School eyeing savings via LED

BIG PROJECT — All of the light fixtures at Fairmont Elementary and Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School are being replaced with LED lights. Employees of DeWar Electric are seen replacing the fixtures in the main gym at the high school.

FAIRMONT — Fairmont Area Schools is in the middle of replacing all the light fixtures in the elementary and high school with LED lights.

More than 5,000 fixtures both inside and outside the schools are being replaced. It’s expected the project will be completed sometime in May.

“This is my second year in this position and I had pursued it right away,” said Tyler Garrison, director of buildings and grounds for the district.

Garrison said now is an excellent time for the project because LED lights have come down in price tremendously in the last year or two.

DeWar Electric is the local electrical contractor installing the lighting. DeWar was awarded the $672,000 bid this past fall. Money for the project comes from long-term facilities maintenance funds.

Garrison explained that with available rebates and yearly savings, the district is looking at a four- to five-year payback. Estimates for the project show about a $140,000 rebate on fixtures and a $100,000 yearly energy savings at both buildings combined.

“Our custodial and maintenance staff is constantly changing ballasts and bulbs right now and a lot of that will be eliminated so that they can concentrate on other things,” Garrison said.

The parking lots at both buildings are included in the project. Garrison reported the district actually has been able to reduce the number of light fixtures by almost half in the lots while improving the lighting.

While the project has been planned for quite some time, lights just began being replaced last month. Crews started in areas that will not disrupt teachers and students, such as in storage areas, stairwells, kitchens and in the shops. They are currently replacing lights in the main gym at the high school. Garrison said they are waiting for the bulk of the fixtures to come. These will be for hallways and classrooms.

“When you’re ordering over 5,000 fixtures, it takes a while to get them here,” he explained.

While the obvious benefits of LED lighting include the fact that they are energy-efficient and give off a brighter light, there are less-well-known benefits as well.

“The old lights had a constant flicker to them that you don’t really notice, but it’s there,” Garrison said. “These are a solid light with no flicker. There’s also a continuous hum to what’s in there now but these don’t have that.”

According to a study done by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, common ailments associated with flickering lights include headaches, eye strain and general eye discomfort.

LED lights stay relatively cool even while on for long periods of time. They do not emit UV radiation, nor do they contain mercury. Since LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, they are much more resistant to breakage.

Garrison said he knows of other districts that are changing to LED lights. While many have been replacing light fixtures in phases, Fairmont is tackling the project all at once. Since the big project is being done throughout the school year, class schedules and other activities have been considered in order to disrupt as little as possible.

“The staff at the schools have been really accommodating and we really appreciate that,” said Garrison, adding, “[Superintendent Joe Brown] has also been very good at giving us what we need to do things and he’s always looking for improvements in the district, which is good for the public to know that we’re putting money back into the system and looking at ways that we can save money in the future. I’m very excited to see the end result and the cost savings in the future.”

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