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UB Puts LEDs to the Test and the Outcome is Unmistakably Brilliant

Local company participates in tryout of lights on campus

Release Date: February 25, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Lights are shining more brightly on the University at Buffalo's North (Amherst) Campus this winter because the university has swapped some conventional lamps for LEDs, light-emitting diodes.

LEDs are being promoted by the companies that manufacture and distribute them as more energy-efficient and durable than such conventional lighting technologies as incandescent and fluorescent lights.

One such company, Solid State Lighting (SSL) Industries, got its start in the UB Technology Incubator located on Sweet Home Road, just off campus, where the company still is based. SSL has done work for Fallsview and Seneca Niagara casinos, as well as Texas Motor Speedway.

The company's founder Dennis Ryan, UB alum and a graduate of UB's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, approached UB Facilities last semester and convinced the university to conduct an objective test of several LED products from different vendors, including SSL.

All of the UB analyses will be made public in March.

"Sometimes the claims are too good to be true," said Al Gilewicz, UB assistant director of utility operations, "but this is definitely an emerging technology that has a lot of merit. As it matures, it stands a chance of really changing how we look at and provide lighting in buildings."

Five new LED street lights were installed on the service road leading to the Baker Chilled Water Plant on the North Campus, while a total of four new LED interior lights were installed in corridors in the UB Center for the Arts and 20 LED lamps were installed in the main lobby of Alumni Arena, home of the UB Athletics Department.

"Indoors, we already have data showing that just by switching to LED lights in these areas, we would cut our annual carbon emissions by approximately seven metric tons," said Gilewicz.

Energy savings for the interior areas have been calculated to total nearly 8,000 kilowatts per year in the Center for the Arts and 10,500 kilowatts per year in Alumni Arena.

Payback on the investment would vary, from less than two years to around three years; after that period, Gilewicz said that their data show sufficient cost savings to make the investment sensible.

According to Gilewicz, UB Facilities actively pursues energy-reduction strategies in compliance with the university's plan to go "climate-neutral," reducing or offsetting all of its greenhouse gas emissions, as a result of UB President John B. Simpson's signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

"Lighting consumes 25-30 percent of all the energy used by a building," explained Gilewicz. "Our idea was to test the LED technology to see if it would provide a level of lighting that was the same as or better than our existing lights, while using less electricity and reducing carbon emissions.

The potential to use LED street lights may ultimately provide even more benefits, he added. "Preliminary data on our LED street lights indicate that the LED fixtures draw roughly half of the energy of the existing high-pressure sodium street lights we use."

And universities aren't the only institutions that are interested in using LEDs for street lights, he said.

"Even the power companies are interested in our results," said Gilewicz. "There are a lot of street lights out there and the utility companies want to see our whole cost/benefit analysis," he said.

While commercial use of LEDs is soaring, it may be awhile before LEDs are common household items. Nevertheless, according to manufacturers like Buffalo's SSL Industries, LEDs can last for up to 75,000 hours, lasting 17 years, before losing 30 percent of their brightness while incandescent bulbs are said to last an average of 700 to 1000 hours.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum