LEDs Put Museum's Lighting Concerns in the Past

From left: Ron Wild, Rocky Mountain Power regional business manager; Angie Thomas, museum executive director; and Betsy Watry, museum curator.From left: Ron Wild, Rocky Mountain Power regional business manager; Angie Thomas, museum executive director; and Betsy Watry, museum curator.

Nearly 10,000 visitors a year walk through the Museum of the Mountain Man to get a close look at artifacts from the earliest days of Sublette County. But it took help from Rocky Mountain Power to be sure they could actually see them.

“Last summer I was called up at least once or twice a week because people couldn't see the objects,” said Betsy Watry, the Pinedale museum’s curator. “So I'd always end up blasting [the lights] to keep everybody happy. The heat in the galleries was incredible – the air conditioning just couldn't keep up.”

The museum, which is operated by the Sublette County Historical Society in a public-private partnership with the county, also was spending over $1,000 each year to have incandescent bulbs replaced by electricians equipped to reach the track lighting in the galleries’ 15- to 20-foot ceilings.

With savings and incentives, LEDs are ‘magic fix’

Watry called Frontier Electric, a local vendor that participates in Rocky Mountain Power’s Energy Efficiency Alliance. Frontier filled the curator in on the energy company’s wattsmart® Business program, which offers technical expertise and cash incentives for energy-efficient upgrades.

Previous research had led Watry to believe LED lighting might be the answer to the museum’s dilemma. “I saw LEDs as my magic fix,” she said.

Indeed, the lighting analysis Frontier performed as part Rocky Mountain Power’s program found that a switch to LEDs would provide better illumination. In addition, the new lighting would save the museum 32,460 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, helping to lower energy bills by more than $4,860 per year.

The upgrade also was eligible for $2,250 in wattsmart Business incentives to offset the project’s costs and reduce its simple payback to under a year and half.

Easy project solves multiple issues

Watry said the incentive program helped seal the deal for the museum’s board of directors, who were concerned both about visitor satisfaction and the curator’s warnings about the negative effect of temperature swings on the collection. Some of the artifacts are rare, such as a rifle owned by Jim Bridger and archaeological pieces from the site of Fort Bonneville.

“They understood it is bad for the objects when you have hot-hot and then it drops down to 40 degrees at night, and then hot during the day again,” said Watry. “When they heard Rocky Mountain Power was willing to give us a rebate, they said ‘Go for it.’”

Working with Frontier Electric, the Museum of the Mountain Man replaced 215 65- and 120-watt halogen light bulbs with 10- and 17-watt LED light bulbs in the galleries. Watry said the project “was totally efficient, straightforward and stress-free.”

Future plans include an LED retrofit in the museum offices and storage areas that are now lit primarily by older fluorescent lighting.

Better for visitors, better for the budget

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Visitors, staff and board members alike have been impressed with the difference from the new lighting.

“We've had the lights since May and I have not had one complaint that people couldn't see,” Watry said. “The board members came through and said ‘this place just looks so much cleaner and brighter.”

And the money the museum is saving on its electric bill?

“That can go to something else we need fixed!”

Learn more about how your business can save with wattsmart Business »

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