Visible from both the land and the sea, the First Baptist Church’s two hundred year old steeple serves as a landmark for parishioners as well as visitors and residents in this Massachusetts coastal community.
In the fall of 2008, parishioners of the First Baptist Church unanimously voted to renovate the church’s historic but aging steeple. The restoration plan included additional renovations to the steeple’s exterior lighting. The new lighting design aimed to fully illuminate the steeple’s upper half, while keeping energy consumption to a minimum. Because they need to be replaced frequently, the conventional light fixtures that had traditionally illuminated the steeple were problematic, as replacement and maintenance was virtually impossible in this hard-to-access location. Consequently, the lighting design called for fixtures with long lifetimes and minimal maintenance requirements.
The design team chose Color Kinetics LED luminaires because they consume less energy, require far less maintenance, and offer an estimated lifetime of 50,000 hours of use.
The church staff worked with renowned church renovating specialists, American Steeple & Tower Co., Inc., to update the historic spire. For their lighting needs, they turned to local resident Scott Ferriero of Boston Light Source.
Before the renovation, the steeple used just eight 150-watt incandescent floodlights to illuminate the top of the spire only. The former lighting scheme called for four sets of lights - each set comprised of two lamps—which were installed on metal arms that extended approximately 914 mm (3 ft) from the seven-sided structure. The lighting ran from dusk until dawn, and because so few luminaires were used, energy consumption was not a large concern.
Problems arose due to the luminaires’ hard-to-access location. The lamps could only be replaced when a steeplejack was hired, which only occurred every seven to eight years when the steeple was painted. The incandescent sources had an estimated lifetime of just 4,000 hours, which meant that the luminaires would always burn out long before they could be replaced, leaving the steeple in the dark.
When choosing the right luminaires to illuminate the refurbished spire, the design team wanted to expand the lighting to fully illuminate the upper half of the steeple. They also required light sources that closely matched the cool color temperature of the former system. And most importantly, they wanted luminaires that required no maintenance and would last until the next painting of the steeple—or even longer.
Color Kinetics white-light LED luminaires in a cool color temperature of 4000 K proved to be the ideal option. The replacement luminaires yielded an energy savings of 58%.
eW Blast Powercore, a white-light LED floodlight, now highlights the steeple's upper spire. A total of 14 luminaires are in use, two per side of the heptagon. Half of these luminaires use a clear lens to project light to the very top of the spire. The other half uses a frosted lens to illuminate the spire's lower level. Each side uses a luminaire with a clear and frosted lens, installed on its bottom ledge.
Not only do the new luminiares consume 58% less energy than the former system, but they also require little to no maintenance. To fully illuminate the spire year-round with the former incandescent floodlights, the congregation would have needed to replace the burnt out lamps at least once a year. Taking into account lamp costs, steeple jack fees as well as energy consumption to illuminate the spire year-round, the new maintenance free system yields a 70% savings.
Additional lighting added to illuminate of the midsection of the steeple, requiring only an additional 720 watts—less energy than a typical microwave oven uses. Twelve eW Graze Powercore wall-washing luminaires illuminate the two lower sections of the steeple. Underneath the spire, eight luminaires illuminate the wood shutters—one 4 ft luminaire per shutter to bathe the shutters uniform white light. Further down, four eW Graze Powercore luminaires illuminate the four windows. These low-profile luminaires allow for discreet placement. Like the other luminaires that use Color Kinetics' proprietary Powercore technology, these luminaires directly accept line voltage for simplified installation.
The church benefits from both the low energy consumption of the new LED luminaires and their rated lifetimes, which are significantly longer than the former fixtures. With an estimated lifetime of 50,000 hours, the new light sources will last for years to come at roughly six hours of use per day. And because the LED sources do not radiate heat or emit ultraviolet light, the luminaires will not damage the integrity of the new steeple.
The newly renovated steeple is illuminated from dusk until 1 a.m. daily, providing a stunning focal point at the heart of the city.