LED Lighting

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Photo of LED signs in SIU Student Center

By Austin Nunn, February 17, 2016

Have you ever noticed how bright the Student Center is? Or maybe you have seen a play in the McLeod Theater and were impressed by the lighting and effects of the show. The secret behind this comes from the new light-emitting diode (LED) lights, provided by the SIU Green Fund grants. These new light sources are better, easier to use, and more sustainable in several ways when compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs. LED bulbs use their energy to produce mostly light and very little heat. They also use much less energy than incandescent bulbs. Where a traditional light bulb might produce 60 watts an hour, an LED bulb produces only 8 watts an hour, which is also more cost effective. The Student Center and McLeod Theater are great examples of how these sustainable items are used and how the Green Fund touches everything on campus. 

The bright, glowing lights that line our Student Center in both the food and entertainment areas are a Green Fund project put in place by the Student Center in the fall of 2014. Before this project, the signs were just normal incandescent lights that flickered, dimmed over time, and constantly burned out, resulting in high replacement costs. In contrast, the new LED bulbs emit a consistent bright light. Each sign costs approximately $300 and requires little to no extra maintenance. The glowing squares are not the only place to find LEDs, however. The bookstore also uses them as standard lighting, as well as the party room next to the bowling alley and billiards room and the second-floor cork lounge.  

Other new lighting sources are located near the south end of the Student Center, just past the Sustainability Office, where induction lighting, another form of sustainable power is used. Like LEDs, induction lighting carries a longer shelf life and is energy efficient.  

Both visitors and employees of the Student Center have noticed the differences in the lighting sources. According to Kent Epplin, associate director of the Student Center, the LEDs have been working great since their initial start date. He looks forward to having more of these lighting sources installed in the building.   

Aanother great use of these LED bulbs and the Green Fund can be found in the Communications Building, home to the SIU Department of Theater. Mark Varns, professor of theater and resident lighting director, applied for and secured a grant in the spring of 2012 to update lighting in the Communications Building. Though still in progress, the department hopes to change their currently incandescent stage lights into LED bulbs.  

Varns said that the new LEDs are proving to be useful, cost effective, and that the students love having the lighting that they need. There are more than 300 lights in the department, with anywhere from 10 to 30 in use when shows are performed. This makes for a lot of power used (and wasted), as well as a large amount of emitted heat from the incandescent bulbs. That’s where LEDs come in to be useful and cost effective, as one LED bulb can take the place of three or four traditional lights. They also only produce about 180 watts/hour when using a few different colors, where as traditional lights would use upwards of 1,000 watts/hour. So go check out the Green Fund in action and enjoy a show at the McLeod Theater!