For Immediate Release: November 7, 2018

Study shows lighting plays a key role in classroom behavior

SMUD partners with Folsom Cordova Unified School District to study lighting effects in classrooms and homes of students with autism

SMUD partnered with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District to study the effects of tunable LED lighting systems in the classroom and at the homes of children with autism. After 16 months of study, technical experts found positive results and have released their findings and recommendations for further study. View the full report.

“Studies have shown that lighting affects our circadian rhythms and may have impacts upon our health and behaviors. We wanted to test those theories in the classroom and thus provided funding and technical expertise,” said SMUD’s Lighting Expert Connie Samla. “As a non-profit, community owned electric utility, we are constantly pursuing innovations that improve the lives of our customers while helping them lower their energy costs. We also offer free classes and consultations about lighting and other energy related topics,” said Samla.

The study included nearly 4,000 student surveys in three classrooms; interviews with the three participating teachers; 16 months of energy monitoring; eight weeks of monitoring classroom lighting settings; and illumination measurements before and after the classroom lighting systems were installed. The study also included baseline, and weekly surveys and interviews with the families who participated in the home study. The results showed:

  • Students reported a slight increase in overall feelings of wellness and slightly lower energy levels.
  • Teacher feedback was overwhelmingly positive. All said that the new lighting helped them teach more effectively.
  • The new lighting systems reduced electrical demand by 60 to 74 percent and energy consumption by 26 to 57 percent. However, the standby lighting costs adversely impacted the cost savings.
  • One of the families in the home study reported dramatic improvements in their child’s behavior. The other family reported modest behavioral changes, but a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it took their child to fall asleep.

After reviewing the results, SMUD technical experts recommend that school districts should install LED lighting systems that include lighting control scenes. Districts should consider installing tunable-white LED systems for new classrooms, especially those used at night or for teaching students with special needs. SMUD also suggests that more research should be done in the homes of students with autism based upon the results of this project.

“We are excited about the results and are planning to study 30 additional families in our service area to identify changes in sleep and behavioral patterns,” said SMUD Project Manager Dave Bisbee.