Lights Out: People should turn their lights off when not in use

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Lights Out: People should turn their lights off when not in use

Angela Qian

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Every morning, we walk into a building lit by glaring fluorescent lights. Aside from the occasional flickering light, it seems like there is no end to their blinding energy. I often stop by teachers’ classrooms in order to ask questions, but sometimes, their well-lit classrooms are a facade—There is no one there.

Now, that may not seem like a bad thing. According to Stouch Lighting, a light-emitting diode (LED) distribution company, fluorescent lights age if they are frequently switched on and off, which means that turning them on and off wastes energy. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says fluorescent lights are much more energy efficient than your stereotypical household incandescent lamps, so leaving the lights on should not be such a big deal.

However, it is not necessary for the lights to be on for the entire school day. The U.S. DOE says a good rule of thumb is this: If you will be out of a room for 15 minutes or less, leave the lights on, but if you will be out of a room for more than 15 minutes, turn them off. Using the lights less compensates for any energy lost by switching them on and off. Thus, if teachers need to leave their rooms for meetings or other miscellaneous tasks that will take some time, they could take two seconds to turn the lights off.

There is also such thing as having too many lights on. A study conducted by professors at the University of Cambridge and the University of Essex found that 84 percent of classrooms were illuminated beyond the level where visual comfort decreases, leading to headaches and reduced task performance. Bright lights coupled with sleep deprivation is a recipe for thousands of uncomfortable, dry-eyed teenagers who may not be learning as much as they could be.

Admittedly, the cost and energy created by leaving the lights on are not striking, but the precedent of leaving the lights on for an extended period of time is indicative of a larger disregard for our environmental impact. Carmel Clay schools are instituting a cultural shift toward being more environmentally-conscious by implementing energy-saving efforts like a system shut off computers, but we could all do more as Carmel residents.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that electricity production generates a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to transportation. October is energy awareness month, so I encourage everyone to reduce their energy consumption by unplugging idle electronics like phone chargers when they aren’t in use. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, electronics waste about $19 billion annually when they are not actively used but are left in sleep mode or plugged in through the night.

Also, turn off the lights when you don’t need them. It starts with reducing the use of classroom lights—this small culture change could lead to large-scale, long-lasting, earth-saving effects. And it may even make students more comfortable while we’re here.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Angela Qian at aqian@hilite.org.

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