Lighting Up Practice in a New Way

SEFH beforeSEFH after

May 28, 2014—Since its construction in 2004, the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center (SEFH) has been has been an asset to the University of Utah, but it is also a building that consumes a significant amount of energy. The lighting system used for the practice field, pictured above, was inefficient and presented an opportunity for repair and improvement. The lights that were used when the building was first built are 875-watt metal halide fixtures. This type of fixture is one that requires a significant amount of warm up time to reach full light output. This means that every time they are turned on, they take 10 to 15 minutes to get to full brightness.

The field is used throughout the day by the University of Utah’s sports teams, as well as by various other soccer, baseball, and football leagues in the community. Because the users of the building did not want to wait for the lights to warm up every time they began practice, the lights were often left on for up to 18 hours a day, even during times when the building was not in use. Sometimes the lights were getting left on overnight. Not only did this result in large energy expenses, maintenance costs for the building were upwards of $16,000 a year.

In 2012, the Facilities Management energy group and the athletics Facility Manager identified the lighting issue and began working together on a solution. They came up with a plan to install LED fixtures and created a budget-blueprint for the installation project. LED stands for “light-emitting diode”. They use a lot less energy than the 875-watt fixtures, while emitting much more light. Additionally, they have a much longer life span, which requires them to be replaced less often. Even better, LED lights don’t require a warm-up time to get to their full light output, which would eliminate the need for them to be left on for such long periods of time. Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) came in, evaluated the project, and confirmed that LED lights would be an energy efficient solution to the problem.

RMP estimated the savings these LED fixtures would create for SEFH and projected them as follows:

  • 330,439 kWh/year, which could power 30 average sized homes for a year.
  • 48% energy reduction
  • $22,081 energy charge savings
  • 48.60 kWh saved/month
  • $16,960 maintenance costs a year

Once RMP assessed the potential energy savings these new lights would create for the Athletic Department, they jumped on board to help assist with the projects’ completions. They agreed to fund 80% of the installation, leaving Athletics to cover just 20% of the cost. Facilities Management set up a payment program for the department to be able to pay the 20% without requiring anything directly out of pocket.

The LED fixtures were installed the first week of May 2014. Facilities Management looks forward to the savings and hopes to extend them even further. Next, FM plans to install auxiliary sensors to detect motion in the space. The sensors would turn off the lights automatically after a period of inactivity, which would eliminate the possibility of lights being left on when the building is not in use. This alone would add an additional 50% of savings, for a total of 75% overall savings from the previous 875-watt lights.

The Athletics Department is excited about the energy and costs savings of the new lights. They also are excited to enjoy a much better quality of light that the new fixtures provide. LED lights use half the amount of the energy that the previous 875-watt fixtures used, while giving off twice the amount of light. These new lights eliminate the dark areas of the field, improving the practice experience for athletes on the practice field. Through collaboration between Facilities Management, Rocky Mountain Power, and the University of Utah’s Athletic Department, the project was a shining success.


Contributed by Kate Giolas

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Shireen Ghorbani