News Home Page
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Campus Update
Campus Stock Photos
Media Relations Office


News Website


Campus News

UAlbany Installs New Aircraft Warning Lights

by Greta Petry (December 9, 2005)

Don't look down: Replacing the aircraft warning lightbulbs is not for those who fear heights.
Don't look down: Replacing the aircraft warning lightbulbs is not for those who fear heights.

Why did the University at Albany buy new light bulbs for its four towers and the Carillon water tower on the podium?

  1. To save money.
  2. To be more energy-efficient.
  3. So no one has to hang out a 12th story window twice a year to change them.
  4. All of the above.

The correct answer is: All of the above, but the one that hits closest to home for maintenance workers is (3). Shortly before Thanksgiving, two electricians from George J. Martin & Son Electric of Rensselaer replaced the old three-foot-high glass bulbs on the water tower on the podium and put in brighter incandescent bulbs that last seven to ten years, and use 1/13th of the energy. To change those bulbs, they had to hang from a harness 250 feet in the air.

UAlbany Maintenance Supervisor Peter Spoor, project manager on the job, said there is a large beacon aircraft warning light, one on each tower. Then there are four smaller lights on the 12th floor of each tower as well as a beacon light on the water tower, and four smaller lights around the ring. "So they blink red, on and off. It is just a way for aircraft to know there is an obstruction," he said.

There were two factors in the decision to switch to a new type of bulb. "One is maintenance," Spoor said. "Twice a year the bulbs would have to be replaced and so basically someone would have to hang out the 12th story window to replace them. And also they were a high-wattage bulb. So I started looking into LED lighting for replacements and came up with the new system we have."

The new beacon lights atop the towers require only 100 watts, while the old ones needed 1,300 watts. There are other benefits as well.

"For us it was pretty cool because changing the bulbs was something to deal with," Spoor said. "Archie Blais used to be the supervisor in the electrical shop. He used to do the climbing with Rick Patton, supervisor of the electrical department. Archie now has a new position, and George Martin & Son replaces the lights now." Gene Van Nostrand of the mechanical repair shop built a new bracketing system to swing the lights over to the window for easier access for workers.

One dark morning Spoor was driving into work on I-90 when he looked toward the University and saw the brighter bulbs. "It was a beautiful sight," he said.


Please send questions or comments about the UAlbany News site to: