March 27, 2015

LED fixtures put Rifle Creek Museum in a new light

Replacement of old ceiling lights brightens museum’s collections

Rich Carter, left, and Cecil Waldron, board members of the Rifle Creek Museum, look at some of the artifacts in the “country store” section of the museum. New LED lighting makes the details of the display very easy to see, and will save the museum money on its electric bill. Photo by Kelley Cox

The aging fluorescent tube lighting in the Rifle Creek Museum was almost old enough to be an artifact itself, says Rifle City Councilman Rich Carter with a smile.

“It used to be brown and dark in here,” Carter said, standing in the foyer of the two-story brick museum at 337 East Ave.

“The lights were pinkish, bluish or white, and a lot of them were burned out,” added Cecil Waldron, president of the Rifle Creek Center for Historical Preservation, which operates the museum. “Some ballasts were burned out, and there were black spots on the ceiling.”

The old dim lighting fixtures, along with their potential as a fire hazard, are now gone, thanks to a determined effort by the museum’s board, energy coaching from Garfield Clean Energy, funding from grants and rebates, and the work of Mark Briels Electric of Rifle.

In March 2015, Briels and his crew swapped out the old lights for 50 new LED fixtures.

Now, evenly bright and uniformly colored LED ceiling fixtures provide a pleasant daylight type of light that illuminates both floors of the museum and its diverse collection of historic items.

“It’s a much better atmosphere for visitors and volunteers alike,” said Waldron. “People used to say, ‘I can see that, but what is it?’ This lighting gives us more of a willingness to work, to get in there and do something.”

“This looks very professional,” said Barb Clifton, Rifle City Council member, when she stepped into the museum after the work was complete.

Garfield Clean Energy board member Barb Clifton, right, presents a rebate check for $2,500 to Cecil Waldron, center, president of the Rifle Creek Museum, and Rich Carter, left, Rifle City Council liaison to the museum. The rebate will help pay for the recent LED lighting upgrade throughout the museum. Clifton is Rifle City Council’s member on the Garfield Clean Energy board. Photo by Kelley Cox

In 2015, Clifton was the city’s representative on the board of Garfield Clean Energy, which provided free energy coaching for the project. Energy Coach Matt Shmigelsky helped Carter and Waldron plan out the project for maximum energy savings and rebate funding.

During her visit, Clifton presented a rebate check for $2,500 to Waldron to help pay for the $22,727 project.

This funding came from a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment grant to CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region, which manages Garfield Clean Energy. CLEER used the $40,000 grant over the past year to fund rebates for energy efficiency upgrades done by households and businesses in western Garfield County. The check to the museum was the final payment made from the fund.

Other funding for the museum lighting project includes a $16,515 grant from the Clough Family Foundation, $1,500 from the City of Rifle, and an $800 rebate for energy efficiency from Xcel Energy. The museum board will end up paying just $1,412 for the project

“We are well pleased and proud of the community for helping us out on this,” Waldron said.

In addition to delivering higher quality light, the new LED fixtures and bulbs use far less energy than the old lighting system. In planning the installation, Shmigelsky examined the museum’s electric bills from the previous year. Because there’s no heating in the building, which was the former City Hall, the museum is only open from May 15 to Oct. 15.

Shmigelsky calculated that even though the museum is open for only five months of the year, the switch to LED lighting will save about 3,600 kilowatt-hours per year, valued at $1,220. If the museum were open year-round, the annual savings would be even greater.

On the other hand, the seasonal operation of the museum means these bulbs will last for decades, allowing museum volunteers to focus their efforts on displays rather than climbing ladders to maintain light fixtures.

The combination of electric bill savings and zero maintenance for light fixtures means the museum volunteers can take on the interesting projects that will improve and diversify museum displays, Waldron said.

For example, museum volunteers are part way through a project to digitally scan and transfer to proper archival storage a collection of 4,300 glass plate photo negatives from the portrait studio of Fred and Ola Garrison.

The museum board also wants to install more rotating displays and show off more of its collection, to encourage people to visit more often. The new lighting will help, said Carter.

“Hopefully the people who have been in here before will come back and see things in a different light,” he said.

Cecil Waldron stands in the large upstairs room at the Rifle Creek Museum prior to the replacement of lighting fixtures. The old lights were "pinkish, bluish and white,” he said, and did a poor job of lighting the space. Photo by Matthew Shmigelsky