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Energy Savings Climbs in the Stairways

Dimming the stairway lights in the main hospital and school building on the University Campus turns out to be a bright idea.

Funded in large part by a Mass Save rebate program, the UMass Chan Medical School facilities team has just completed the replacement of all stairway lights with motion-activated LED lighting that will reduce energy consumption and cut the maintenance costs of keeping the stairways lit.

"Most of the fixtures we took out were original to the building, 40 years old," said David Fitzgerald, lead electrician in the medical school's facilities department, who coordinated the lighting upgrade project.

A total of 318 fluorescent lighting fixtures were replaced with LED fixtures equipped with motion sensors. The old fixtures used 32 watts of electricity at full brilliance, and they were always on at full power. The new fixtures use 28 watts of electricity when lit at 80 percent brilliance, which is more than enough to flood the stairways with light. When no one is on the stairs, however, the new fixtures sense the lack of motion and dim down to just 20 percent brilliance, using only five watts of power.

"There is always some light in the stairs for safety, but by dimming to just five watts we'll save a significant amount of power," Fitzgerald said.

The bulbs in the old fixtures lasted, on average, about 10,000 hours. The new LED fixtures are rated at 60,000 hours, Fitzgerald said, so there will be significantly less time spent replacing bulbs.

"Re-lamping the old fixtures, changing bulbs and ballasts was a constant issue," Fitzgerald said. "Ballasts are $20 a piece, and these new LED fixtures have no ballasts, so that's a big plus."

The current estimate for savings is 140 kilowatt hours of electricity per lighting fixture annually. The lighting fixtures were provided at no cost by Mass Save, an initiative sponsored by electric and gas utilities in the state. The only cost to UMass Chan was staff-time for installation
"This was a great project by David and his team," said Suzanne Wood, sustainability and energy manager at UMass Chan. "Maximizing the use of incentives and rebates to help us become more efficient is always a priority."