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Energy Efficient Lights Installed Across Campus

By Michael A. Saginaw
Staff Reporter

From Building E51 to the Infinite Corridor, MIT has begun installing new energy efficient fluorescent lights as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Lights Program. Ultimately, 90 percent of the Institute's lights will be upgraded.

The goal of the Green Lights Program "is to reduce pollution by reducing the amount of electric generation by putting in more efficient lighting," said Physical Plant Engineering Projects Manager George H. Kilmarx.

The new lights save energy because they use electronic valves which open and close 2400 times a second. By contrast, the older lights use magnetic valves which open and close only 60 times a second.

"Because they are operating at a very high frequency, the new lights excite the phosphorous inside the lamp more completely, and therefore you get more output for the same energy you put in," Kilmarx said.

MIT will use 25 to 30 percent less electricity to power the new lights. Because of this savings, the lights will pay for themselves in about five years.

The higher operating frequency also means that the new lights produce less visible "flicker."

MIT is also switching to higher quality light bulbs. They are thinner and contain a higher quality phosphor. Thus, they emit a fuller spectrum of light which allows people to see contrasts better, Kilmarx said.

The new lights contain integrated circuit chips which maintain a constant output as the lights age and in the case of a brownout. "It's the cutting edge of the technology," Kilmarx said.

Installation of the new lights is progressing westward from the east side of campus. So far, new lights have been installed in buildings E10, E15, E17, E18, E19, E23, E25, E32, E34, E40, and E51.

The main cluster of academic buildings will get a substantial number of new fixtures to house the new lights. "We expect to put the order in for those new fixtures in the next few weeks," Kilmarx said.

The new lights have also been installed in one section of the Infinite Corridor. The new lights are being installed closer to the ground than the old lights, providing more light in the space where people walk.