Change a lightbulb, change the world

Lightbulb rebate program encourages greener living for Columbia residents.

Thanks to the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the Columbia Water and Light Department, Columbia residents can take a leap forward in reducing their carbon footprints through Energy Star's Change a Light, Change the World campaign.

MEEA teamed up with the city to offer $2 instant rebates on compact fluorescent lightbulbs in the city's Hy-Vee and Westlake Ace Hardware stores as part of the campaign, according to the city's Web site.

Columbia customers of the Water and Light Department can take advantage of up to six rebates.

The compact fluorescent lightbulbs cost more than standard incandescent lightblubs but can save customers money in the long run since they are generally 60 to 75 percent more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan, said Terry Freeman, the residential service supervisor for the Columbia Water and Light Department.

"The benefits are two-fold," MEEA Residential Program Manager Chad Bulman said. "There's an educational aspect because CFL lighting is still unknown to people, so we provide messages to customers, and there's a financial benefit."

The technology behind the two types of bulbs differs in how they create light, according to the Energy Star Web site.

Standard incandescent bulbs generate light by heating a tungsten filament, resulting in wasted energy in the form of heat as a byproduct of light.

The lightblubs produce a phosphorus illumination through a chemical reaction of gases.

Freeman said converting to compact fluorescent lightblubs is a simple way to conserve energy, although his department won't be able to track the effects of the rebate until it's been in effect longer.

"As just a rough calculation, customers would save roughly $2 a bulb per year," Freeman said. "And as far as carbon reduction, for every kilowatt you save, you can reduce 1.5 pounds of carbon. It's the equivalent of running 10 light bulbs."

Freeman said global warming is part of the motive behind the campaign, although its official target is carbon output.

"In the beginning, it was the stopping of greenhouse gas and stopping global warming," Freeman said. "The wording's been changed, and now it's 'looking out for our carbon footprint,' but it's the same message. The wording's just a little different."

The rebate, which is good through Dec. 31, is among several projects MEEA and the Columbia Water and Light Department have cooperated on together to bring to Columbia since they began collaborating on Change a Light, Change the World in 2004.

This is the third year Columbia has offered the Energy Star rebates.

Other efforts target the efficiency of air conditioning and water


Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program created in 1992 "as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," according to its Web site, sponsors Change a Light, Change a World nationwide.

MEEA administers the program across the Midwest.

MEEA doesn't contribute monetary compensation to the programs but helps utilities reduce customers' utility bills by assisting them in educating customers.

"We've been doing advertising," Bulman said. "We've got signs up in all the participating stores, and we've issued a press release across the Midwest that are sponsor-specific as well as statewide."

Although MU residence hall residents can't take advantage of the rebate because they are not customers of Columbia Water and Light, Director of Campus Facilities Phil Shocklee said in a previous Maneater report that the campus works toward maintaining energy efficiency.

"The new buildings are all designed with energy conservation in mind," Shocklee said. "They are all designed using the latest energy conserving bulbs, light fixtures, ballasts, etc."

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