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Ackland Art Museum now can be seen in a new light.

Ackland Art Museum now can be seen in a new light.

The renowned museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will celebrate its transition to 100 percent LED lighting – a money-saving, energy-conscious move that also enhances spectators’ views of the exhibits – with a June 20 Open House from 6 to 8 p.m. It is free to the public.

“Our staff did a great deal of research to make sure that the switch to LED would not only save energy, but would also be the right decision for our works of art,” said Emily Kass, Ackland’s director. “The new LED lighting dramatically improves our visitors’ experience, as the art works’ colors are more accurate and vivid.”

The museum worked with the campus’s Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee over the past two years to explore ways in which the Ackland could reduce its energy consumption. RESPC paid approximately $52,000 dollars to fully fund the transition of gallery lights to more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs from Durham-based LED innovator Cree, Inc.

With less heat being produced by the more than 400 Cree LED lights, the Ackland’s HVAC systems run much more efficiently, especially in the summer months, further reducing its electricity consumption and carbon emissions.

Cree estimates the new lights will use 117,000 fewer kilowatt hours per year and will save the museum, and thus UNC, more than $13,000 dollars annually.

"The Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee is always looking for new areas of the UNC campus in which to reduce energy consumption,” said RESPC co-chair Piya Kerdlap, whose student organization manages the funds raised by the $4-dollar-per-semester Student Renewable Energy Fee. “Not only did the Ackland have great potential for saving energy, but it presented an opportunity for our organization to reach out to a more diverse audience and raise awareness about the importance of energy efficiency and conservation.
“What made this project unique were the additional benefits of improved display conditions for the art works. The Ackland’s need for LED lighting clearly resonated with the mission of the RESPC and was well worth the investment.”
In addition to a significant energy reduction, the LED lamps enhance the visual appearance of art in the museum. Featuring Cree TrueWhite Technology, the new bulbs provide exceptional color accuracy and rendering, enabling a fuller spectrum to be visible and color contrasts to be seen more accurately with the human eye as compared to most other artificial lamps.

Also key to the Ackland: LED lighting emits essentially no infrared or ultraviolet light, both of which can damage all kinds of works of art — particularly works on paper (drawings, prints and photographs) and textiles. 

“As a local Triangle business, we are pleased to help the Ackland Art Museum transition to 100 percent energy-efficient LED lighting, offering an enhanced visual experience for museum visitors while delivering significant savings on energy and maintenance costs,” said Greg Merritt, vice president of lighting at Cree. “The Cree LRP-38 and LBR-30 LED lamps installed offer a unique combination of technical innovations to deliver enhanced color quality, efficacy and lifetime to the Ackland, where beautiful, high-quality lighting is essential.”

The museum estimates an energy savings of 87 percent per year over the previous lighting, resulting in a reduction of 73 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Ackland Art Museum’s new lighting system is both energy efficient and cost-saving. A quick look:

Previous incandescent and halogen lights:

  • Watts per bulb: 65 to 90
  • Average life span: 7 to 9 months

New Cree LED lights:

  • Watts per bulb: 12 to 13.5
  • Estimated average life span: 11 to 15 years

Ackland Art Museum contact: Emily Bowles, (919) 843-3675,
News Services contact: Robbi Pickeral, (919) 962-8589,


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