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70,000 lightbulbs to bring big savings

1/30/09

In six weeks, nearly 70,000 lightbulbs—or “lamps” as they’re known in the industry—were replaced with more sustainable alternatives campus-wide. This energy-saving measure is part of an ongoing effort by the facilities division to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and save money.

“We estimate that the new lamps will save about 1.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year,” said energy manager Joe Ranahan. That reduces Northeastern’s carbon emissions by an estimated 686 tons per year. “At current utility rates, we expect to save the university $1.2 million over the course of the six-year life expectancy of the lamps.”

Facilities achieved significant additional savings in labor costs by “group relamping,” meaning replacing all the lamps at once. After thoroughly researching several companies, the facilities department contracted with Philips Lighting, which Ranahan said offered the best product. Each new bulb compared to the old has a 30 percent longer life, contains half the mercury, and reduces energy usage by 20 percent.

The work began a week before Thanksgiving and continued over the winter break, with 95 percent of the project wrapping up the first week in January. Most of the installation was performed over the break or at night during a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. A crew of three Northeastern staff members supervised a contracted vendor to carry out the installations and recycling of the old lamps. The remaining existing lamps, primarily in the research facilities, will be changed over the next several weekends by Northeastern facilities staff, so that extra care is taken around research equipment, said Ranahan.

“We had to do the project,” said Gerald Ziola, associate director of sustainability and energy management, referring to the fact that most of the bulbs around campus were nearing the end of their lifespan. “It was just a matter of how. When you calculated the numbers, it was a no-brainer.”

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