Holy Trinity schools save money, energy with new lights


LEE COUNTY — A dimly lit gymnasium is a disadvantage for high school volleyball and basketball teams as well as spectators and referees. Since beginning his new post in July Chuck Elbert, chief administrative officer at Holy Trinity Catholic Schools, wanted new lighting in the schools’ gyms in Fort Madison and West Point.
“As the bulbs get older they begin to dim and so most gyms start to look yellow and dingy and that makes it hard to see,” he explained. “Plus it took 8 to 10 minutes for the current lights to warm up and we never wanted to wait. So we would typically leave them on for 12 or more hours at a time. I knew it was costing us money in energy bills and that it was time for a change.”
He is chair of the Energy Association of Iowa Schools (EAIS), a new nonprofit organization created to help save energy and money in Iowa public or private preK-12 school districts, area education agencies, community colleges or universities/colleges.
Elbert began working with energy advisors from EAIS and a consulting firm called The Energy Group. They recommended higher efficiency and better performing fluorescent lamps to replace the older metal halides, to save energy and money and to improve the lighting in the gym.
Holy Trinity recently completed the high school and elementary gym lighting retrofit projects with help from a $10,830 grant written by EAIS and funded by Iowa Economic Development Authority. A $2,070 rebate from Alliant Energy also offset the cost of the new equipment. Total original cost of the project was $21,746.
The new lights will help Holy Trinity save more than 5,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and more than $750 per year on energy bills. “We believe the lights will pay for themselves in less than six years while giving us great light and better light management with the instant lights on/lights off capability,” Elbert said.
Gym light quality, as measured by Mount Pleasant Electric, im­proved from a range of 40-45 foot candles to 70-75 foot candles — while using less energy.
“It feels like we just installed big bay windows and the sun is shining through,” Elbert said. “We’ve gotten compliments from coaches and players alike. I watched a visiting team come into our newly lighted gym and they stopped for a second before they realized what was different from when they played here before.”
Elbert won’t speculate whether the teams will perform better, but thinks that the savings will exceed what they’re expecting. “We’re forecasting for an eight-hour day but now that we can turn them off more often, I think we’ll use less energy.”
He hopes this won’t be the last rebate project for Holy Trinity. “We are looking into completing lighting projects in the classrooms, hallways and offices in both schools and heating and cooling upgrades at the elementary as well.”

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