From the outside it doesn’t look like much. The canopy extending over the eastern side of the Enrollment Services building is designed exactly like its counterparts on the north and south, but it uses almost 70% less energy. The savings are a result of the canopy’s recently installed LED lighting fixtures lamps, which are becoming a more favorable option for campus construction projects.
Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting fixtures have long been championed as the lighting of the future. Whereas conventional incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs generate light by igniting gases or glowing a metallic wire, LEDs create light through an electrical current process known as electroluminescence. The different process results in significant advantages for LEDs, which boast lower energy consumption and a longer lifetime, smaller size and faster switch time than conventional bulbs (not to mention the added benefit of not containing mercury, a hazardous material used in many conventional bulbs). Those advantages come at a cost. LEDs are often double to triple the price of traditional commercial lighting fixtures, and until recently the price tag kept Towson away.
“LEDs have higher initial costs, but they also save about 50% to 75% energy over your traditional high intensity discharge (HID) or incandescent fixtures,” Energy Manager Steve Kolb said. “Incorporating their energy savings, longer replacement time, and reduced maintenance costs, in many applications we calculate that LEDs pay for themselves within three to five years.”
The lighting portion of the canopy renovation project cost approximately $18,000, and the entire project took just three months from design to completion. Because LEDs emit a cleaner, crisper light than conventional bulbs, Steve was able to cut the number of light fixtures on the canopy in half and reduce the wattage per fixture from 130 to 70 watts while significantly improving the quality of light and overall level of brightness. The project is expected to reduce the canopy’s energy intake by over 70% per year, which is pretty remarkable considering that 20 – 30% reductions typically indicate success for energy projects. Similarly high results have been achieved in other LED renovations on campus, including the renovation of Mangiamo’s eatery of the Newell Den.
Steve hopes to continue using LED lighting where sensible to reduce campus energy usage in new construction and renovation projects. He’s currently in the planning and design stages for making the West Village Garage the first project to be lit exclusively with LEDs, and he’s also studying the possibility of replacing existing campus incandescent fixtures with LEDs to reduce energy consumption by 70 to 95%.
“I believe that it’s our responsibility to minimize the use of hazardous materials wherever possible and start taking advantage of newer technologies. We should always be looking at long-term cost and energy saving opportunities,” Steve said. “LEDs are a great way to do that.”