Brighter, more efficient bulbs light Portland’5 Centers for the Arts theatres

You may have noticed the lights on Broadway are shining brighter but not hotter.

Thanks to a partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon, the Portland’5 Centers for the Arts is moving towards a more sustainable future – one light bulb at a time.

Last week, 7,642 light bulbs were changed at different areas outside Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the Newmark, Brunish and Winningstad Theatres, including the marquees over both entrances of the Schnitzer Concert Hall and along both sides of the iconic Portland Sign. Familiar but energy-draining 11-watt bulbs were finally replaced by longer-lasting and energy efficient two-watt LED bulbs. This process will help Portland’5 save energy, staff time, and, of course, dollars -- $18,069 annually, to be exact.

“This is part of a larger modernizing process as we evaluate the Portland Sign itself and our other marquees at Portland’5,” says Jason Blackwell, the Portland’5 director of operations. “I also see it as a huge opportunity to save labor and energy. The bulbs that were replaced needed to be changed frequently. The new bulbs have a life expectancy of 50,000 hours; that’s many, many years of lighting.  The manufacturer of the bulbs will replace them for free if they burn out before five years of use.”

Susan Jowaiszas, Energy Trust’s senior marketing manager, says the benefits transcend cost savings.  “The maintenance savings from installing LEDs is enormous,” she says, noting the new bulbs will save 186,000 kilowatt hours – enough to power 16 homes. “Also, the quality of LED lighting can be more inviting and provide the hall with just the right atmosphere.”

The process of replacing 7,642 bulbs wasn’t as easy as going down to the local store and finding new bulbs.

Portland’5 had been thinking about replacing bulbs for a few years. But the cost was prohibitive. Blackwell also says he couldn’t find the right kind of bulb that would work well with the Portland’5 historic performance facilities.  The quality of light had to be perfect.

That’s where Energy Trust helped. Energy Trust helps customers throughout the state use less energy by providing technical services and cash incentives to help customers make energy efficiency improvements to homes and businesses. For the Portland’5 lighting project, Energy Trust’s lighting experts helped Portland’5 find the proper kind of bulbs – USHIO bulbs, in this case. The Trust also chipped in $46,582 in incentives, or 26% of the $182,200 cost to replace and install the bulbs.

Portland’5 has worked on several energy-saving projects with the Energy Trust the past few years, as have other Metro-managed venues. Metro is the regional government agency that operates Portland’5, Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Zoo and Portland Expo Center.

Physically replacing the bulbs was also a complex effort. TubeArt Group, the full-service sign company that handles marquee maintenance for all of the Portland’5 buildings, oversaw the replacement process over a five-day period from July 21-25. A specialty lift had to be recruited in order to replace the bulbs on the Portland Sign, and one lane of traffic was even blocked to ensure public safety throughout the week-long period.

The effort and minor hassle was worth it, though.

“Seeing this technology integrated into a beautiful, old building and light up an iconic sign shows that everyone can participate in energy efficiency in some way,” says Jowaiszas. “It shows it’s all around you.”

For more information about how this project supports Metro’s sustainability goals, go to

July 28, 2014