Rensselaer installs LED retrofit bulbs in campus building

Nov. 2, 2010
Despite much higher upfront costs, the Rensselaer Smart Lighting Research Center expects to realize savings within 12 to 16 months with LED retrofit bulbs.

The Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has collaborated with campus officials to replace 119 incandescent bulbs with LED retrofit lamps in the 9-story George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII) building. The Smart Lighting ERC expects the investment in the solid-state lighting (SSL) retrofit to pay for itself within 12 to 16 months.

The LED bulbs cost $60 each compared to $4.50 for the conventional incandescent bulbs. The retrofit project replaced 50W incandescent bulbs with LED alternatives that dissipate only 8W. The LED alternative produces the equivalent light output of 65W incandescent bulbs resulting in “better, brighter light” according to Smart Lighting ERC Director Robert Karlicek who led the project.

The expected payback period is based on both energy and maintenance savings. The campus typically replaces incandescent bulbs every four months while the LED replacements are expected to last six years. Once the payback is achieved the Smart Lighting ERC expects annual savings of $5608.

“Initially, we’re trying to show the campus community how easy it is to make a very noticeable difference in terms of sustainability and reduced energy consumption,” said Karlicek. “We hope this is just the first step. If we replaced all of the old bulbs in the CII with LEDs, the annual savings could increase by a factor of five. Imagine the impact of doing this across the entire campus — or across the entire world.”

Long term, the Smart Lighting ERC is focused on greater savings than what can be achieved with retrofit lamps. “The LED bulbs that were installed are a great showcase for sustainability, but they’re not ‘smart’ technology,” Karlicek said.

“When we talk about ‘smart lighting,’ we’re looking forward to a new wave of solid-state lighting with applications that will transform the way society uses light, said Karlicek. “The vision for smart lighting that we’re working to realize is a holistic integration of advanced light sources, sensors, and adaptive control architectures that take full advantage of the amazing capabilities of light. The smart lighting we’re developing will be able to talk with networked electronics and sensors within a space, and automatically adjust the lighting parameters to provide the ideal illumination required for the task at hand.”

The Smart Lighting ERC is led by RPI with partners Boston University and the University of New Mexico within funding from the National Science Foundation, industry, and New York state.