Saving energy is no joke, even on April fool’s day at ESF, but it can still be fun! This past Saturday (April 1st), a dozen staff and students met on campus with the goal of tackling some easy, energy-saving upgrades. Students paired up with Physical Plant staff and spread out across five buildings, armed with energy-efficient LED lights to replace fluorescent bulbs that have been the standard until recently. Improvements in LED technologies and current rebates for making the switch have provided a great opportunity for ESF to conserve energy, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also engaging students and the campus community in the process. The new LED bulbs are “plug-and-play”, meaning they can be switched into existing fixtures without changing any hardware or wiring. The switch-over began several months ago in Illick Hall. Campus Energy Manager Josh Arnold, who has been leading the effort, noted that with the current rebates from National Grid, “…the LED bulbs are cheaper than the T8 fluorescents they are replacing, use less energy, and should last at least twice as long, up to 50,000 hours, before needing replacement”.

The recent effort to involve students has helped get more bulbs in at a faster rate, and provided a fun, hands-on activity for students enrolled in EST 426/626 (Environmental & Energy Auditing with Professor Lemir Teron). Five teams from the course chose energy savings at ESF as the topic for their semester project, and the LED blitz was incorporated into the broader energy-saving competition happening now through Earth Day on campus (see details here). The primary goal of the competition is saving energy through simple behavioral changes everyone can make in their offices and other spaces on campus, but any means of saving energy, such as LEDs, is fair game.

In addition to replacing old bulbs with the new LEDs that use about half the energy, some over-lit spaces were also “de-lamped” in the process, meaning that more bulbs were taken out than put back in (while still maintaining adequate lighting for each space), saving additional energy. Overall, 568 bulbs were taken out, and replaced with 292 LEDs. Accounting for the cost of the bulbs, staff labor, and other cost factors such and the price of electricity and the daily on-time of the lights, the estimated savings of the project is $3,800 per year, or about $19,000 over the course of the bulb’s five-year warrantied lifecycle. The annual energy savings of about 55,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) will avoid 14 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (MTCO2e) per year, the equivalent of taking three cars off the road.

Overall, the LED blitz was a success by any measure, and an enjoyable experience for the staff and students who participated. “It was a good project and a good cause. The students were fun to work with and helpful to our efforts, we were happy to be a part of it”, said Rashad Love, staff member with ESF Physical Plant. The feeling was mutual among students. Sarah Rogers, a junior in Sustainable Energy Management, reflected that she was not initially enthusiastic about coming to campus at 8:00 am on a Saturday, but the experience changed her mind. “It was important and meaningful for me play a role in broader efforts to make ESF more sustainable. It was also really nice just getting to know the staff, we chatted about motorcycles and other things while we worked, it was a fun effort that made a measurable and positive impact”.

More LEDs will be installed in the coming weeks and months, contributing to ESF’s ongoing sustainability and climate action goals, and our collective efforts to “practice what we teach”. The energy-saving competition runs through April 22nd. For more information, or to get involved, contact sustainability@esf.edu or visit www.esf.edu/sustainability.

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