By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
Following a presentation by Jeff Kath and Chris Wendling, lighting & energy design consultants with The Retrofit Companies, Inc., regarding lighting in the Caledonia school district, board officials are left to wonder if there might be cheaper options available.
Kath explained that there is a life-expectancy of 15 to 20 years on the lights currently at the school.
“Most of the original fixtures at the school have a life expectancy of 60,000 hours,” Kath said. “Usually about 15-20 years in our experience.”
So the district is looking at ways to update and upgrade the fixtures, including the ballasts.
“What you have now are known as ‘T-8 fluorescent’ and five years ago that would have been the best technology in the market,” said Kath. “Now LED has greatly improved in the area of efficiency.”
Wendling told board members at a board retreat meeting held on July 11, that he expects the district to need to replace ballasts in the coming “year to year and a-half.”
“Once they start to go, it’s like popcorn,” he said. “You’ll see a cascading effect.”
There are about 1,700 ballasts in the high school alone, some with two, some with three and others with four lamps each.
“So averaging out three lamps in each ballast, there are 5,100 lamps in the high school,” Wendling said.
Kath said that even placing new lights, 30 to 50 percent of the ballasts will fail after reaching the 60,000 hour threshold.
School board members would like to continue to review what to do about the potential need to replace the lights.
The board has set aside some money from the $495,000 maximum effort tax relief that it has and will receive over the next four years (five years total).
“We want to use that money for the projects that give us the best return on investment,” said superintendent Ben Barton.
The ROI on the light project could mean savings that would pay for the cost of instillation by reducing the district’s monthly electric bills.
Currently the district pays between $16,000 and $20,000 per month to the city on their electric, water and sewer bill.
Using more economic LED lights would save considerable money on that monthly cost, even if the cost of installing different ballasts, etc., would be expensive up front.
No decisions were made and the district is going to continue to review its options regarding the transition to an all LED school.