Commercial HVAC Equipment

How a simple upgrade to LED lighting benefits K-12 schools in extraordinary ways

Friday, March 9 2018 9:52 AM
By Jon Goering

 On average, US schools are more than 40 years old, which presents many opportunities for LED lighting upgrades.

Lighting plays a critical role in K-12 schools in many different ways.

It directly affects how well students see and learn, and it accounts for a huge portion of a district’s energy expenses.

As a school leader, if you choose to ignore the state of your district’s lighting system, you run the risk of putting students, teachers, and staff at a disadvantage.

In this post, we’ll look at how lighting affects schools from the standpoints of energy, health, and costs, and we’ll discuss what choices you have to make improvements to your lighting systems.

The Impact of Lighting in K-12 Schools

Considering the average public school in the U.S. was built more than 40 years ago, numerous opportunities exist for lighting upgrades. One way is by replacing T12 fluorescent bulbs with T8 LED lighting, which can reduce energy use by 35 percent for lighting and 10 to 20 percent for cooling (due to less heat being produced by lighting).

This is significant because industry experts estimate that lighting accounts for 30 to 40 percent of a school’s energy use, with the other notable energy consumer being heating and cooling systems (other figures put lighting use as high as 50 percent).

Click here for the EPA guide ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAMS IN K-12

Another reason for replacing outdated lighting is safety.

Studies have shown that the ballasts used in magnetic T12 fluorescent lighting contain contaminants such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) – a carcinogen –  that negatively effect human health. Leaks, ruptures, even normal use can emit PCBs into the airstream. 

Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and other gases that can be harmful, especially when a bulb breaks. Also, fluorescents produce UV radiation, which can damage skin and eye tissue.

Aside from energy savings and health concerns, the quality of fluorescents lighting plays a role in K-12 schools. Color temperatures, glare, and flickering in outdated lighting adversely impact student and teacher performance. Circadian rhythms are disrupted and moods, behaviors, and the ability to concentrate decline. 

It’s also possible your school district has more lighting issues than the maintenance staff can address, due to their other responsibilities. Burned out or flickering lights don’t get replaced in a timely manner, or bad and good bulbs get replaced simultaneously for the sake of efficiency, which amounts to waste.  

How to Upgrade to LED Lighting in K-12 Schools

With school budgets tighter than ever and operating costs only increasing, one of the easiest ways to save your district money is by upgrading to LED lighting.

LEDs are safer, more durable and efficient, last longer, and deliver better lighting. They reduce energy and maintenance costs dramatically. In fact, since LEDs costs have dropped decidedly school districts can expect a payback of one to three years on their investment.

Apart from the financial and safety benefits, LED lighting helps boost student achievement. Students can better concentrate and relax in an environment with sufficient lighting, which also enhances mood and behavior.   

LEDs are safer, more durable and efficient, last longer, and deliver better lighting. They reduce energy and maintenance costs dramatically.

So where to start?

 Consider these tips when looking to install LED lighting in your school district:

  • Carry out an audit. This should be done by a lighting professional. The outside party will gather your district’s energy consumption data and evaluate the best LED solutions. Ask the organization to present the data to other decision makers in your district to obtain their support.
  • Organize a Mock-Up. Here’s where you get to sample your new lighting. Create a mock-up in an area where LEDs will be installed so students, teachers, and staff can visualize the changes.
  • Look for Rebates. Ask your lighting professional about rebates. Your utility provider may offer incentives for lighting upgrades, and rebates also may be available at the state or federal level, accelerating your payback period.
  • Funding. Outside of rebates, how will the project be funded? This is often the most challenging aspect of any school-improvement project. If funding is not available in your capital budget for a district-wide upgrade, consider breaking the project into phases. Cooperative purchasing and financing are other options to set a project in motion.  
  • Replace Lighting. Determine when the upgrade will take place (weeknights, weekends, during the summer) and if a lighting professional or your maintenance team will do the work. Hiring a professional to install lighting frees up your staff to address other maintenance issues throughout the distsrict.


School districts looking for an option to reduce operational costs and improve student and teacher performance – one with a fantastic return on investment – should consider an LED lighting upgrade.

The LED market has made great strides in the last decade and is now the standard in commercial and industrial applications, including educational facilities. It boasts better and safer performance, increased energy efficiency, and longer operating life.

Are you looking for ways to improve the classroom environment for your students and teachers? If so, a lighting upgrade may be the solution. For more information, please contact Jonathon Goering by email or phone at 316-265-9655.

Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to lower operational expenses and increase building comfort.

We provide services that enable owners to have high-performance buildings. “Making Buildings Better” sums up the mission statement of Knipp Services.

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School Construction News: Schools Get High Marks for LED Lighting Upgrades

TCPI: The Benefits of LED Lighting in School Facilities

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