“When I got off the elevator, I thought I was on the wrong floor!” Words from my officemate on the fifth floor.
We are in the middle of a campus-wide lighting retrofit project, switching over incandescent and fluorescent lights to LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes. Not only are we seeing better (literally), we’ll be seeing some big savings.
LEDs have dropped dramatically in cost over the last few years. (You can get the full scoop on LEDs at Energy.gov).Combined with an incentive program from NIPSCO, suddenly many projects like these have become economical. Four-foot tubes that once drew 32-40W (watts) of power now will sip 15W, saving over 50%. 60W screw in bulbs are replaced with 9W, an 85% savings. We won’t truly know how much we’ll save until after the project is completed, but we conservatively estimate that it will be equivalent to removing 50 residential homes from the grid.
We are expecting longer bulb life from LEDs. Additionally, we get to remove ballasts and direct-wire the lamps right to the power supply. This eliminates another point of failure, which saves precious time for our hard-working maintenance staff. These ballasts also produced waste heat. In the summer months, you waste energy once on the ballast as heat, then you waste it twice using air conditioning to remove that heat from the building!
Let’s tally up the financial and environmental benefits: a single 40W bulb running 24/7 (some we have to leave on for safety) will consume 350 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, costing $35 and emitting about 640 pounds of CO2 in Indiana. Replacing just that single lamp with a 15W bulb will save $22 in energy (plus maintenance) and 400 lbs of CO2. If a light is on 8 hrs a day, you can take those numbers above and divide by three.
Each of these projects in our many homes, businesses, schools, churches, and other buildings adds up. In addition to saving money that can be used for ministry purposes, we’ll be able to breathe a little better as emissions are reduced from the coal and natural gas plants that provide the bulk of our power. (Click here to see the real-time fuel mix of the Midwestern electric grid).
Energy stewardship is not just about earth care, but about social justice more broadly. These polluting plants are disproportionally located in minority neighborhoods (yes, in Indiana too). As we like to point out so often, the human and ecological communities suffer or flourish in tandem.
If you have a church, school, or business affiliation, act fast! The utility incentives are temporary and won’t last forever.