In this church energy series, we’ve been covering ways to get fast return on investment with upgrades to energy efficient lighting. Upgrading lighting at your church can be one of the quickest bang for your buck items to get instant energy savings. Today we look at a fixture that is prevalent in many church auxiliary rooms, halls, classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and some sanctuaries: fluorescent tubes.
When tube lights were developed at the turn of the 20th century, they initially were more efficient than incandescent bulbs and provided a level of brightness that offices and schools across the country could associate with productivity. Today fluorescent fixtures are everywhere. Government buildings, corporate buildings, airports, business signage, homes, and in churches across the country. While fluorescent bulbs may be cheap, it takes a lot of them to light up a space because most fixtures use two or four bulbs each. The cost to maintain them starts to add up quickly.
The average lifespan for fluorescents tube bulbs is about 30,000 hours. That’s not bad in terms of energy efficiency, however some of these fixtures are on 12 to 24 hours a day. Fixtures with bulbs that are on 24/7 will have to be replaced about every three years. When compared to LED replacement bulbs coming to the market, fluorescents are no longer the most efficient option. In our example today, we will look at what happens when we upgrade one room from fluorescent tubes to LED strip light fixtures.
Fluorescent to LED Example:
Let’s say your church has a 50′ x 100′ meeting space that it wants to upgrade. In a 5000 sq/ft rectangular room, it’s likely there are 5 rows of 7 fluorescent fixtures per row. That’s 35 fixtures. If each fixture has 4 fluorescent tubes, there is a total of 140 fluorescent tubes in the room. If each bulb is 34 Watts, and the room is on an average of 12 hours each day, the room uses 9950.4 kWh/yr. Using the national average electricity rate of $0.12 per kilowatt hour, this room alone costs the church $594.01 per year or $49.50 per month.
Philips has developed a line of direct replacement LED bulbs that install into Fluorescent fixtures with no modification needed. If you can change out a bulb, you can install these LEDs. Zoho.com lists 14.5 watt 5000K Philips T8 LED Bulbs for $40.36 each. While not cheap, this church will save 57% on that portion of the energy bill (a savings of $28.40 per month). For all 140 bulbs, the total cost is $5650.4 to upgrade the room. Let’s assume a small crew of volunteers handle the installation since the bulbs are plug and play.
Let’s talk payback period. For all 140 bulbs, the total cost is $5650.4 to upgrade the room. Let’s assume a small crew of volunteers handle the installation since the bulbs are plug and play. With a savings of $28.40 per month, it would take 199 months for these lights to pay for themselves with the savings achieved. That’s just under 16 and a half years.
While the payback period may not appear to be impressive, consider the fact that these bulbs have 40,000 hours of lifetime. If the lightbulbs are on 12 hours a day, 84 hours of operation a week, these lights will likely operate maintenance free for 9.15 years.
So the payback period does not outlast useful lifetime in this scenario, but ongoing operational costs will drop significantly for every room you upgrade both in energy usage savings and maintenance savings when you consider the fact that these LED bulbs will outlast Fluorescents by 3 to 1. My advise for churches is to consider this of upgrade if your church is planning a renovation or building a new meeting space within the next two years. Also consider doing these upgrade in phases, a hallway here, a classroom there. Hopefully, as more manufacturers come on board with this style of LED replacement bulbs that prices will come down.