When it comes to the nation’s 130,000 K-12 schools (many of which were constructed in the 1950s-1970s) and over 4,000 colleges and universities, many overhead school lighting systems leave teachers wanting more for their students and facilities.
“There are many aspects of our existing fluorescent lighting system that are less than optimal,” shared one veteran teacher at a pre-K through 8th grade school in New York City that serves nearly 500 students. “Among those, our lights can only be manually controlled with an on/off switch and can't be dimmed. To make matters worse, we often forget to turn the lights off, wasting energy. Our building is about 50 years old and it's been deemed to be very expensive to change something like light switches,” he said.
Enter the age of ‘smart’ lighting, a capability which helps attune lighting to the environment and the needs/preferences of its users rather than merely serving as a static “on” or “off” option. Among other attractive features, smart lighting can provide:
- Dimming, Daylight Harvesting, and Occupancy Sensing – on top of LED lighting’s already energy-efficient properties, schools and other facilities can enjoy additional energy savings thanks to a smart lighting system’s ability to both dim lights as well as adjust light levels based on available daylight and occupancy in a room.
- Scene-Setting – smart lighting systems can be programmed to set different ‘scenes,’ adjusting groupings of lights to support a variety of different activities in a school, from reading/test-taking to group discussions, video-watching, and more.
- Unprecedented Control and Convenience – managed wirelessly through an easy-to-use app, control of a smart lighting system is as simple as tapping a button on a smart phone.
All the above are capabilities which this NYC-based teacher said could be extremely beneficial in his classroom. In particular, “being able to set different scenes that vary the brightness of the light would be valuable,” he said. “It would be a great visual aid, for example, to have lights slightly dimmed to cue that it's time for silent independent reading, while lights that are fully on might signal that it's time to come together and verbally share our ideas.”
Given that his school prides itself on its sustainability – “we compost, recycle, and are working to eliminate all single-use plastic,” he said – this teacher sees great value in an LED lighting system that would contribute to the school’s eco-friendly mission and ultimately cut energy costs.
“The environment of any classroom is critical to learning – from the level of noise and hominess of its feel to the accessibility of its materials,” the teacher said, noting that optimal lighting can represent another valuable addition to a school’s arsenal of teaching tools. “In addition to saving energy, lighting can be a visual cue that’s easy for most kids to identify and respond to.”