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Red River Valley REA
Thursday July 11th, 2013 :: 09:28 a.m. CDT

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Co-op Lighting Lessons

2014 Promises Brighter Efficiency Standards and Savings
By Amber Bentley for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives

As federal efficiency standards phase out traditional incandescent light bulbs, electric co-ops are testing which lighting technologies work best for consumers. Co-ops like Red River Valley REA have long championed compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), the first cost-effective, energy-saving alternative to traditional bulbs.

“We have given away CFLs at our annual meeting and other member events. They've been a quick, low-cost way for members to save on their electric bills,” explains Greg Winchester, Director of Member Services for REA.

By 2014, household light bulbs using between 40-W to 100-W will need to consume at least 28 percent less energy than traditional incandescents, and more lighting changes will roll out in the years following. The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that light bulbs become 70 percent more efficient than classic bulbs by 2020 (LEDs already exceed this goal.)

Lighting accounts for roughly 13 percent of an average household’s electric bill. [Fortunately,] store shelves are already filled with light bulb options.

[Which options] work best for co-op members? [To find out] electric co-ops have teamed up on light bulb testing with the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the research and development arm of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association...

“We found most residential consumers still prefer to use CFLs over more expensive, but more energy efficient, LEDs (light-emitting diodes),” remarks Brian Sloboda, CRN senior program manager specializing in energy efficiency. “The price of LEDs for home use has substantially dropped, so we may begin to see more LEDs as they become more economical to buy.”

A helpful addition to lighting products is the Lighting Facts Label. Much like nutrition labels found on the back of food packages, this version shows a bulb’s brightness, appearance, life span, and estimated yearly cost. The Lighting Facts Label was created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help consumers understand the product and buy the most efficient light bulb.

Consumers’ energy-efficient lighting options include:
• Halogen incandescents: Use 25 percent less energy, last three times longer than regular incandescent bulbs
• CFLs: Use 75 percent less energy, last up to 10 times longer
• LEDs: Use between 75 percent and 80 percent less energy, last up to 25 times longer

Federal light bulb standards have the potential to save consumers billions of dollars each year. For an average American house with about 40 light fixtures, changing just 15 bulbs can save about $50 a year per household, according to DOE.

A word of warning when purchasing new types of bulbs: You generally get what you pay for. “Some manufacturers exaggerate claims of energy savings and lifespans, and cheaper models probably won’t last as long as higher-quality bulbs,” Sloboda cautions. “If you look for the ENERGY STAR label, that means the bulb exceeds minimum efficiency standards as tested by the federal government.”

The best way to benefit from this fast-changing technology is to purchase a more energy efficient light bulb the next time one goes out, Sloboda concludes.

To learn about lighting options, visit energysavers.gov/lighting. For shopping tips visit ftc.gov/lightbulbs.

Sources: Cooperative Research Network, U.S. Department of Energy

Amber Bentley writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, the national branding campaign for more than 740 electric cooperatives across the country.

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Marietta, OK 73448

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