Museum Evaluates, Installs LEDs With Support From Local Utility

  July 24, 2015

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts maintenance/design staff had installed LEDs in exit signs and a few other spaces, so they knew that more efficient lighting could bring additional energy savings. But the idea of installing LEDs in the building's galleries was met with skepticism from some of the staff. That’s because the change had to take into account more than energy savings — it had to ensure the lighting looked natural, making the art look crisp and detailed.

The lighting designer and maintenance crew worked with Xcel Energy to consider the options. The utility provides rebates and other incentives through a variety of programs.

They began looking at high efficiency lighting options in 2007, but LED lighting was still in the early development stages. The staff began testing samples from all over the country, considering not only aesthetics but also costs, how they would work with existing fixtures, and what types of lamps they would need. Over two phases lasting almost two years — and including painting the gallery walls to better suit the new lighting — staff replaced more than 8,300 lamps in more than 140 galleries, common areas, and offices at a cost of roughly $388,000.

The new lamps use about one-fifth of the energy that the halogens previously used and last about 22 times longer. And because they burn cooler, they reduce overall cooling costs. The museum received a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities, as well as about $177,000 in incentives from Xcel Energy to help pay for the upgraded lighting.

"Upgrading their lighting meant working with our lighting efficiency program, but it took a little while," explains Sara Terrell, Xcel Energy account manager. "We had to wait for the right technology in order to make the investment in replacing so many LEDs. There was some trial and error, but when the technology was right, we were ready to put the project in motion."

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the first museum of its size to have 100 percent LED lighting in its galleries.

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