AMESBURY — Change isn't always easy for people so when Amesbury schools director of operations Brad Ford replaced the lights in the middle school's cafeteria with new, energy-efficient lights, he expected a few complaints.
"Not one person noticed," Ford said. "It was seamless. Nobody saw an impact except if you saw the bill; then they would see an impact on the bottom line."
Changes to the middle school cafeteria's lights and elsewhere at the school as well as similar changes at Amesbury High School and Cashman Elementary School will cut energy costs $50,000 a year, according to Ford and Guardian Energy Management Solutions, which has worked with the schools to find low-impact lighting.
Energy-saving lights have a reputation for giving off less-than-adequate light, but Ford said they provide the same amount, and in most cases, better light that's cheaper.
In the high school's gymnasium, the former metal halide lights were the least-efficient lights available. They used so much electricity that they needed to cool off before being able to go on again.
Now, the gymnasium is equipped with new lights known as high-bay, high-intensity, low-energy lights that switch on when activated by motion, say from a student going in to shoot a few hoops. The lights go off automatically when the room is empty again.
The new lights can also be found in the high school dance studio and occupational and physical therapy room and the cafeteria and gym at both the middle school and Cashman School. Those new lights will save $18,000.
In August, Ford began looking at the high school's parking lot lights, which have to be left on all night for security reasons. They were replaced with new LED lights, at an annual savings of $10,000.
The last project — and the School Department's biggest at a cost of $99,000 — was installing 986 new lights throughout Cashman that will produce $24,000 in savings each year.
National Grid paid $46,000 toward the Cashman School project as part of the electrical company's Energy Efficiency Program.
The remaining balance will be paid over two years by the School Department through its electric bill. Instead of paying the bill with the new savings, the School Department will continue to pay its usual electric bill for Cashman. The net savings will go toward paying the down the remaining balance.