South Dakota >> After more than a century, Thomas Edison’s light bulb is on its way out. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, traditional incandescent bulbs are only 10 percent efficient — the other 90 percent of the electricity they use (and you pay for) is lost as heat. These hot bulbs are being replaced by more energy-efficient incandescent bulbs as well as new lighting technology, including compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs).
In light of this change in technology, the League’s Sioux Falls Chapter decided to review its electricity use and its impact on the environment. The first step was to research the alternatives. The results, says chapter board member Phil Hegg (who also serves on the League’s Energy and Environment Committee), made LEDs a clear winner for this chapter’s needs. Chapter members found out that:
- LEDs provide the equivalent of 75 watts of incandescent light for less than 12 watts of electricity.
- LEDs generate almost no heat. “We left a bulb on for 4 hours and we could put our hands directly on it — barely warm,” reports Hegg. “This is going to provide us with a lot of savings in our air conditioning bill in the summer.”
- The average LED canister and bulb will last 50,000 hours (7 years).
- LEDs contain no hazardous materials, unlike fluorescent and CFL bulbs, which contain mercury and must be disposed of properly.
- All LED lights can be dimmed to 5 percent, whereas many CFLs and fluorescent bulbs cannot be dimmed. (This factor came into consideration due to event rentals at the chapter.)
- Retrofitting of LEDs requires no additional equipment such as light switches or dimmers.
- Costs for LED bulbs have decreased dramatically in recent years and are expected to continue dropping as demand and production increase.
When the project was completed, the chapter had replaced 64 light canisters — most of which used incandescent bulbs — with LED light fixtures. The total cost of the renovation was about $18,000. Wattage consumption at the chapter house dropped from 4,410 watts to the equivalent 801 watts, yet the amount of light produced tripled. With a total energy savings of 16,930 kilowatts annually, the chapter estimates that it will save $1,692 each year, and the club should be able to pay for this project in less than eight years.
However, this retrofit saves more than utility bill dollars. “Our local energy provider estimates that we are saving the environment 22,686 pounds of CO2 annually,” Hegg says. “I called and asked them to check their figures. They did. The accountant said the figures they used to calculate carbon emission savings came directly from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration based on the power plants generating our electricity. We have a big club house, but I never thought we would save the environment 22,686 pounds of carbon each year by making this simple change.”
The chapter debuted the new lights with a conservation open house attended by chapter members as well as the Sioux Falls mayor and several city council members. “We have heard nothing but compliments from guests and members,” reports Hegg. South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard wrote a proclamation declaring the chapter house the most energy-efficient building in the state. The proclamation is framed and hanging on the walls of the brightly lit — and energy efficient — Sioux Falls Chapter house.