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USDOE Report: Advanced Lighting in the Classroom

A USDOE-funded project carried out by RTI International and Finelite illustrates how taking a system-wide approach to solve an application problem resulted in a wide range of benefits for those who use the space. The project developed and tested an LED-based next-generation integrated classroom lighting system (NICLS) that allows teachers to easily control light levels and chromaticity in three classroom zones, while also incorporating daylight harvesting to further reduce energy consumption. Central to the NICLS technology is an LED module that consists of separate assemblies of warm-white and cool-white LEDs. Together with sensors and a controller, the NICLS fixtures form a system whose user interface – designed based on feedback from teachers and school administrators – is mounted in the front of a classroom and can also be accessed through a wireless handheld device. A touchpad controller contains presets that accommodate typical classroom activities. The system is customizable and has easy slider controls to manually adjust the CCT and light intensity. Extensive tests were performed at an NICLS demonstration site at Finelite’s manufacturing and sales facility in Union City, CA, with modifications made to improve energy efficiency and reliability. Among the achievements:

  • Continuous tunable white light ranging in color between warm white (2700K) and cool white (6500K), delivered at a luminous efficacy > 125 lm/W at all CCT values. According to the developers, this level of performance represents more than a 25% improvement in energy efficiency over fixed-CCT fluorescent lights, and better than a 22% improvement over the average fixed-CCT LED luminaires listed in the LED Lighting Facts® database.

  • Integrated sensors that can harvest daylight in the classroom and selectively dim luminaires to maintain a constant lighting level – thus further reducing energy consumption.

  • LED light sources that can last for more than 10 years of typical use, with < 15% decrease in light output. In contrast, conventional fluorescent lighting technologies require replacement every three to five years.

  • A simple, energy-efficient, glare-free lighting system that’s easy to install, conforms to all applicable building and electrical standards, and meets or exceeds all DOE goals for system-level performance in the “classroom of the future,” including luminous efficacy, color rendering, vertical and horizontal illuminance, and product reliability.

Aside from the technical achievements of the project, the tailored control settings and user interface will allow teachers to customize the lighting for their students’ preferences and needs. As research into the measurable effects of different lighting parameters on educational outcomes continues to emerge, this type of tunable lighting system will allow teachers to adjust the classroom lighting for different activities, based on the latest findings.

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