Students may mistake them for smoke detectors, but they are actually energy saving devices helping schools save thousands of dollars.
They are occupancy sensors that turn off lights when no one is in the room, and through a partnership between NIPSCO and Energizing Indiana, they are one of the many components being introduced to La Porte High School and other districts to improve energy efficiency while saving cash.
Seth Little, program manager for Energizing Indiana, said these small changes don’t amount to a lot of savings separately, but the aggregate over an entire territory will be pretty significant. “And with a 400,000 square foot building, if we make even small recommendations, they are going to save tons of energy because they are so big,” he said. “So it not only helps us with our goal of reducing energy, but it also saves them money.”
Part of NIPSCO’s School Audit and Direct Installation Program, these assessments are being conducted free in 11 schools within NIPSCO’s service area in an attempt to help the state reach its goal of a 2 percent increase in energy efficiency.
Westville Schools is another La Porte County school included in the assessment. Program organizers said participating schools are given a report of their recommended changes, and what the school is expected to save with each one of the changes. One change that is getting serious attention in the classroom is replacing all of the T12 lamps with T5 Retrofit Kits. This part of the energy efficiency project would reduce the wattage of each fixture by up to 70%. Making it more enticing is a $13 rebate per unit which could reduce the return on investment to less than 12 months.
Little said the benefits of this technology include a faster start up time, brighter lights and the ability to turn on individual lights to limit the amount of electricity used.
Noting that utilities can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars for a facility as large as a high school, Little said these added efficiencies are a big help. And the new lights are rated at 60 to 70 percent more efficient. “We are talking about rates of return that are better than you can get from any financial institution,” he said.
The program also offers various rebates to help the district recoup the costs of the changes even quicker. And he pointed out that utility costs are the second highest after labor, so any reductions made are going to be significant.
Although the study only consisted of the high school, he noted that the recommendations were applicable to the district’s other schools as well.
In addition to the classroom lighting schools are also provided with immediate energy-saving components for free, including the installation of vending machine controllers, compact fluorescent lamps, occupancy sensing power strips, lighting occupancy sensors and LED exit signs.
It was noted that the sensors save the most money in rooms where the lights are left on due to periodic use. There was also the possibility of connecting the heating and air conditioning systems to similar sensors, to minimize the amount of energy they use when students or staff are not in the building.
For more information on the different energy savings programs offered through NIPSCO, go towww.nipsco.com/en/SaveEnergy.