented. Even the smallest improvements in employee health and productivity can have a substantial financial impact, potentially much larger than the operational energy savings from lighting retrofits.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, we’re able to see that there are multiple types of rebates and incentives available for lighting retrofit projects. Finding the right rebate for your project is critical to ensuring a proper ROI. To learn more about what a lighting retrofit project might look for your company, please reach out to us at Energy Performance Lighting by phone at 1-608-661-5555, visiting our website, or click here to email us. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you save money with energy efficient lighting!


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