WBCSD lighting the way for students, staff, taxpayers

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Lighting probably isn’t the first thing on our minds when we walk into a building, store, school, or even our homes. We take lit spaces in our modern world as an assumption and don’t pay much attention to it. Until … the lights don’t work, or we get that monthly power bill.

The West Bonner County School District maintains five school campuses with over 260,000 square feet of building space which have over 7,000 lights. Our school buildings operate up to 16 hours a day supporting classroom instruction, afterschool programs, and many community functions. The annual power bill for the district is $184,574, and the average age of our buildings is over 65 years old. With old lights failing and a big power bill, WBCSD administration and West Bonner County School Board recently set out a plan to do two things: Improve the quality of lighting districtwide, and cut its power bill. Here are the details.

The initial survey of lighting conditions showed that most lamps and ballasts district wide were past life cycle as they had all been replaced all at one time in 1999, then continually as needed when lamps and ballasts failed. The failure rate of these were escalating to the point that district maintenance couldn’t keep up.

Also of concern was the quality of lighting in classrooms. Research shows a correlation between fluorescent light flicker and negative impacts on some persons with ADHD, epilepsy, and autism. With lighting quality poor, and the expense of having to replace lamps and ballasts a given cost that was going to happen, the district developed a plan.

With so many lights needing replacement, trying to change them on an as needed basis is expensive, so the district funded and developed a lighting renovation project to be completed over the past summer. Changing all lights and eliminating ballasts during one project reduced labor, and created bulk discounts on materials. Taking on the project using mostly district maintenance staff for lamp replacements, and contracted certified electricians for fixture replacements, the project was completed over the summer of 2018. Improved classrooms and making every dollar count is lighting the way for students, our community, and local taxpayers.

At the end of the project, here are the results.

• 96% of district lighting replaced with LED lighting in 2018

• Improved learning environment with healthier consistent lighting

• Total expense on lighting project — $98,379.78

• Avista rebates paid to WBCSD — $28,031.00

• Total project expense less rebates — $70,348.78

• Energy savings (actual) July 2018 through March 2019 — $14,668.00

• Avoided maintenance costs annually — $6143.00

• Total annual energy and maintenance savings — $25,110.00

• Project return on investment period — 34 months

Ken Eldore is facilities director for the West Bonner County School District.

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