Investment in LED lighting slashes energy costs

Apr 15, 2014

A sustainability project that modernized the lighting inside Gregory Arena and pool deck in Merner Field House will result in drastic reductions in energy consumption and maintenance costs in these facilities.

Over the winter months, new LED lights were installed with the help of $26,000 in grant funding from the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency through the City of Naperville toward the cost of the two projects. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, a solid state form of lighting that converts electricity directly into light. 

In Gregory Arena, the LED fixtures allow adjustments to the levels of brightness in different areas of the facility. “The metal halides were on all the time, all day, at 100 percent brightness, using an incredible amount of energy,” explains Brittany Graham, the College’s sustainability coordinator. “Varying the lighting levels reduces our energy costs. We also can program them to shut off at the end of the day automatically.”

At a computer system at Graham’s desk, she programs the lighting levels so they are appropriate for the activities in the arena. During the day when nothing is scheduled, they are at 30 percent brightness. During a basketball game, they are at 100 percent.  “We’re projecting that we’ll save about 180,000 kilowatt hours per year in the arena,” adds Graham. “The total savings will range from 70 percent to more than 90 percent overall.”

The lights were installed by Lumiga under the supervision of the company’s chief solutions architect, Wayne Callham. “We had to accommodate all of the needs of recreation, competition, practices and other uses,” Callham says. “We had to give the coaches the light they need to do their jobs.”

Other benefits of the LED lighting will result from the reduced heat and elimination of humming noises generated by the previous halogen lighting. “We didn’t even realize how much heat emanated from the old lights,” says Jim Miller ’86, athletic director. The halogen lights also needed about 15 minutes to fully power up. The long life of LED lighting is also a big benefit to the maintenance staff, especially in the pool area which is difficult to work in, he adds.

Also involved in the planning and evaluation were students in a cost accounting class taught by Gerald Thalmann, associate professor of accounting. “His students calculated energy and cost savings of switching to LEDs or fluorescents versus maintaining our metal halides,” explains Graham. “They came up with a payback—a return on investment—and gave us a recommendation. It’s exciting that they're able to see the lights in the arena, know the benefits and understand why North Central chose to install the LEDs.”