A critical letter about the use of chemical pesticides on its lawns in 2008 led to a series of steps and decisions at Farnsworth Art Museum that culminated with a resolution to become a leader in environmentally sustainable practices. Converting the entire museum from halogen to LED light bulbs was a major part of that decision.
The effort will make the Rockland, Maine, institution one of the first—if not the first—art museums in the nation to use LED lighting for all of its galleries. The lights will dramatically reduce the museum’s energy consumption, allowing the Farnsworth to allocate more funds for programs and exhibitions.
For the LED project, the museum has partnered with Efficiency Maine and California-based LEDtronics. The relamping will not only help protect displayed artwork by reducing the potentially harmful effects of standard lighting on works of art, but it will also provide budget relief while promoting a healthier environment by reducing energy use.
The Farnsworth currently has over 480 bulbs in its galleries with an average of 75 watts per bulb. The museum hopes to replace all of its 75-watt halogen bulbs with 15-watt LED and 14-watt CFL bulbs. The resulting savings on electricity is estimated to be $15,800 annually. Additionally, with the reduction of unwanted heat that the LED and CFL bulbs will provide, the project is expected to produce a savings of 127,950 unwanted BTUs per hour, and a savings of 10.6 tons per hour of cooling.
As part of the collaborative agreement with Efficiency Maine, the bulbs received third-party independent testing. With the test outcome more successful than expected, Efficiency Maine has agreed to assist the project with a commitment of more than $13,000 towards material costs. That commitment gives the Farnsworth confidence that the project is a worthy one and will assist Efficiency Maine in their goal to provide greater access to energy-efficient products for businesses and individuals across the state of Maine.
With oversight by the Farnsworth’s curatorial department, a rigorous review process identified two specific bulbs that satisfy lighting requirements for most of the museum’s galleries. The LEDtronics PAR30A-15W-XIW-001M LED bulb provides soft and unfocused light, while the PAR30A-15W-XIW-001S LED Spot provides more focused light. Not only do the lamps adequately light the works of art using up to 85% less energy than incandescent lamps, but they also offer—with a CRI of 86—a wider spectrum of light more closely approximating natural light, thus eliminating the adverse color effects of typical incandescent bulbs.
In addition, in the long term the valuable artwork is spared from damaging UV rays that other types of lights are known to emit. LED bulbs produce no ultraviolet rays that traditionally fade the fine colors found in artwork. The new lighting has already been installed in the Library Gallery. Installation in other galleries and work areas will follow. The LED project is a multi-year effort that will make the museum a leader in environmentally responsible practices. Once this initial phase is installed, there will be further incandescent replacements with another 200-300 pieces of the PAR30 LEDs.
The project is supported in part with a grant from the Maine Arts Commission and also supported by Efficiency Maine.