High school spends thousands on electricity each month because nobody can turn off the software-controlled lights

Originally published at: High school spends thousands on electricity each month because nobody can turn off the software-controlled lights | Boing Boing


The school district might want to reconsider the continued tenure of the person responsible for negotiating contracts with vendors.


The original article from the student newspaper has a few more details, for those of us trying to armchair engineer a solution based on very little information:

“On occasion, the software would go down and it would somehow get corrupted. We would try to recycle it and eventually everything would come back on,” Cenedella said. “Unfortunately the last time it got corrupted it was unfixable.”

Gaining access to the software that runs the lights is one of the main reasons why the lights can’t be adjusted correctly. “[5th Light] no longer has any of that information. They don’t have the software,” Cenedella said. “The old information is proprietary, so they wouldn’t originally give it to us. Now, they say that they don’t have it and that it’s unavailable.”

Cenedella and his department are now dealing with the new owners of the company to try and come to some sort of solution to control the lights. However, 5th Light told Cenedella that the new hardware they need isn’t available because the manufacturers aren’t making the chips needed for the software. 5th Light may not get the chips needed to retrofit the system until February.


This is the US of A! Has no one tried percussive maintenance yet? Just beat the shit out of the thing and put a switch on the main?


Is there not a circuit breaker box somewhere? Even an automated system should have a hardware override somewhere. I would think it would be a fire hazard otherwise.


YES, that was my first thought. The NEC requires separate breakers for each circuit. Why can’t the maintenance people find that?


Exactly. Just flip the lighting circuit switch on the RCD panel.


This page keeps on freezing. Too on point?


Is this part of the internet of shit, or some outlier?


When I was in high school, we got two days off because a garbage truck crashed into a power pole, and it took quite the effort to restore power. Sounds like my high school found an accidental solution to this school’s issue. Call the waste management department and save thousands!


Just spitballing here (it is a high school, after all) but how much would it cost to replace the classroom and hallway light switches with motion detectors and scrap the software controls entirely? My old office had that, and it seemed to work adequately, but maybe someone can tell me if this would be suitable for a school setting.


“I would say the net impact is in the thousands of dollars per month on average, but not in the tens of thousands,” Osborne said.

After many weeks of effort, we were provided a rough estimate in excess of $1.2 Million to comparably replace the entire system,” Osborne and Provost wrote in an Aug. 26, 2022, response.

so, 1.2 million now, or 120,000 per year. Your choice.


Years ago my sister’s then husband replaced most of the light switches in their house with some internet enabled “smart” switches to similarly disastrous results. Eventually, they ripped them all out and replaced them with standard switches when they got tired of not being able to reliably turn on and off lights.


A high school where I took an evening pottery class had motion detector lights in the restrooms so, while I don’t know about the entire school, it seemed to be acceptable there. Unfortunately there was the time I was in there by myself for a bit too long.

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I’m an electrician. There’s no way that this can’t be fixed with a small cabinet full of contactors and a master timer, all in hardware.


You’re supposed to keep at least something moving at all times.


I just had this very situation happen to me in the restroom of a local government office. I wasn’t even in there very long, the timeout was just way too short.


I won’t elaborate but at the time I wasn’t exactly able to get up and leave the stall, the walls of which were high enough that waving my arms from a seated position wasn’t enough to trigger the sensors.


On top of the many other questions, does billing for lighting alone routinely top thousands of dollars…? Are they running incandescents everywhere too?


I hope they’re have breaker switches