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Kevin Norman

Lessons in lighting

Lighting control can play an important role in meeting energy targets, says Kevin Norman

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 09, 2016 | HVAC & lighting

As growing energy prices continue to squeeze school budgets, the pressure is on to find new ways of reducing costs. Pioneering in its efficiency, LED technology has been instrumental in educational buildings achieving energy targets, however, lighting control can play an equally important role, says 

As the education system comes under fire from both rising energy prices as well as Government cuts, finding a solution to the soaring cost of utilities is of upmost importance for the majority of schools up and down the country. 

Recent figures show that 30% of the energy consumed in the UK is wasted, amounting to thousands of pounds in unnecessary bills that could have been directed into school facilities. A separate study also indicates that UK schools could reduce energy costs by around £44million a year, preventing 625,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in the process. A great result for education facilities that are looking to bump up their green credentials, as well as cut operating costs. 

Furthermore, as 20-25% of the total energy use in schools comes from lighting systems alone, these reports simply highlight the need for energy saving solutions and the benefits they can bring to schools and pupils. 

One of the most effective and well known ways to tackle this issue is by implementing LED technology. This is due to the extended product life of LED lamps that can last up to 50,000 hours as well as an improved efficiency of 96% on traditional options. In the case of Ashton Community College, replacement of their existing lighting with modern efficient LED lighting achieved a saving of £25,000 a year, making a huge difference to their annual budget.

However, investing in energy efficient lighting controls can be an equally effective way to optimise savings.

For example, case studies found in a 2013/14 RIBA report show that 40% to 60% of schools’ energy costs were incurred when they were closed; overnight, weekends and in school holiday periods. With such a huge drain on energy, lighting left on unnecessarily is an expensive waste which can easily be avoided. 

Are the school holidays costing you?

A common solution is occupancy detector technology comprising of sensors that simply turn the lights off when there are no occupants in the area, such as a corridor, hall or landing, meaning energy is only used when necessary. The latest occupancy detectors on the market also have low power consumption, offering potential for greater energy savings – and are scalable, meaning facilities managers can add more devices and capabilities when required. 

The good news is that occupancy detection isn’t just restricted to standard ceiling lighting, with manufacturers continuing to develop inventive ways of reducing lighting energy use in all areas of the commercial environment.  

The most advanced occupancy detector technology incorporates class-leading sensitivity with macro and micro detection, lens tilting and automatic detection of DALI and DSI digital dimming type luminaires - for ease of installation and commissioning. Plus, many of these detectors such as the new Newlec DALI compatible occupancy detectors, are incredibly easy to set up and commission using a remote control, with more and more products programmable and controllable through mobile phones and tablets. 

Aside from quick installation meaning reduced labour cost, a huge benefit for the school provider is the ability to easily change the function at different times and different days to suit a building’s usage: i.e. turning lighting off during evenings and weekends when the students are away. In this way they can change the lighting function on an adhoc basis to reflect any changes in occupancy, thus unlocking optimum energy savings. 

Dimming is also one of the best ways of maximising savings on lighting, enabling the user to adjust as necessary to optimise control, with most grid devices being suitable for retrofit.  Many of today’s options come with a selection of grid fronts to suit most requirements and can be used to control different light sources including dimmable LED lamps and fittings.

With prices rising steadily year-on-year, the cost of energy will always be a major concern to UK schools.  With the right lighting solutions, control and management, schools will be well placed to cut costs, reduce their carbon footprint and keep the lights on for years to come.  

Kevin Norman is senior product manager at Newey & Eyre.

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