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Aging Deer Lake School opts for new lighting, saves big

Image of the exterior of Deer Lake School

School improves infrastructure, lowers its lighting-related energy costs

$5,600.

That's how much money Deer Lake School, a kindergarten to Grade 12 academy in Burnaby, B.C., expects to save annually as a result of an extensive lighting improvement project.

"We're very proud of the energy and cost savings we've been able to achieve," says Gaileen Woytko, the school's director of development and operations. "Savings of this size and kind aren't easy to come by, especially at a school built in 1965."

With the help of a BC Hydro incentive, Deer Lake School completed a series of lighting improvements in the spring of 2013. In total, the school installed more than 700 T8 energy saver lamps, 350 T8 fluorescent lamps, 65 LED bulbs, 20 LED exit signs and over 50 motion sensors in its classrooms, storage areas, hallways and gymnasiums.

With all of the work done after school, it took about one year to install the new lights, and the school expects to save 62,405 kilowatt-hours annually, or about $5,600 a year, on its BC Hydro bill as a result of the lighting upgrade. Money, that Woytko says, will be put to good use elsewhere.

A smart move? Assigning a project manager to oversee the improvements

Woytko says that early on in the process, the school's 20-member board made a wise decision by assigning a project manager to oversee the lighting improvements. The project manager — a volunteer member of the board's facilities committee — assumed a number of the project's day-to-day responsibilities.

"The project manager worked directly with our school's Power Smart Alliance member," says Woytko. "Having a point person really helped streamline communication. They evaluated the Alliance member's proposed technologies, managed the budget and supervised the installation, communicating changes, delays and successes back to the board as needed. It allowed our school's administrators to stay focused on students and staff."

Lessons learned along the way: sensors and signage

Recently, Woytko's been working with the school's Alliance member to improve the effectiveness of some of its motion sensors. "We've had to make a few refinements in the last 18 months, but for a project of this size and scope, that's to be expected," says Woytko.

"Some of our sensors didn't detect motion well, and a few caused the lights in classrooms to flicker," she explains. "I called our Alliance member and they were here right away to help us through the hiccup."

Woytko adds that she wishes she'd posted instructional signage at each motion sensor's wall switch during the initial installation. "In hindsight, a simple information graphic outlining how to use — or not use — the wall switch would have been a helpful teaching tool for staff and our students," she explains. "It did take a little while for the kids to get used to not switching anything "on" when they walked in a classroom."

The lighting improvements qualified for an incentive of $13,426 from BC Hydro and the school expects to recoup its up-front costs in four years — which is the blink of an eye, says Woytko, for a school that just celebrated its 50th anniversary.