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Bloomsbury Theatre - Project

London theatre slashes maintenance burden with LED lighting upgrade

The Bloomsbury Theatre in London has driven down its energy use and netted significant savings in terms of maintenance man-hours and replacement lamps, thanks to an installation of Firestar Mini LED downlights from Tamlite Lighting in its auditorium.

When it comes to lighting at the Bloomsbury Theatre, there is a strong need to balance a desire for carbon reduction with the theatre’s highly-specific lighting demands. Within the 535-seat auditorium, which hosts everything from small-scale opera to innovative stand-up comedy, it is very important that the lighting creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The house lights also play a part in every production: a smooth dimming curve as the lights go down is an essential part of the show experience.

Maintenance man-hours

The existing incandescent lighting scheme at the Bloomsbury Theatre dated back to its opening in 1968. Although incandescent lighting offered the warmth and dimming capability that the theatre needed, it had become a drain on energy and resources. The incandescent lamps ‘popped’ so often that the theatre maintenance staff spent an average of four man-hours a week up in the roof, changing the dead lamps. The on-going costs of replacement lamps were also beginning to mount up: the EU ban on incandescent lamps had made them more expensive and harder to source.

“New auditorium lighting was long overdue for the theatre,” comments Syd Funnell, Technical Manager at the Bloomsbury Theatre. “The long-lifespan and low-energy burden of LED lighting really appealed to us. But maintaining the same light quality in the auditorium was just as important. Essentially, we wanted lighting that was as close as possible to incandescent in terms of colour temperature – but without the maintenance issues.”

Dim the lights

In order to find the right LED solution, Bloomsbury Theatre’s electrical contractor, Bradbrook Electrical Services, created a test of six different LED types from four manufacturers. The theatre staff were able to scrutinise the colour temperature of each unit and test how smoothly each one could be dimmed.

“With some of the LEDs, we found that as they were dimmed down to the final 10-15% of the dimming curve, the light simply cut out altogether,” says Mr Funnell. “This created a jarring effect that we wanted to avoid. However, the Firestar Mini LED downlights from Tamlite were smoothest in terms of dimming. The warm-white LED option from Tamlite also offered light colour temperature comparable with the old incandescent lamps.”

Rapid installation

Following the test, approximately 100 of the Firestar Mini LED downlights were installed by Bradbrook Electrical Services. “The installation was very quick and easy,” comments Mr Funnell. “It took four electricians working for couple of days, and then the new lighting was up and running.”

The die-cast aluminium downlights, which measure 90mm in diameter, were positioned at regular intervals across the auditorium ceiling. Fire-rated and IP65-rated, the Firestar Mini LED downlights are highly robust. Each downlight is supplied with 3 × 3W warm-white LED lamps, which have an average lifespan of 30,000 hours.

“We’re really pleased with the appearance of the Tamlite LED lighting,” says Mr Funnell. “Before, the ceiling lights often looked patchy – inevitably, two or three of the old incandescent lamps would pop on performance night, giving an uneven spread of light. Now, with the LEDs, we never have any problems with dead lamps. The lighting always has an even, consistent appearance.”

Time and cost savings

As a result of the LED lighting, the theatre has experienced a noticeable reduction in energy consumption, helping it to shrink its carbon footprint. The saving in maintenance outlay and man-hours has also been huge.

“Since the installation, we haven’t even had to think about the house lights,” says Mr Funnell. “We’ve gone from spending an average of four hours a week maintaining the lights in auditorium, to having no lighting maintenance needs at all. What’s more, the cost savings – the reduction in electricity bills and outlay on replacement lamps – mean that we expect the LED lighting to pay for itself in just 3-4 years.”

With its new LED lighting, the Bloomsbury Theatre has found a modern solution to recreating the inviting atmosphere offered by incandescent lighting. The result is the warmth of traditional lighting, matched by the energy- and maintenance-savings of LED.