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About the Project

Many buildings on campus are unnecessarily lit at night; it has been estimated that the university could save up to $60,000 per year by simply turning off lights that are not in use.  Lights Off Cornell, an energy conservation initiative, reduces wasted electricity at Cornell by engaging student volunteers in turning off lights after hours in academic buildings.  It is our mission to turn off as many unnecessary lights as possible in order to save energy, to save money, and to do our part to save the planet.

The project is run by a committee of students.  It is managed under the Office of Energy and Sustanability and is now an official component of the energy conservation portion of Cornell's Climate Action Plan.  We work hand in hand with the Cornell University Police to keep this initiative safe for the volunteers and the Cornell community.  Lights in public areas that are designated by the CU Police are left on for safety reasons.  Lights Off volunteers are only to turn off lights in buildings that are assigned by the Lights Off task force and approved by building managers.


Lights Off Cornell started with the observation that many lights were left on in academic buildings well after midnight.  A week-long study was undertaken to calculate an estimate of the amount of energy and money which could be saved if those lights were turned off.  An extrapolation across campus suggested that on the order of $60,000 each year could be saved by turning off lights across campus.  A task force ran a pilot program in Spring 2010, developing the program for a campus-wide launch in Fall 2010. A summary report from that pilot is available.

How It Works

Each weeknight, Lights Off sends volunteers to buildings across campus in pairs to turn off lights.  Lights Off provides detailed floor maps that indicate which lights are safe to be turned off. The volunteers have the option of either recording their data on paper or by using the new Lights Off Cornell smart phone app.  If the data was recorded on paper, that information must be reported on this website after the volunteer work is finished; if the app was used, all of the information is automatically recorded.  The recording process is important to calculate the amount of CO2 and money that is saved by turning off these lights. 

How We Calculate Savings

Energy = Power * Time

Energy saved = # of lights (32 watt equivalent aka your typical florescent tube) * 32 Watts * 10 hours (est.) / 1000 = kWh

Cost of electricity is $0.07 per kWh, so...

Money saved = energy saved (kWh) * $0.07

CO2 is 0.366 kg per kWh, so...

CO2 saved = energy saved (kWh) * 0.366 kg