LED lights offer potential green alternative



What used to only be found in instrument panels and holiday lightbulb strings, LED (light-emitting diode) technology shows great promise in lighting the way for Tech to a more economic and environmentally-friendly direction.

Facilities faculty has completed several lighting renovations already on campus, including converting all the lighting in the Tennenbaum Auditorium to LED lamps. This project alone reduced electricity consumption by 39.2%, and light per square foot more than doubled. They also installed LED can lights on the second floor of the Price Gilbert Library.

“We are currently working on several projects in the IBB building to convert high ceiling fixtures to LED and will eventually expand this to other buildings. The architecture building is next on the list,” said Sanford Fong, Facilities department Electrical Engineer I.

Heat, output and energy usage are the greatest factors in LEDs’ benefits. Since the lights do not rely on a filament, they don’t burn out as quickly and less of the energy emitted is heat (very beneficial for stage work, which is often under extremely hot rows of lights). Since less energy is emitted as heat, it does not require as much energy to produce the light, saving money.

Thanks to a recent cost drop in semiconductor material, they are now a viable option for widespread use. This has opened a window for mass-emplacement of LEDs, like in department stores.

Walmart is pursuing improvements to energy and cost savings by installing LED lighting in their refrigerated cases. The new fixtures and dimming capabilities could net 66% in energy savings. If 500 Wal-mart stores were to use these, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million pounds and save the company $2.6 million per year. The lights could add over three years to the refrigerated cases’ lighting lifetime.

LED lighting can also be applied to large parking lot lights, medium hallway and stairwell lights and small classroom lights. They can last over 50,000 hours (over five years) and the lower power consumption with equal or greater luminosity than conventional lighting could save big money for Tech.

“LEDs save a great deal over incandescent lamps. For example, the can light we are installing in the Petit building is a 12-Watt fixture comparable to an 80-Watt incandescent in lighting output,” Fong said. Such a fixture could save 85% in energy.

Facilities will soon procure a street light test unit to evaluate more demanding applications on campus like streetlights, emergency lights and shop lights. Thanks to the higher power output and longevity, any light fixture that is on a great deal of time or is too hard to reach is a good candidate for an LED application.

Indoor lighting sees a change for the better as well. The pervasive use of fluorescent lighting in classrooms has garnered criticism for eye strain and headaches from the (though too fast to notice) lights’ high-frequency flickering; however, LED lighting is flicker-free. Fluorescent lamps are also less efficient, less longevous, and less environmentally friendly (they contain mercury). In this sense, changing the lights may actually directly improve student and faculty health and performance.

Tech has been a leading institution in LED technology. In 2002, ECE professor Russell Dupuis earned the highest national honor in science, the National Medal of Technology, for his work in developing and commercializing LEDs in applications like traffic lights and automotive lighting.

More recently, a top international chemical company, Solvay, has worked with and funded our Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE) in organic applications of LEDs.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech–Savannah recently helped the city of Savannah evaluate its environmental impact. Savannah accepted the Institute’s energy strategy, and it now uses a revolving loan to fund its energy renovation projects, which will ultimately repay the city through energy savings.