University dorms going all out for LEDs, including changeable colours for bedrooms

Country singer Willie Nelson once wrote the lyrics turn out the lights, the party's over.

Not that he was providing advice on energy conservation. But if he was, his words would probably have fallen deaf on university students, who, at the risk of stereotyping, are probably not the most conscientious at such things, whether they're partying or not.

Now help is on the way in the UK, where a leading provider of student housing plans to upgrade all of its 120 residences with LED lighting in a £21 million, 2-year retrofit across 23 towns and cities.

The company, Unite Students, says that the more efficient LEDs will cut energy consumption by 10-to-15 percent per year, while also sparing the annual CO2 emissions equivalent of about 400 typical British households, or 2,000 tonnes per year.

Unite is working with lighting giant Philips to install about 300,000 fixtures plus 85,000 sensors and dimmers that will, among other things, adjust lighting levels accordingly when they detect that students have left or entered a room or common area.

It is placing the lights in corridors, kitchens, lounges, reception areas and outdoors. New bedroom lighting will include dimmers as well as lamps that can change colours at the push of a control (Philips 'LivingColors' brand), which will 'allow students to personalise their lighting to suit study, relaxation or socialsing,' Unite says in a press release. Something for everyone among the 41,000 students, from budding Einsteins to Casanovas (those without lava lamps, anyway).

Unite says the project should also help it save maitenance costs because LED bulbs last longer than the lighting it is supplanting.

Unite is contributing £9.6 million of the funds. The remainder comes from Unite's “co-investment partners,” the release states. The scheme is the second in recent weeks that should help upgrade lighting at UK universities.

The 10-to-15 percent energy saving is modest next to typical vendor claims that LED bulbs reduce energy needs by around 80 percent. Unite did not say what type of lighting it would typically replace, or whether it would offset some of the energy reduction by installing more lighting than what currently exists.

Fifteen percent, combined with other benefits such as physical improvements in the student environment, could well be worth crooning about.

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Photo: Students at Unite's Moonraker Point residence in London's Southwark area, near King's College, could soon be smiling about lighting efficiency. Image is a screen grab from Unite's web site.