Scholars in the Kenton County Academies of Innovation and Technology are housed in a thirty-seven year old building. Their building is extremely inefficient and is in need of a retrofit. One retrofit idea could be to replace the old lighting system; the fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts that continue to operate are out of style and function. Scholars at the Sustainable Technology Academy are looking for new products to retrofit their unique classrooms.
One state-of-the-art product is the electronic ballast. Ballasts are essential for powering a light bulb or light fixture. They prevent an overflow of electricity into the unit. Electronic ballasts are much more efficient than magnetic ballasts. A new retrofit in the building would require the purchase of the more efficient electronic ballasts.
After the ballasts are replaced, scholars must find a more efficient lighting source. Currently in the Academy building, there are 32 and 34 Watt T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes. These provide roughly a 25 kilo-watt demand for the building. One option of replacement is the Phillips 15 Watt T8 fluorescent tube. If the entire building were to be replaced with this new product, the kilo-watt demand would be dropped to 13 kilo-watts. In a 12 hour day, for 177 school days, replacing the lighting system would save 25,488 kw in one school year, or $21,000.
A second option the scholars are researching is the USLED L-GRID2. This is a 2×2 ceiling tile unit that has many small LED chips in the fixture. The unit, in total, pulls 45 watts. They even produce enough illumination to replace two fluorescent fixtures. If the Academy building was retrofitted with this innovative and exciting product, the kilo-watt demand would be dropped to 3.6 kw. This is about an 86% drop in kilo-watt demand from the current fixtures. In one year, the school district would save around $29,000.
Next, Scholars determined the cost of replacing ballasts, tubes, and fixtures. For a high efficiency fluorescent retrofit, the cost of replacing the outdated equipment would be a little over $9,500. The payback period for this retrofit would be 1.12 years. For the USLED retrofit, the cost of replacing the current lighting would be $10,500. The payback period for this retrofit would be 1.8 years.
Some people who have helped the Scholars are important individuals in their respected fields. Ryan Scalf, an Energy Advisor for the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, has provided Scholars with a tool for calculating energy savings: the Lighting Calculator. This calculator has allowed scholars to quickly compare the energy savings from their current lighting configuration to the retrofitted configuration. The Kenton County School District’s Energy Systems Coordinator, Chris Baker, has introduced Scholars to leaders in the lighting market, such as USLED. Jamison DeAngelis, a sales representative for USLED, displayed his innovative product to the Scholars. All of these professionals have one common goal: to help the Scholars improve their building efficiency.
Scholars completing the project are looking to present their findings to the Kenton County School District Administration. Even though saving electricity is the main focus of the project, this retrofit could also increase the efficiency of the heating/cooling systems in the building. The new fixtures would be “cooler”, giving off less heat. If less heat is given off, the air conditioner doesn’t have to run as long, saving the school district even more money.
Scholars at the Sustainable Energy Academy are leaning towards a USLED retrofit. “The energy usage of the LED fixtures is phenomenal,” mentions Zach Major, a sophomore in the Academy. “We definitely believe this retrofit will save the most money for the school district.” Saving electricity will also reduce carbon emissions. “Carbon will be reduced from 51 lbs/hour of CO2 (current lighting) to 7.3 lbs/hour of CO2 (USLED retrofit). This is amazing. We are effectively combating climate change while our government refuses to act,” explains Trey Zimmerman. The Scholars hope that their project inspires others to retrofit their buildings, saving energy and the world around us.