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   Date: 7/2/09 Bookmark and Share

Seeing Campus in a New Light

It’s a subtle change, and few on campus will likely notice. But by mid-July, when more than 3,500 fluorescent lamps in campus buildings will have been replaced with lower-wattage models, the savings in energy consumption and money will begin.

Eight buildings are scheduled to be outfitted with lower-wattage lamps and ballasts (the electronic drivers for the lamps). In addition, some rooms will be equipped with sensors that monitor movement and sound to determine if the lights are needed, triggering an automatic shut-off mechanism after a designated period of no activity.

The fluorescent lamp switchover is part of the college’s ongoing effort to reduce the campus’ energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases, in order to contribute fewer pollutants to the atmosphere, and to ease budgetary expenditures. Between 2004 and 2008, the Smith campus reduced electrical consumption by 11.4 percent. Several projects to further continue that trend will be implemented this summer and fall.

The first phase of the lamp replacement project, which began this month, includes 3,516 lamps in buildings at 27 and 30 Belmont, 138 and 146 Elm, as well as Drew Hall, Hatfield Hall, the Brown Fine Arts Center (stairs), Sabin-Reed (animal quarters), and the lamps in Neilson Library.

The eight buildings were selected because they have a high number of traditional fluorescent tubes known as “T-12” lamps. A second phase will replace the remaining old-technology fluorescent lamps in campus buildings.

“This is a significant project,” said Gary Hartwell, project manager in facilities management who is overseeing the replacements. “This technology [the “T-12” lamps] is obsolete and therefore we need to do this anyway.”

The new “T-8” lamps draw 28 watts in comparison to 34 or 40 watts for the old lamps, said Hartwell. The project will reduce Smith’s electric load by 273, 311 kilowatt-hours per year and will save $50, 287 each year. In addition, a one-time incentive payment from National Grid (the electric utility) will total more than $12,000.

As a result, Hartwell expects the “payback” period—a timeframe in which the up-front costs are equaled in savings—to be two and a half years.

Another advantage to the new lamp ballasts: “They are quieter,” said Todd Holland, Five College Energy Manager, “no hum. And they operate at a much higher frequency so there’s no perceptible flicker.”

The old T-12 lamps, which are being discontinued, will be recycled into their glass, aluminum, copper, phosphor and mercury components, said Holland.

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