Revamping lighting at Toronto’s Chelsea Hotel

TORONTO — The Chelsea, Canada’s largest hotel, has changed dramatically in the four years Paul Watson has been director of property maintenance for the 1,700-room property. Many of those changes have to do with lamps an

Chelsea's lobby.

Chelsea's lobby.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

TORONTO — The Chelsea, Canada’s largest hotel, has changed dramatically in the four years Paul Watson has been director of property maintenance for the 1,700-room property. Many of those changes have to do with lamps and lighting.

The lobby and 30,000 square feet of meeting space were very dark, with a lot of incandescent lighting — with bulbs and ballasts that are now hard to find. 

“When you change from a 100-watt incandescent to a 12-watt compact LED, there’s a huge difference,” said Watson, adding that guests notice your lighting. “We would get a lot of guest comments. They notice if you have incandescent over LED. A lot of people are conscientious, and aware incandescents mean energy is being used foolishly.”

When changing lighting, Watson said you have to follow certain size limits depending on the square footage of the area that depends on that light. For example, if you had a light two-metres away, you need 1.9 lux three-metres away to be sufficient.

“The hotel isn’t completely done for lighting.  Certain areas are done. But if you were in the mechanical room, the hallway to the mechanical room or the garage, those aren’t completed yet.”

The areas that are completed are the lobby, the food and beverage outlets, 50 to 60 per cent of the meeting space on the second and third floors, the 27th-floor lounge, 732 rooms in the north tower, balconies for 1,000 rooms and the roofs.

10,000 lights

While it’s hard to give an exact count of the numbers of lights replaced, Watson estimates about 4,000 in the lobby and meeting rooms, and about 6,000 bulbs in the 732 renovated rooms — for a total of 10,000.  “Each month we are adding more,” he said.

In the lobby, they were aiming for a warm white colour, rather than white or the commercial look generated by using cool white lights. 

LED: A no-brainer

Watson explained the economics of incandescent versus compact LED.  The energy savings are substantial for using a 12-watt LED bulb rather than a 100-watt incandescent, and in some cases a 4-watt LED bulb to replace a 60-watt incandescent light. LED costs more — $5 per bulb versus 37 cents for incandescents.  And then there’s the maintenance factor — incandescents might last six to eight months if used all the time, while the majority of LEDs last three years and some up to five years.  That means incandescents would have to be changed at least four times more often.

“There’s big savings, when you consider sending a person up there with a ladder and to change the bulb,” Watson said. 

LED bulbs also save on cooling costs as they give off much less heat than incandescents.

All things considered, changing 100-watt incandescent lights to 12-watt LED bulbs pays for itself in six months to a year. “It’s a no-brainer,” according to Watson.

In the meeting areas, the lights are equipped with movement sensors and shut down when there is no movement in the room. “This can provide a huge savings, as a lot of times staff would set up for a meeting in the evening and leave the lights on all night,” he said.

“These changes show guests that we are going the way we should be going. We’re greener and that will pay off in the long run.”