Light bulb subsidy aimed at saving money, environment

Sunday, September 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:39 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

From October through December, Columbia’s Water and Light Department will offer residents the opportunity to save money on their utility bills.

As part of the EnergyStar “Change A Light, Change the World” campaign, every purchase of one compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL, at HyVee or Westlake Ace Hardware will come with a $2 rebate.

Residents could save up to $60 in energy costs if they replace five of the most frequently used incandescent bulbs in their homes with CFLs, Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said.

The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has joined with Columbia to coordinate the efforts of participating CFL manufacturers and retailers, which were selected through a bid process.

The highest-used fixtures normally are those that are outside, in the kitchen, above the bathroom vanity and in the living room, Kacprowicz said.

CFLs could also save time, since the bulbs last longer, and they benefit the environment be-

cause they only use one-quarter to one-third the energy of standard incandescent light bulbs.

The EnergyStar campaign is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Campaign manager Wendy Reed said the use of CFLs, combined with other efforts to save energy at home, has the potential to reduce global warming.

“If every one of the 110 million homes in the United States were to change five of the highest-used fixtures with EnergyStar-certified light bulbs, we could prevent 1 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases, roughly the equivalent of 8 million cars, from polluting our atmosphere,” Reed said.

The energy saved by consumers will still be generated by the city, which can then turn around and sell it elsewhere. Kacprowicz said that if every Water and Light customer were to replace five bulbs, the city’s electric utility could save $600,000.

CFLs in the past have been criticized as being too dim, producing light of an undesirable color and being incompatible with certain fixtures. New technology, however, has attempted to overcome these shortcomings. Today’s CFLs have greater lumen output, or brightness, and can now be purchased in multiple sizes and shades of light.

“People ask, ‘What difference will this make? It’s just a light bulb. Big deal,’” Reed said. “But one-fifth, or 20 percent, of our electric bill goes to lighting.”

A total of 10,025 CFLs have been allocated for the program at a cost of $26,369 to the Department of Water and Light.

This is the third year that Columbia has participated in the EnergyStar program; Kacprowicz believes it will succeed again this year.

“We have had wonderful success with this program in the past,” she said. “Last year, we ran out of bulbs.”

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