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Lighting Expert: Incandescent Bulbs Are Draining Your Finances

Frank Saunders doesn’t care if you just bought new incandescent bulbs – he wants you to throw them out … responsibly, of course.
Saunders is president of Southern Lighting Company, which specializes in energy-efficient lighting and is certified as an Energy Star program partner with the V.I. Energy Office.
The company does about 60 percent of its business in the territory and understands the energy challenges faced here. Saunders laid out a classic residential example.
A 60-watt incandescent bulb, lit four hours per day, every day for a year, multiplied by WAPA’s current rate of nearly $.35 per kilowatt-hour, costs just over $30 to operate for a whole year.
If that same bulb is replaced with a 14-watt compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb, giving off the same amount of light, the cost would be about $7.15 a year, a savings of over $22—for just one light.
One major online retailer sells a CFL five-pack for $13.99, while another offered a four-pack at $5.85; so for an investment of under $30, a V.I. consumer can save $190 in energy if they replace 10 incandescent bulbs with CFLs.
Advances in lighting technology are making CFLs a lot more attractive to home and business owners. Gone is the weird blue-and-yellow tone earlier CFL bulbs gave off. CFLs are now available in dimmable, three-way lights and globe lights for vanities.
Government and businesses are also employing the technology.
FirstBank recently replaced much of its lighting with newer technology lights, Saunders said.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority also took advantage of CFLs to light the Carnival Village, according to WAPA spokesperson Lynnette C. Moreland.
WAPA itself provides CFLs to customers at schools and community events through its Conservation Outreach Department. The department’s mission is to show residents how to be smarter energy consumers. (See story’s end for contact information.)
WAPA even has a working metered model that demonstrates side-by-side power consumption for an incandescent bulbs and a CFL.
Other local businesses are also taking advantage of the cost savings.
Sea Chest Ace Hardware has changed out around 90 percent of its lighting according to assistant store manager Sid Greaux.
“We’ve realized some cost savings,” said. “And it is definitely brighter.”
Sea Chest replaced its existing 8,000-lumen-producing fixtures that used 192 watts per fixture with a 28-watt T-8 bulb with a total fixture draw of only 70 watts—and it produced 9,000 lumens.
The lights also give off less heat than the old fixtures. And while Sea Chest’s general manager Craig Kirchoff hasn’t calculated the amount of air conditioning savings, he will say that the store does seem cooler.
Bulb lifespan is also improved when consumers move away from incandescent bulbs, Saunders said, as demonstrated by Sea Chest’s warehouse lighting experience.
Kirchoff has not replaced one CFL that he installed two years ago in his warehouse. Replacing bulbs in the warehouse used to be a much more regular event, involving a bucket truck and additional man-hours.
Kirchoff hit on one of the major stumbling blocks that prevent consumers from changing to more energy efficient lighting.
“It’s hard to take out a perfectly functioning light to replace it with a seemingly equal light source,” Kirchoff said.
But the proof is on the WAPA bill.
“I am saving around 25 percent a month on utilities,” Kirchoff said.
Lighting isn’t the only area where Virgin Islanders can make smart energy cuts, and Saunders offered consumers his top ways (under $100) to reduce energy costs.
1. If you don’t have CFL or LED lights, throw the bulb away – it is costing you money.
2. Install a hot water heater timer that remembers the times even if there is a brownout.
3. Install occupancy sensors that turn lights off after periods of inactivity. (These work great for kids’ bedrooms or any place where there is less traffic.)
4. When it is time to replace old appliances, look for the Energy Star logo.
5. Look around the house at all the things that are still drawing power even though they are turned off and unplug them. For example, some coffee makers still draw power even though they are not making coffee.
Saunders believes that at least 75 percent of V.I. businesses are still using old T-12 magnetically ballasted fluorescent fixtures. He advises that after the end of 2010, consumers will not be able to buy any replacement bulbs as it will be illegal to sell the fixture.
Southern Lighting offers an array of lighting solutions for homes and offices including CFL, LED and cold cathode technologies. For more information about energy efficient lighting, contact Southern Lighting’s Robin Hitchcock at 340-998-7467.
For information about the Conservation Outreach Department, contact Lynette Moreland at 774-3552 extension 2550.

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