Campus improves energy efficiency

In efforts to increase the energy efficiency on campus, facilities services is in the process of replacing old exterior lighting with new LED lights.

LEDs—or light-emitting diodes—have developed significantly in recent years, allowing for more widespread usage. Compared to incandescent lights, LEDs have a longer lifespan, lower energy consumption, are more hardily constructed and have faster switching. Because of this, the University decided to make the change.

“Now that the cost is down, the savings is there. As the old pole lights go out, we are replacing them with the new LEDs,” Steve Brankle, director of facilities services, said. “We want to get our money’s worth out of the lights before replacing them.”

There are approximately 250 light poles on campus, and even more exterior lights mounted on the buildings. Brankle said that he is focusing on the light poles first.

The old bulbs are metal halide bulbs, which are rated to run for 7,500 hours. If they run throughout the night, they only last for about two years. However, the LED bulbs are rated at 100,000 and should last for 20 years, Brankle said.

In addition to lasting longer, the LEDs also use about one-sixth of the electricity of the metal halide bulbs, which translates to a quarter million dollars in savings for the University.

Last month, Kim Hadley, vice president of finance, listed sustainability initiatives as one of the factors in next year’s tuition increase. About two-thirds of the sustainability budget is going toward exterior lighting, Brankle said. However, Brankle explained that the initial cost will be paid back within six years thanks to the savings the new lights will provide the University.

“These lights will still be working by the time I’m retired and your kids are attending school here,” Brankle said.

In addition to the savings factor, the new lights will also save on manpower costs and reduce safety issues. Since the lights will not need to be replaced for several years, it will save time and work for the facilities crew. It will also prevent potentially unsafe dark spots on campus. Some of the new and renovated buildings on campus, such as the nursing building and renovated townhouses, already have exterior LED lights as well as other energy-saving specifications like quality insulation and energy star appliances.

Students and parents may wonder how these initiatives will cost them more money.

The  impact on students is minimal, as students do not pay—through tuition, fees, room and board or other means—for any of the construction projects on campus, which is all covered by  endowment or donations.

In order to keep costs down for students, Brankle works to reduce electricity costs when possible. He explained that even though the University’s acreage has increased, electricity use has decreased due to the sustainability initiatives in place.

“I don’t think it’s right to be more green if it’s going to cost you more green,” Brankle said.