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Bright idea to save money

May 18, 2019 GMT

UNION MILLS — South Central Community School Corp. officials are moving ahead with an overhaul of the facility’s lighting, a move expected to pay for itself in less than two years.

During its meeting Tuesday, the SCCSC school board approved a $59,793 project to replace more than 3,000 of the school building’s existing bulbs and tubes with LED lights. Thanks to a nearly $10,000 utility rebate, the corporation is expected to pay $49,920 out-of-pocket for the work.

Energy Harness, a company that specializes in the installation of LED lighting for schools, will perform the work, expected to take place this summer and finish before students return to class for the fall semester in August, Superintendent Theodore Stevens said. The company will provide a five-year warranty for the work.


Stevens and school corporation Maintenance Director Jeff Rucker worked with Energy Harness to develop a plan to replace current lighting with more energy-efficient LED bulbs as a cost-saving measure, the superintendent said.

Stevens has considered upgrading South Central’s lighting since a recent meeting with a solar-power panel sales representative, who suggested the school look into LED bulbs, Stevens said.

According to Energy Harness’ projections, the lighting upgrade will cut down on electrical use by 62 percent, reducing the corporation’s monthly power expenses by nearly $2,000. The project would also lower monthly lighting maintenance costs by more than $300, as the replacement LED bulbs are sturdier and last up to 10 times longer than traditional lights, according to the company’s proposal.

The superintendent suggested the school board put the initial savings back into SCCSC’s “rainy day” fund – a pool of money set aside for building repairs – which the corporation is dipping into to pay for the LED upgrades.

“We’re trying to sort of pay ourselves back first, [that’s] the game plan,” Stevens said.

According to Energy Harness consultant Kyle Chaffee, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, the jump to LED lights will provide other benefits besides just saving a healthy chunk of change. The technology offers less glare and better visibility compared to traditional light bulbs, and activate almost instantly.

“Once you go to LED, there’s no degradation,” Chaffee said. “[The lighting is] consistent, it’s not flickering. It’s really good for the overall learning environment, as well as individuals who maybe have challenges with epilepsy and other things like that. It should minimize a lot of other challenges that are there as well.”


Energy Harness – which has been in business for 10 years, seven in Indiana – has installed LED lights in more than 90 schools across the state, Chaffee said.

Rucker has spoken to nearly three-quarters of the schools the company listed as references, all of which had no complaints about the upgrade, the maintenance director said. He installed the company’s bulbs in his own office’s light fixtures, which provided a slightly brighter light than his previous ones, something officials at other schools have noticed as well, he added.

“Most of our lights are two switches – twos bulbs and one bulb,” Rucker said. “If we run across that, [teachers] can just turn off one switch.”