Imagine a custodian installs a light bulb at Wenatchee High School about the time his son is entering kindergarten. The boy will be in middle school before the bulb needs to be changed again.
The 35,000-hour lamp life of many of the new energy-efficient fluorescents installed at the school makes this a realistic scenario, said Jim White, senior energy conservation engineer at Chelan County PUD.
The PUD contributed $51,000 toward the $630,000 project to replace lighting throughout the school. A state grant provided $255,000, while the school district paid the remaining $324,000.
From its investment, the school district expects annual energy savings of at least $31,727.
Bryan Visscher, Maintenance and Operations director, said early results indicate the district may exceed that goal. A comparison of electric bills from December and January of this winter with the previous winter showed a savings of $3,200 per month on lighting meters, Visscher said.
The savings are guaranteed, he added, under the school district’s contract with Ameresco. The energy services company is pre-qualified to work with schools and state agencies through the state Office of General Administration. If savings fall short of predictions, the company is on the hook for the balance or to make corrections, Visscher said.
The new lights do more than save energy, though. “The light is cleaner and brighter. It’s more like daylight,” Visscher noted. Staff and students prone to headaches from the old-style fluorescents especially perceive a difference, he said.
One of the most noticeable areas of improvement is in the main gym. Gone are the buzzing, slow-to-start metal halide lamps that cast a bluish glare. The new fluorescents with their electronic ballasts provide spectators with a clearer picture of the action on the gym floor.
“With the metal halides, once you shut them off you had to wait 20 minutes before turning them back on,” Visscher noted. Not so with the new T5 fluorescents.
Occupancy sensors have been added to the main gym and two auxiliary gyms and restrooms so that lights aren’t on when the facilities aren’t in use. In the parking lots, two bulbs per fixture are always on at night, but two more spring to life when motion sensors are activated.
Visscher is hoping to extend energy improvements to the WHS swimming pool and to other district buildings. He’s put together a $449,000 proposal for additional PUD, grant and district funding to:
• Dehumidify the pool, saving money on heating and water and improving air quality
• Add dedicated make-up air to the WHS kitchen, improving air quality and saving heating costs
• Replace lighting in the Pioneer and Orchard middle school gyms and at the district maintenance building and warehouse
• Provide retro-commissioning and balancing of HVAC systems and controls at the school district office.