New bulbs ‘light’ the way for a more cost-effective future

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Photo provided by Trans-Lux Corp.

David Harris, director of Utilities and Environmental Management at RIT, displays a 16.3 watt Trans-Lux Corp. custom designed LED T8 lamp—the first of its kind in the industry.

Bright lights, big savings—that’s the goal of an RIT project that replaced fluorescent tube lighting in several campus buildings with energy-efficient LED lighting.

More than 20,000 tubes have been 
replaced with custom LED lighting designed by Trans-Lux Corp., a Norwalk, Conn., 
company whose president and CEO is 
RIT alumnus J.M. Allain ’03 (multi­disciplinary studies). (You may recognize Allain from his pledge to donate a center-hung electronic scoreboard for the new Gene Polisseni Center.)

The lighting upgrade is estimated 
to save RIT more than $300,000 a year 
in energy and maintenance costs, says David Harris, RIT’s director of Utilities and Environmental Management. 

So far, the project is getting glowing 
reviews from the campus community.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the reactions we’ve had and the actual results we’re getting from the installations,” says RIT President Bill Destler, who promoted the project as part of an ongoing pledge to reduce energy consumption campus-wide. “I expected to have at least some issues 
relating to the quality of lighting or the light spectrum, but there’s been none. 
In fact, it’s exceeded my expectations.” 

RIT began retrofitting fluorescent 
fixtures in labs, classroom and hallways 
with the custom-designed Trans-Lux 
LED lamps in December 2011. This phase 
of the project took about a year. 

“Upgrading to the new LED lamps was easy and only took about eight minutes per fixture,” says Harris. “We took it a building at a time. In our library, we installed 2,800 
of the LED lamps and we did it in the 
evening when the number of patrons was reduced and we wouldn’t be in the way. 
We did most of our academic buildings in the evening hours for the same reason.”

Harris says many of the circuits on 
campus are “on 24/7, and even in the library the lights are on 20 hours a day. The LEDs last twice as long as their counterpart 
fluorescents and we do not have to change lamps as often. Even our cooling costs 
are reduced.” 

To meet established requirements, 
Trans-Lux custom designed the new 
LED tube lamps specifically for RIT.

“We initially found that our 16-watt lamps and our 18-watt lamps were not 
the right fit for RIT; the 16-watt lamp 
didn’t have enough light output and the 18-watt lamp had too much,” Allain says. “The product that we custom-built for 
RIT is actually 16.3 watts and it’s the first 
of its kind in the industry.”

The LED bulbs aren’t cheap—about 
$45 each compared with $2 for a fluorescent tube. But when you factor in that LED uses a fraction of the electricity and has much longer product life, the savings add up, Harris explains. 

He says the project focused on high-
traffic areas in which lighting is used 
for very long periods each day. This phase replaced less than 20 percent of the 
fluorescent bulbs on campus, and Harris says that while there is no timetable for 
expanding the project, he is looking into other areas where replacement bulbs 
might be cost-effective.